The Agronomists, Ep 8: Rob Saik and Peter Johnson on the future of agronomic technologies

The Robotti was developed through a cooperation between Kongskilde/AgroIntelli, the University of Southern Denmark and Conpleks. (Photo via Conpleks)

The future of agronomy is likely even more tech-heavy than it is now, but that’s not to say that robots, drones, and sensors will replace human intelligence, experience, and judgement.

To tackle what the next 10 years in scouting and agronomy might look like, we go to Peter Johnson, RealAg’s resident agronomist, and Rob Saik, founder of AgriTrend, and CEO of AGvisorPro.

The Agronomists returns January 4th, 2021, at 8 pm E!


  • Shaun will attempt to get some words in edge-wise
  • How many days till seeding? Too soon?
  • EarthDirtSoil, agronomy stream, crop planning for next year
  • What is Rob excited about that agronomists could have access to? He has a graphic.
  • Where will we be in the future? Sensing technology. It used to be walking a W to find the problems. Now you can pinpoint, makes it more efficient. In-field sensing technology.
  • Pete is not tech savvy? Who knew?
  • Plant stand counts. Staging differences for corn. Super useful.
  • Alerts. Telling an agronomist where the problem is and when.
  • Nutrient deficiencies from the air? You still need ground-truthing. The algorithm is only as good as the ground-truthing.
  • Even Pete can put together an algorithm, but will it be any good?
  • Bosch booth clip, sensor technology (in-field, microclimatic conditions, plant physiology, matching development stage with crop type, soil moisture, temperature, relative humidity)
  • Rob’s graph again. IOT, Sensors, for the where, AI for the what
  • How many sensors to represent all factors in the field: hollows, eroded knolls, different heights in crop canopies
  • Septoria detection in the UK? Seven days before symptoms even show up.
  • Bosch/xarvio scouting program for weeds, making weed recognition better
  • Pete refers to our previous episode of The Agronomists on herbicide resistant weed management, except from that episode we learned that weeds are highly plastic, and will adapt to a lot of conditions
  • Robots. If you don’t have one you’re apparently a nobody at AgriTechnica.
  • Dino robot clip from AgriTechnica, 4 hectares in 8 hours (almost 10 acres), $100,000 Euros
  • Too costly, too slow, maybe would work in horticulture for a row crop vegetable producer, but not large-scale.
  • 160 foot wide boom vs a swarm of robots?
  • What about DOT?
  • The robot is more useful as a scanner, rather than performing the control function of spraying.
  • Laser beams. Dr. Evil
  • The future of jobs in agriculture are going to involve some data science, and being able to think critically if a number doesn’t look right. “Systems integrators” and “Techgronomists” positions
  • Apparently Pete’s future will be in radio, cause I guess he’s going to be obsolete.
  • Tractor of the future clip, Command cab from John Deere, more like a plane, feels like sci-fi that’s about to go horribly horribly wrong and no thank you, bandwidth required? 
  • Bandwidth required, going to need a lot.
  • Sitting in a cab, cruel and unusual punishment? Well children can sit for hours upon hours…the best thing out of auto-steer was that you could check on the drill
  • Pete loves sci-fi
  • Prescribing on the go clip, N, P, K, soil pH, EC, OM, Moisture, Clay, NIR Spectroscopy. Doesn’t bend the arm of science in order for it to work. Editor’s note: this tool has potential to be super useful because it’s so applicable.
  • SoilReader was developed in Manitoba. Evaluation on the go. Taking those spectroscopy readings and converting that into a variable rate Rx… going to be tricky.
  • Arbuscular mychorrizal fungi, bacteria, all of the biological activity could potentially make nutrients available later in the season, SoilReader can’t measure soil microbial activity
  • Why will ag tech be such a cool career to enter into, how do we recruit the next generation? Things will just keep advancing, this stuff’s going to get cooler. THIS IS SO COOL. We have to connect the young, bright, ambitious talent to the “silver hairs” like Rob and Pete.
  • Was the instant teller going to do away with the bank teller? No. Bank tellers can now provide diversified and better services.

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