The Field of Tomorrow: Embracing Precision Agriculture with Darren Grogan


Discover the future of farming through the eyes of Darren Grogan from Triple G Farms, as he reveals how precision agriculture is not just a trend, but a revolution in the agricultural industry. In our conversation, we uncover the secrets behind farming that thrives in the commodity markets. Darren's dual role as a seasoned farmer and a board member of River Valley AgCredit infuses our discussion with deep insights into the challenges and opportunities presented by the newest technologies in agriculture. We delve into the heart of modern agriculture, where data drives decisions, and efficiency is king.

Listen as we unravel the complexities of marrying tradition with technological innovation, discussing the impact of predictive analytics and real-time data on farming practices. It's a game of high strategy, akin to the 'Moneyball' approach, where success hinges on removing emotion from the equation and letting the hard numbers lead the way. From variable planting to the rise of autonomous equipment, Darren sketches out the evolving landscape where even smaller-scale farmers are contemplating the leap into a data-centric future. This episode paints a vivid picture of an industry at a crossroads, boldly stepping forward into an era where every decision is as precise as the technology that informs it.


[00:00:07.560] - Chris Griffin
Welcome to Back to Your Roots, a podcast that provides insight into all things farming, financing, and farm life, guiding you back to your roots. Thanks for joining us again on Back to Your Roots. I'm your host, Chris Griffin.

[00:00:21.000] - Jordan Turnage
I'm Jordan Turnage. Guys, thank you for coming in and listening to us again. Today, we've got the owner and operator of Triple G Farms, Mr. Darren Grogan in the office with us. He is a Carlisle County native, farmer, first and foremost, a member of the River Valley AgCredit Board as one of our directors, renowned aviator as well, owner of several different hats. Thank you, Mr. Darren, for coming in this morning. We appreciate Good to see you coming in.

[00:00:45.850] - Darren Grogan
Well, certainly. Thank you for having me. I've got to say it's an honor to be here. I haven't missed one of these podcasts. I've enjoyed them very much. You guys do an excellent job. Just to get to be a part, I'm an avid podcast listener, so just to get a chance to sit on this side of the microphone is pretty interesting.

[00:01:01.140] - Chris Griffin
We appreciate that. Yes, sir. We won't let that go to our head that we definitely have at least... We know we have one listener, so that's a positive.

[00:01:07.310] - Darren Grogan
I got to tell you, I was very intimidated coming in here because I told my wife, leaving, I said, I feel at a disadvantage. I said, These guys have these deep voices that were made for radio.

[00:01:19.110] - Jordan Turnage
Some people told me I have a face for radio.

[00:01:21.330] - Darren Grogan
That's what she told me. She said, Don't worry. She said, You got a face that was made for radio.

[00:01:24.620] - Darren Grogan
So I felt a lot better.

[00:01:25.780] - Chris Griffin
The sad part is nobody actually know. If people don't know me, they don't know I'm I'm a little guy. So I got a deep voice, but I'm a little guy. So it all worked out. It all evened out. So we're fine.

[00:01:36.160] - Jordan Turnage
There's a reason this is an audio way of doing things, not so much a visual.

[00:01:41.330] - Chris Griffin
Yeah, for sure. Well, Darren we're grateful you're here and taking time out of your day, but for a lot of our listeners, can you tell us a little bit about your background, your former operation, how long you've been a member of our back, and just the various... I know you're busy with a lot of boards and the different boards that you serve on currently.

[00:02:00.890] - Darren Grogan
Yes, I've been a member of River Valley as far as back as I can remember. I really don't know how many years, but basically all of my adult life, we have used starting out Jackson Purchase and now River Valley for our capital needs along the way. Certainly, River Valley has been an excellent partner in that growth along the way as we've grown many times over during that time. That's been good. But a little bit about us, we're a family operation. We do corn, wheat, soybeans, row crop operation, fairly large in scale. But Triple G consists of my daddy, my brother Brian, myself, and actually now my son, Connor, is back on the farm after completing his college education.

[00:02:42.340] - Chris Griffin
Where'd he go to college?

[00:02:43.230] - Darren Grogan
He went to Murray State with a business ag major.

[00:02:46.330] - Jordan Turnage
Yes, sir.

[00:02:47.430] - Jordan Turnage
Part of that Hudson Ag Group.

[00:02:48.920] - Darren Grogan
Absolutely. Yeah.

[00:02:50.970] - Jordan Turnage
We've got you in here. We didn't rope you down or anything. You came in voluntarily, and we appreciate that. You and I have had some run-ins. Our last, we bumped into each other at the Paducah Mall, and we were just going over getting ready for this year. We started talking about plans, and we got to talking about planting and what the best time to start that was, and that's what sparked this to help us come in here. We're going to talk predominantly about precision ag today. It just seems like you're always up to date on the latest and greatest when it comes to advances in agriculture. Today, we just want to come in here and take a chance to pick your brain on precision agriculture So if you would just tell us and the listeners what Precision Agriculture is to you in your opinion.

[00:03:35.180] - Darren Grogan
Sure. Well, Precision Agriculture pretty much relates to anything that's done in a spatial manner. And so in other words, what I'm saying there is if whatever operation you happen to be doing within the ag, whether that's soil sampling, planting, harvesting, anything you do, if that particular machine knows where in the world it is while it's doing it, then you've got precision ag, basically as a definition that's being done. Now, it today it's brought into broader head and pretty much expounds to be all of the technology within agriculture.

[00:04:10.610] - Jordan Turnage
Yes, because I feel like, as you know, we're in a market now, in a global market where we're having to find ways to feed and clothe and produce energy for more people on less acres, and all at the time of that, trying to keep a smaller footprint of carbon footprint. That's the big thing now, too. Precision ag, as far as finding the best way to target and apply things, it's the name of the game right now, I would say.

[00:04:40.860] - Darren Grogan
Well, if you look at what we do as far as our segment in agriculture, we're producing a commodity. So meaning we can't brand name every kernel of the corn we produce, can't have a little Triple G Farms logo on it, and we get some premium for that. So with that said, the only way you survive in this industry and have a competitive advantage is through efficiency. And precision agriculture is a big part of that efficiency. I mean, you can work efficiency when you talk about it, you can work that from two sides. It can be from the income side or the expense side, but precision agriculture plays big in both of those roles. We have to remain in the top tier in efficiency among our peers within the industry to be successful.

[00:05:22.350] - Chris Griffin
That's actually what I was going to ask, and you took the words out of my mouth. I was going to say about efficiency and ask you about that because I know from a business standpoint, I don't care what business it is. The more efficient your income coming in and your cash flow going out and your expenses, I feel like that would make your operation a much more solid operation.

[00:05:41.030] - Darren Grogan

[00:05:42.170] - Chris Griffin
Hopefully, make the numbers look better at the end of the year. Certainly. I know We had, I forgot the guy's name, it's fleet of my brain, but from Hudson, and he was talking about some of the advances.

[00:05:52.360] - Darren Grogan
Matt Ramage.

[00:05:52.830] - Chris Griffin
We were talking about some of the advances, and even from spraying to different things. If you're not over-spraying, you're not spraying a spot twice or anything. I mean, all of that adds up over the course of the year, I would assume.

[00:06:06.590] - Darren Grogan

[00:06:06.890] - Darren Grogan

[00:06:07.730] - Chris Griffin
Those little... I mean, as small as it can be, you pile that up on top of each other over and over again. It makes a big difference at the end of the year.

[00:06:15.950] - Darren Grogan

[00:06:16.860] - Darren Grogan
I've got this saying about managing the... Especially on managing the expenses. Big gaping holes don't sink ships. Because everyone knows the big gaping hole is there. It's the little cracks.

[00:06:29.650] - Chris Griffin
It's a little cracks. My wife's a business owner, and I hear about it. She's not a farmer, but she's a business owner, so I still see those business returns. It's those little things here and there that add up.

[00:06:42.510] - Darren Grogan

[00:06:43.400] - Darren Grogan
You're talking about spraying and some of those things, some advances over the years where we've added technologies, and you just gain 5% is a large number when you apply scale to it.

[00:06:55.510] - Jordan Turnage

[00:06:57.020] - Jordan Turnage
On the opposite side of that, too, though, is we're trying to make sure that we can stretch these chemistries for crop production and crop protection as long as we can. So with going out there on that first trial run and making sure that we're hitting every acre as best we can, that first go around, it's not only saving you for that season, it's saving you exponentially down the road as well as far as being able to stretch. What we ran into in the past 10 years with Roundup technology, pretty much been, we used it up, and now we've tried to find new ways of chemistries to attack Palmer pig weed and henbit and water hemp, all of those pesky weeds that we have to deal with every year. With us having that triple action technology on a lot of the chemicals and seed that we have on there. There's so many moving parts, and we don't know how long that time frame is. So I'm sure that that's something that you guys as farmers We have to always keep in mind. We want to make sure we're saving money going out there one time, hitting it right on spraying.

[00:08:07.010] - Jordan Turnage
Can I go back to what I talked about earlier with holding down that carbon footprint, saving yourself on diesel because gas is not cheap. And then chemicals are not cheap right now, and then paying for them is not cheap right now.

[00:08:18.780] - Darren Grogan
Absolutely. Well, in that, it may seem hard to believe, but actually precision agriculture plays a big role in allowing those chemistries to last longer for us. Because one thing that builds resistance faster than anything in a crop is an under-application of a... You give a weed or a grass a less than lethal dose of a chemistry, and it opens it up to produce a resistance to that.

[00:08:46.460] - Chris Griffin
That's interesting.

[00:08:47.000] - Darren Grogan
Well, now we have, and you take a sprayer, say it has 100, 120-foot boom, and you make a turn. If that sprayer is doing a constant rate across that 120-foot boom, the outside radius of that boom a turn is moving much faster than the inside radius, and you're giving an overdose on the inside of the turn versus an overdose on the outside of the turn. And now we have technology to keep that rate constant throughout the radius of that turn.

[00:09:12.450] - Jordan Turnage
And droplet size.

[00:09:13.230] - Darren Grogan
And that is keeping that resistance at bay.

[00:09:16.530] - Chris Griffin
That's interesting about the resistant because it's almost like an antibiotic for... If your child gets sick and you don't give them the full 10 days or 13 days, you stopped it midstream. Well, you've given that whatever it is they have just a little bit. Well, now the next time they take that antibiotic, it's probably not going to be as efficient.

[00:09:34.320] - Darren Grogan

[00:09:34.930] - Darren Grogan
It's pretty interesting.

[00:09:35.570] - Darren Grogan
That's just one of those places that precision ag comes into play that the layperson would not even realize.

[00:09:42.470] - Chris Griffin
I learned something about you today before I came in here. I know you're talking about Hudson, so you're a big John Deere guy. You're a green man, from what I've heard. But something that's pretty neat that the listeners may want to learn about is you're pretty heavily involved in a lot of John Deere testing equipment. A lot of the stuff that maybe hasn't been introduced, they need to find some farmers that are willing to stick their neck out and try something a little bit different. You talk about that and some of the neat things that you've seen over the past year, too. I don't know what they call it, the confidentiality of it.

[00:10:14.350] - Darren Grogan
I may be scared of who's listening. But no, we've been very blessed in being in a position and having a network within our industry to get to be involved, to get to see some technologies that are way out in the future, get to be involved and even provide input on those technologies. However, I can't speak to anything that's not currently available. I can make some generalities on where I think things are going, but I will say this in light of that. One thing, if you notice how fast technology is moving today, and one thing that has aided that in moving, we deal with companies that are just larger than life. I mean, you take some of these companies, it's just unbelievable how large they are. When you have a company that size, I mean, I know you guys have probably seen it with River Valley growing. I mean, as you grow, there's a certain amount of bureaucracy that has to be present. And with that, the flow of information through the company tends to slow down, sometimes, if you're not careful. Well, a lot of these companies have realized this and pulled back the veil, if you will, and allowed access from their mid-level management to the customer so that that information is free-flowing directly between those two.

[00:11:39.870] - Darren Grogan
And it's been invaluable for two reasons. Number one, it pushes technology further, faster than it ever has before. But also it gets influenced by a cross-section of the customer base at a direct level with the actual engineer. In the trenches. In the trenches, that's right. So it is I think through that, as customers, we're getting better products that's more suited for what we're doing at a faster rate.

[00:12:08.730] - Chris Griffin
I know there's things you can't tell us maybe that are on the horizon, but in your opinion, what are some advances that have happened that are there now, that are made available to farmers, that you feel like have really impacted your overall efficiency and bottom line within the years?

[00:12:25.220] - Darren Grogan
Absolutely. If you go back, the main things that I see, and what I I think the future is going to, too, is all going to be data-driven. Precision agriculture started really of any scale in the mid '90s. We started in 1999, and it really started as just a data collection. And we were all collecting data. We put yield monitors on our combines. We were pulling soil samples. We were doing these things. I think for a long time, we had a lot of neat maps, and this is neat, but we didn't really know what we were doing with it.

[00:12:59.630] - Chris Griffin
A lot of data, but not how to apply it.

[00:13:02.300] - Darren Grogan
A lot of data, that's right. So now, as we get to where we're getting a data set that is reaching critical mass as far as what we can do with it, we're actually, and I can talk about that in a few minutes, we're ushering in what I call the third era of agriculture. And so we are using this data to cut and slice it in such ways. To be an example, field readiness is one thing that's coming a lot of data, and this is an aggregated data. With this, we're getting big rains right now. We're supposed to be wet for the next few days, 2-3 inches of rain today. Monday morning, I can go sit down at my computer and I can pull up a map of the entire operation, and I can have a score across every single field we have. And those scores will look like 60, 80, 30, whatever that is. And what that is, is using aggregated data from around the country. And it takes... When you've had this much rain, And following that by this many days of dry, with this much wind, with this much heat, and these kinds of soil types, in this field, 80% of the machines would be moving around the country in those conditions, 30% here.

[00:14:13.590] - Darren Grogan
So without driving 30, 40 miles, I can pull up my computer, look at a map and say, I can send the guys here at seven o'clock in the morning without waiting to check everything. Go here and work, you can't go there. Let's move this piece of machinery to there.

[00:14:28.490] - Chris Griffin
That's neat.

[00:14:29.570] - Jordan Turnage
That's That's incredible.

[00:14:31.240] - Chris Griffin
That's crazy.

[00:14:31.960] - Jordan Turnage
Yeah, because the way you're not just sitting and waiting because you only got so much daylight.

[00:14:37.020] - Darren Grogan
That's right.

[00:14:38.670] - Jordan Turnage
That's what it comes down to is utilizing as much sunlight as we can between now and harvest for these crops to grow.

[00:14:45.040] - Darren Grogan

[00:14:46.050] - Jordan Turnage
That's something I didn't know we had out there. That's what's really neat. Yeah. So breaking down with what precision ag means to farmers, could it be a difference in profitability, again, or the alternative better decision making, better analyze, going off of what piggybacking off of what we talked about before this. Just as yourself, you sitting in the driver's seat, can you tell us in the last years of utilizing this, where you really see the profitability in things?

[00:15:21.720] - Darren Grogan

[00:15:23.060] - Darren Grogan
What I alluded to earlier, talking about a new era in agriculture, you can identify the eras of agriculture. If you look back in the old times, you see the old farmer with the mule or whatever, the mule and the plow or whatever, you can identify that as the art, the era of art of agriculture. And at that time, agriculture was an art that was passed down from generation to generation. And we've all heard the old timers say things like, You plant corn when the oak leaves are the size of a squirrel's ear. And some of those things, they used those things. They passed it down generation by generation. The old farmer may not be able to understand why he knows that it's okay to plant corn today, but he could just look at the dirt and tell what was right, what was wrong. Look at the signs out in the natural world and say, okay, this is good. After that, we began to better understand plant science, soil science, all that, and we really got in firmly entrenched. And I think largely we still are there in the era of science. We We do use high-level sciences to make decisions throughout the crop season.

[00:16:37.470] - Darren Grogan
But that's where we are, but that's not where we're going. We're going to the math. I mentioned earlier, we're collecting all this data, and once the data set gets large enough, we can use math for everything. To put it to your guys' point, what you would understand, you think about an ag score alone for crop decisions. You think about a model for every potential operation that we would, as a farm, consider doing. Imagine a model that would spit out a binary decision with no preconceptions about what it wanted to do or what it didn't want to do. So taking the emotion out of decisions and taking the emotions, so planting. We have data right now about planting dates. It's easy to get influenced, Well, my neighbor is planting. I should be planting.

[00:17:33.580] - Jordan Turnage
Get the itch.

[00:17:34.230] - Darren Grogan
But when the model tells you, How bad do you want to plant? And you say, Well, I want to plant. How much yield are you willing to give?

[00:17:43.210] - Chris Griffin
It's hard for me not to listen to this conversation and think about, you hear about analytics all the time in sports. All these coaches are using analytics now. So you see, they're like, most coaches are like, we're never doing that. Now it's like, Well, the analytics say X percentage is this decision that needs to be made. So this Emotionally, they don't want to make it.

[00:18:02.070] - Darren Grogan
This is the money ball of agriculture.

[00:18:03.520] - Chris Griffin
I'm in serious.

[00:18:04.680] - Darren Grogan

[00:18:05.680] - Chris Griffin
Really, honestly, in sports, that's where that started. But you hear all the time now. I mean, used to, it was a little quirky, and now it's all the time. All these coaches are like, well, the analytics say this, analytics say that. It's a little different for you guys. All you're saying is you're looking at taking the numbers, the system is analyzing those, and giving you the best options for what needs to be done based on those probabilities.

[00:18:27.640] - Darren Grogan

[00:18:28.340] - Darren Grogan
Well, here's the way I look at it.

[00:18:29.410] - Jordan Turnage
We're taking the The emotion out of it. That's the big part.

[00:18:31.620] - Darren Grogan
Exactly. Well, you're quantifying what was typically qualified. I put it like this, when I'm talking to anyone about this, when a good poker player or whatever, walks into a casino in Las Vegas. They're walking in and they're planning on taking a calculated risk. Hey, I'm a good player. I've had this experience in the past. Based on the past, I feel like I can expect this outcome. So they're taking a calculated risk. That's what we're doing in agriculture today. They've only got one major problem. The house has a mathematical fact.

[00:19:10.340] - Chris Griffin

[00:19:10.400] - Jordan Turnage

[00:19:11.770] - Darren Grogan
And so that's where this data and precision ag is taking us to mathematical fact. It's predictive analytics. And basically what it means is if you have enough past, and that's what we're doing with this data set, if you have enough past, you can accurately predict the in the future. Yes. And the more past you have, the more past data you have, you get your margin of error smaller and smaller and smaller. So what the casinos learn, from what I understand, if you go and win big, the first thing they're going to want you to do is, Hey, let's comp you for another night.

[00:19:46.080] - Chris Griffin
Yeah, they want you to get it back.

[00:19:47.630] - Darren Grogan
Because they know as a mathematical fact, the only way that they lose is if you don't play long enough.

[00:19:55.010] - Jordan Turnage
That's right.

[00:19:55.760] - Darren Grogan
Well, that's what we're ushering in agriculture, that there may be some short term hiccups, but over time, these models will be right.

[00:20:06.950] - Chris Griffin
Well, it's like our borrowers. We have the ability to come up with a probability of default, and those numbers are based on your income, your credit score, your debt, how much your total monthly obligations are, everything, right?

[00:20:21.020] - Darren Grogan

[00:20:21.080] - Chris Griffin
Their equity percentage. There's numbers that go into that. We know, Okay, well, this person is a high-risk borrower based on these over. Now, like you said, there may be unforeseen hiccups that come up short term, but we're looking at a long range probability of default for that borrower.

[00:20:34.700] - Darren Grogan

[00:20:34.980] - Jordan Turnage
That's why we ask for our members to provide multiple years of tax returns.

[00:20:39.460] - Darren Grogan
I would guess you probably run into situations where when you say this person, when in so many ways, you say, Hey, this is a high-risk situation. They probably find it surprising for some reason.

[00:20:51.730] - Chris Griffin
Sometimes, yes.

[00:20:52.050] - Darren Grogan
Because the difference in these models, the models you're using, if you're using an AgScore loan, it doesn't have a motion tied to it. We do so many things in business where we have so much emotion. We try to keep emotion out of what we do. We try to make business decisions. But I know when I'm running certain tests out on the farm, and I have to battle keeping that, to be honest, because there's oftentimes an outcome that I would like to see. And you have to check that. Well, I'm sure you get into that, too. Well, that's what I'm talking about this modeling, that it's binary. And over time, it will be right.

[00:21:36.770] - Chris Griffin
I could talk about this for a long time, actually. Just being honest.

[00:21:40.190] - Jordan Turnage
You always...

[00:21:42.130] - Chris Griffin
Shea knows me.

[00:21:43.130] - Jordan Turnage
You're a man of faith, and that's what it takes to start that initial, to plant that seed. But you're giving yourself in the long run the best chance for yourself between now and for your son and generations going ahead. Sure. Sure. There will be years, like the next question I was going to ask, and we see, I'm sure we'll see farmers with this changing technology. Do you see it as a... There'll be points of stress, but for sure, we would have to say that this is going to be helpful down the road. We're just going to have to deal with the growing pains.

[00:22:22.750] - Darren Grogan
Absolutely. I think there are some out there that probably hates to see this ushered in, and I get that. There is a lifestyle aspect to agriculture without a doubt. For an individual, especially if they're toward the latter part of their career and enjoying that lifestyle would probably see this as a negative. But I was thinking about as we were thinking about the title of this and talking about precision agriculture, and I almost chuckle that we can almost drop the precision. It's just agriculture anymore. It's not, in my opinion, it's not negotiable.

[00:23:03.940] - Chris Griffin
It's not a quirky thing anymore, I would feel. No, that's right.

[00:23:06.190] - Darren Grogan
It's not an outlier. No, that's right. It's where we are and where we have to be.

[00:23:12.230] - Jordan Turnage
It's the tip of the spear.

[00:23:11.830] - Darren Grogan
That's right.

[00:23:13.630] - Chris Griffin
I know whether it was... I've been here for almost two years. I was at another lending institution previously, and I know even on the lending side, we have a lot of technology that rolls out, and things change, and things are changing, I mean, rapidly, I feel like. I think you When you're running into it with farmers. You have maybe people that are a little more, adapt a little more quickly and a little more open. Then other people are like, I don't really like this. But it's like, at some point, it's like, Well, we got to do it. We're doing it. We're pulling the band aid off. I know you probably deal with that with a lot of your... Well, a lot of the farmers that you know. It's probably you've got some that are a little more resistant. That's right. Others that are a little more progressive and okay, taking a chance and doing something new and some in the middle.

[00:23:57.000] - Darren Grogan
Yeah, and there's not a right or wrong answer.

[00:23:59.490] - Chris Griffin

[00:24:00.050] - Darren Grogan
Without a doubt. I mean, there are lots of successful operations that I'm sure that's not using this and can probably in their career, profitably and successfully without doing it. But there are some, it just depends what way you want to operate, what scale you want to operate in those things. But largely, I think it's going to be necessary in the future. I mean, there's no doubt that as we move forward, agriculture is not unique in this. No matter what, I mean, you guys fight it every day with competition in the marketplace, that there's always someone that's willing to work cheaper than you are. Well, agriculture is no different. And the only way we can afford to work cheaper is to become more efficient and run more scale. Precision agriculture is a huge part of that.

[00:24:49.600] - Chris Griffin
Somebody might do that, but I'm going to call that lender, and I'm going to start doing some snooping you ask Shea about that. I did that the other day. I'm not scared to make a phone call. I was like, I don't believe they're offering that.

[00:25:00.180] - Jordan Turnage
I know, sometimes, where there's smoke there is fire.

[00:25:03.440] - Chris Griffin
Everybody thought that was hilarious.

[00:25:05.120] - Darren Grogan
You mean a customer would try to get you down on a rate by exaggerating?

[00:25:09.800] - Chris Griffin
I'm pretty competitive. I don't like losing. So I was like, I just picked up the phone. I was like, I'm calling, I'm finding out.

[00:25:17.260] - Jordan Turnage
Sometimes you got to do a little bit of a sniff test.

[00:25:20.940] - Chris Griffin
Oh, yeah. I did a little snooping.

[00:25:22.340] - Jordan Turnage
Going down rabbit holes with folks.

[00:25:23.880] - Chris Griffin
Don't always take the fox's word for it in the hen house.

[00:25:29.430] - Darren Grogan

[00:25:30.200] - Chris Griffin

[00:25:31.590] - Jordan Turnage
I will say that when we're talking about this, to me, it sounds like we mentioned money ball, and I'm a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan, and they're in a new era right now of taking on analytics. They've seen managers come and go that were of the old style. I think that's one of the big sales of all the guys that they have on the staff right now. We're not going to swap over here to sports or anything. That's my other podcast I have. But like Arlene Marmal and all those guys, they are data, analytic-driven, and that's just the way that this is going right now. Just trying to generalize it for the listeners out there that, like we said earlier, this isn't a niche area in agriculture. It maybe would have been, say, in '99 when we started going.

[00:26:22.680] - Darren Grogan

[00:26:22.900] - Jordan Turnage
I worked for Tennessee Farmers Co-up out of college, and we had a very small small precision ag program. It really was just them doing fertilizer rates, just figuring out where things needed to be spread at variable rates. But now we've seen it with variable planting, and like we talked about earlier with crop protection on spraying.

[00:26:48.220] - Jordan Turnage
This is the direction that this is going. We're certainly not all here saying, If you don't jump on, you're going to get behind. But eventually, the way the plow is just going to change a little bit different.

[00:27:04.920] - Darren Grogan
I'll have to correct you a little bit there, Jordan, because it's not where we're going, it's where we've been.

[00:27:11.950] - Jordan Turnage

[00:27:12.990] - Jordan Turnage
Yeah, I 100% agree. Just so these folks know, the train's already left the station.

[00:27:18.800] - Darren Grogan

[00:27:19.830] - Darren Grogan

[00:27:21.900] - Chris Griffin
Dr. Brandon, at my Rotary Club, he came and spoke and did a presentation there and was talking about some automated.

[00:27:30.330] - Darren Grogan

[00:27:30.600] - Chris Griffin
He showed a video, and it was showing where he had a... It was only, I think, maybe 10 rows. It wasn't super huge, but basically it could be controlled remotely. It was the craziest thing ever. But that's something that's on the... It seems, I think 20 years ago, if we thought the way our phones are now, probably a year, you're like, well, that wouldn't have been possible, but here it is. So it's probably not that far away, honestly.

[00:27:59.270] - Darren Grogan
It's actually here working now. I've seen it.

[00:28:02.980] - Chris Griffin
It's really, really neat.

[00:28:05.150] - Darren Grogan
In fact, I've seen it run several years ago. Now, I do have some thoughts. I think you're going to see a lot of autonomy starting now along. Do I think you see a lot of it in our particular area? I think it's further out than we might think.

[00:28:23.340] - Chris Griffin
I'm sure the cost of that has to be.

[00:28:25.890] - Darren Grogan
Well, that's it.

[00:28:27.360] - Chris Griffin
The initial cost, I guess.

[00:28:28.910] - Darren Grogan
I was I was with a company up in a certain place looking at a certain piece of equipment. That's one thing they ask is, When would our farm adopt such technology? I answered that with a question. I said, When did the mule get replaced by the tractor? That was the day that it became cheaper to operate the tractor than it did the mule. That's where it's driven. Now, the reason why I think it's a little farther out here, a lot of people would say, Oh, yeah, we've got all these hills. We've got an irregular in their shaped fields? No, that's not the reason. This technology will run there. You go somewhere like on a vegetable farm in the Salina's Valley of California or San Joaquin or something like that, you're going to see a labor rate of probably somewhere in the neighborhood of one man per 25 acres. We're running one man for about 1,200 acres. So the economy of implementing that technology becomes much more difficult.

[00:29:29.700] - Chris Griffin
Your labor cost per acre...

[00:29:30.630] - Darren Grogan
It's much smaller.

[00:29:32.010] - Darren Grogan
It's much cheaper here. It's much smaller. It's much smaller. And so you have to begin to think about things. The technology is here and available for the machines to run themselves. That's not the problem. The problem becomes, how do you logistically manage this machine when it's running. So it doesn't do any good to take a person out of the machine if it takes two people to provide products for that machine and logistics to keep it where it needs to be. So you haven't gained anything at that point.

[00:30:01.970] - Chris Griffin
Yeah. I guess that's looking at the other side of it. I know we've talked a lot about a lot of the positive, the precision act. But what do you feel like, or maybe some of the disadvantages currently, or what you see as some disadvantages with Precision ag?

[00:30:16.270] - Darren Grogan
The main disadvantages I see with it are there's a lot of cool technologies out there. There's technologies that provide excellent ROAs, but provided you have enough scale. For individuals who don't have the scale, if you farm 500 acres, you can't justify spending an extra $100,000 on a planter. It doesn't matter where the returns can't...

[00:30:44.670] - Chris Griffin
It doesn't make sense.

[00:30:45.260] - Darren Grogan
The margins can't be wide enough to make that pay. So that's the difficulty. It just takes a certain amount of scale to implement a lot of this technology.

[00:30:57.250] - Jordan Turnage
I really feel like, like I talked about earlier, we've just hit the tip of the spear on this. And I just hope for listeners out there that they notice now that not knocking them, but it's not your grandpa's game anymore.

[00:31:14.100] - Chris Griffin

[00:31:14.850] - Jordan Turnage
And I hope our listeners know and appreciate now how much goes into an educated decision for our farmers out there to know when, what, how, why, and where to plant and farm. I think we've had a great discussion. I'd love to have you come back in here and go some more over this.

[00:31:42.010] - Darren Grogan
Love to.

[00:31:42.300] - Jordan Turnage
This was absolutely fascinating. Mr. Darren, we thank you so much for coming in here today. We appreciate you coming in here and being a part of the podcast and being a real proponent of our podcast. We appreciate you going out there and preaching the word for us. We thank you so much for all that you do as a director to the Association and what your operation does to feed and clothe and give energy to the world. I always talk about how as a kid growing up, you just always think about what's going on in your county. But as I've gotten older and gotten more into noticing markets, and I feel like it's grown exponentially in the past 20 as well, it's just how you have to maintain always knowing not just what your neighbor's doing, but you have to know what's going on in South America, China, the brick countries out there, and being able to focus. I think the big proponent that you've talked about in this and going forward is with this third era of agriculture, taking the emotion out of it and being more math and analytical-driven, it's only going to be a shot in the arm, one that gets involved in this.

[00:33:05.840] - Darren Grogan
Absolutely. I think you guys are going to even notice it on your end as far as from a lending standpoint, when you see operations become more profitable because better decisions being made by the modeling, more accurately depicting where the crop's at throughout the crop year. Imagine with these technologies, imagine when someone walks into your office and ask for a loan, first thing you're going to do is ask for a balance sheet. What if that guy could give you a balance sheet on his crop at any given time? What's that snapshot? This is where I am today based on as a percentage of actual production history. Think of the things the in-season decisions that you could assist in being made. Hey, this thing is running a little short. We're going to switch from an aggressive mindset toward the crop to a conservation of inputs, or we're going to shift from a miserly approach to the inputs to say, Hey, we can shoot for the moon here. This crop is going to be better.

[00:34:12.980] - Jordan Turnage
The sky's the limit.

[00:34:14.120] - Darren Grogan
The sky's the limit.

[00:34:14.610] - Chris Griffin
Well, I mean, as we wrap it up, the main thing, and this is more of a joke, the main thing I've learned a lot about Precision Ag, I've learned a lot about you. But the one thing I took away from this is I know we have one listener on our podcast, and I know it's you.

[00:34:26.530] - Darren Grogan

[00:34:26.560] - Chris Griffin
We have an avid listener, we have a loyal listener, and it's Mr Grogan.

[00:34:30.000] - Darren Grogan
I may not listen to this one because I'm not sure if I can stand to listen to my voice for that long.

[00:34:34.890] - Chris Griffin
Then we'll have to check our viewer, listenership and make sure you weren't the only one. Because if you don't listen, then you are the only one.

[00:34:41.190] - Jordan Turnage
I think the only ones I've heard, I think, are you and my mom, so I appreciate that.

[00:34:44.840] - Chris Griffin
Oh, my goodness.

[00:34:46.340] - Jordan Turnage
Well, as always, guys, thank you so much for listening to us on the Back to Your Roots podcast. For Chris, I'm Jordan. Thanks for listening.

[00:34:54.570] - Chris Griffin
Thanks for tuning in to Back to your Roots, where we dish the dirt on all things act. Be sure to never miss an episode by following and subscribing. While there, leave us a review about what you want to hear next. Stay in the know between episodes by following us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok. For more resources, go to our website at rivervalleyagcredit.com.


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