SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The growth in precision agriculture was
apparent when a record-high 1,100 attended the InfoAg Conference.
“That’s a significant growth in the size of this conference,
and I think also quite reflective of what we’re seeing in the precision ag
industry as a whole,” Steve Phillips, International Plant Nutrition Institute’s
southeast U.S. region director, said in the opening session. “It’s a growing,
energetic, exciting industry to be a part of, and I’m very happy all of you took
time out of your busy schedule to attend the conference.”
Fittingly touted as the premier conference on precision
agriculture, the three-day event focused on the application of precision
technology and information management for crop production and featured a broad
range of educational opportunities.
“We brought in some of the top speakers from literally
around the world to address the emerging and ongoing topics in agronomy,
business, engineering, policies and social issue surrounding precision
agriculture,” Phillips said.
He commended the IPNI member companies and industry
associations for supporting InfoAg.
“If we didn’t have the support of our member companies, then
we wouldn’t have been able to make this event happen for the last 20 years,” he
said. “Some people will ask: What is it about precision agriculture that would
make the fertilizer industry invest so much effort into an event like
“I think to clearly understand why the fertilizer industry
has such a strong interest in precision agriculture you need to know what our
mission is at IPNI.”
IPNI’s mission is to develop and promote scientific
information about the responsible management of plant nutrition for the benefit
of the human family.
“We find responsible management as following the four Rs of
nutrient stewardship. That’s to apply the right nutrient source at the right
rate at the right time and in the right place,” Phillips said. “This is not as
simple and straightforward as just a specific set of practices.
“This is a set of practices, interconnected, working
together within the context of a cropping system, working toward management
objectives that also work toward sustainability goals where we equally weigh
economic, environmental and social factors.
“Without the tools and technologies, information management
strategies and the partnerships that we establish here at the InfoAg Conference,
we can’t achieve this goal.”
In order to make this puzzle come together at the core of
four R nutrient stewardship, Phillips said, “it’s going to take all of us
working together, and it’s going to be the precision ag industry that’s going to
move four R stewardship and our mission forward in the coming decades.”
“Another puzzle that we solve here at InfoAg is one of
connecting the dots. In this case, the dots are people,” he explained.
“We’re connecting people at InfoAg. From manufacturers,
retailers, (research and development) industry, university research and
Extension, advisers, consultants and practitioners, we all have a part in the
plan to introduce relationships that can be formed and fostered an event like
this that makes this happen.
“You can see how this conference has grown and the depth of
the relationships and the partnerships that we’re able to form by bringing all
levels of precision agriculture together at this one event are so much more
powerful than what we can accomplish just by following each other on Twitter.
“Obviously, social media is a very important tool for us in
communication and dissemination of information, but it is face time that InfoAg
allows us to share that I think really allows us to be leaders in the coming
Referring to his presentation theme, “connecting the dots,”
Phillips said the picture InfoAg is creating with the dots “is one that fits
with IPNI’s mission of sustained production of food, feed, fiber and fuel around
“This is not something that one entity can achieve. This is
going to require teamwork,” he said.
“It’s going to require partnerships, and the precision ag
industry is uniquely suited in the diversity of skill set that we all bring
together to be leaders in this movement because we not only create pictures, we
also need to change some pictures.
“One of the very serious pictures that we see is that of
food security around the globe. Starvation, malnutrition and poverty are very
real and very serious challenges that we must address head-on in the coming
“If we’re going to be able to provide a nutritious safe food
source for the growing population in the coming decade and do it in an
environmentally, socially and economically sustainable way, it’s going to take
all of us working together.”