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First Fix: Hunters and gatherers

While farmers work on growing and gathering their crops in the most efficient ways possible, other people key to the agriculture industry are hunters. These hunters seek the most efficient and groundbreaking ways to carry out such tasks as plowing, planting, fertilizing, weeding and, finally, gathering.

This month, among other machine-control applications, we focus on using GNSS technology to improve agricultural efficiency. According to research firm MarketsandMarkets, the precision farming market is estimated to be $7 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach $12.8 billion by 2025, growing 12.7% every year between.

Factors driving growth include increasing farm mechanization in developing countries, rising labor costs, increasing strain on the global food supply, substantial cost savings associated with smart farming techniques, and government initiatives to adopt modern agricultural techniques. For a look at today’s technology, see our cover story.

James Litton

James Litton

Sadly, this month we also say goodbye to a pioneer in the precision ag field. James D. Litton founded NavCom Technology in 1995 with three partners, Ron Hatch, KT Woo and Jalal Alisobhani.

Litton’s career began at Magnavox in the early days of GPS, where he worked on the original proposal for GPS Phase I and helped develop new and advanced commercial navigation and survey receivers for both the Navy’s TRANSIT system and the Air Force’s GPS.

In 1992, Litton opened a consulting firm, and in 1994, he and his partners founded NavCom with Litton as CEO. Under contract, NavCom developed a single-frequency WAAS-capable GPS aircraft navigation receiver.

“His work transformed agriculture into a data-driven, technological industry.” — Brad Parkinson

NavCom also began a relationship with Deere & Company, supporting more efficient and productive agriculture. This relationship was so successful that Deere, which recognized GNSS tech as a smart investment, purchased NavCom in 1999.

Litton continued to lead the company and serve as part of Deere’s senior management team for eight more years.

Among his many contributions to the GNSS field, his impact on global agriculture might well have been his greatest, according to Brad Parkinson, the original chief architect for GPS and Editorial Advisory Board member.

“His work transformed agriculture into a data-driven, technological industry that was incredibly more efficient,” Parkinson said. “The cost savings and increases in productivity have impacted billions around the world.”

Litton also authored several articles for GPS World.

He died in January at his home in California with his family at his side. He was 89 years old. His family asks that donations in his name be sent to

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