Technology is great… when it works like it’s supposed to. Whether it’s your cell phone, computer or agriculture equipment, we’ve all had our fair share of battles with technology. Like it or not, technology isn’t going away. In fact, it’s going to continue to grow and become even more prevalent in our lives, even in agriculture. We see this every year in agriculture as we continue to add technology to our planters and combines. Monitors continue to become more complex, and tractors are driving themselves. So, where do we go from here?
I was meeting with a grower who asked the question, ‘Is the direction of Premier Crop going from a prescription company to an analytics company?’ My answer was: ‘Premier Crop has always been about analytics. We are not only a company known for analytics, but what to do with the information that is received within the data, in those analytics.
At Premier Crop, we say that agronomy is local. Farmers say it too, though, because we have such a vast amount of data within our system.
"It's just putting data to work for you. You can drill down on which fields, and which parts of fields are most profitable, and which aren't. I think the more you help growers know their costs, the better managers they are." - Dan Frieberg
"It convinces growers to spread those nitrogen pounds out over the course of the season or minimally making more than one application, and they see improved efficiency. We're talking about less pounds of nitrogen to produce a bushel of corn, and we generally see higher yields at the same time. So, it becomes a win-win." - Mike Manning
"Growers tell me they are frustrated with precision ag, they've invested in the technology. I tell them, 'You just want to put the pieces of the puzzle together to see exactly what the picture is.’ And they are relieved when Premier Crop can help."
- Katie McWhirter, Director of Training and Development
Big data is a phrase that has integrated this world of technology across industries. It's about capturing relevant data from a huge number of sources, and translating it into something that people can use. Big data provides actionable insights to solve problems at scale and at speed. In this world of ag, we have billions of dollars of venture capital funding pouring into agriculture through technology builds. Big data has been at the center of that.
We often use the phrase, “Everything agronomic is economic.” What does that really mean?
First, let's first define agronomics and economics. What is agronomics? That's everything that we do in the field related to making good management decisions. It's deciding how much fertilizer to apply and where to put it, planting rates, crop protection, tillage systems and how to incorporate all of this into the farm. Those all go into how we grow our crop. On the economics side, we’re talking about all of the money involved in farming. Farming is a business, and just like any other business, you need to make sure you have cash flow so you have the opportunity to farm again next year, and the year after that. So, how do we focus on agronomics and economics? We do that by analyzing growers’ data. We use that knowledge to help them make decisions on their farm.
Knowing what you’ve done on the farm in the last five, 10, or 20 years can provide valuable knowledge as you plan into the future. However, if you never take that data and don't use it to make decisions, it's not doing you any good. It's important to invest time into collecting your farm data. We work with growers to analyze their collected field data. We add costs to the layers of data including product cost, operations cost, management cost if they have any land-specific cost, and tie that to the yield file so we can see what is making agronomic and economic sense on the farm.
It's fairly easy to tell where there are higher yields, but it's a lot harder to know if that yield increase also caused an increase in the pocket book. Did the decision pay for itself? Did you produce enough bushels to offset the cost of production? Every pass across the field matters agronomically, but it also has a cost associated with it. We give you three steps to help combine your farm agronomics and economics below.
"We know there are dollars left on the table on every acre, it's just a matter of finding it with your farm data." - Lance Meyer, Kansas
LANCE MEYER: Hi, guys. My name is Lance Meyer. I'm an advisor here in eastern Kansas, actually located in the little town of Wellsville, just southwest of Kansas City. I've been with Premier Crop for about a year and a half now, and I work with growers kind of all over Kansas. I’m mainly focused here in east-central Kansas, but I get out west and up north a little bit, so kind of all over.
Our approach to nutrient planning is based on the fact that we want to allow our advisors, partners, and growers to get ahead when it comes to planning for the next crop season. Some advisors are having this conversation early, even before growers start combining in the fall. As we dial our focus on helping growers create a plan before the growing season begins, we look at several things. Using a spatial soil sample as one of the foundation pieces is a large part of what we do. A spatial soil sample could be a grid sample where the field is divided into smaller sizes, giving you a number of samples within a field, two-and-a-half-acre grids are common in most areas. In other areas where the field is divided into zones, zone sampling can be driven by soils, historic imagery, or EC conductivity. Instead of capturing one sample for an entire field, they're capturing more intense, site-specific samples. Layering all these samples into one computerized system and letting data science derive the factors for you helps, rather than trying to figure it out on your own in those frustrating excel sheets.