Focused Use of Farm Data Yields Better Results
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“A lot of people have technology on their farms, but what are they really doing with it?” asks Brad Allen, a Syngenta AgriEdge® specialist. “First and foremost, operations should determine goals for data usage. Then, we need to focus on the collection and collaboration of data — making sure it’s easy to collect and manipulate — and then make sound decisions.”
Allen points out that if growers aren’t collecting quality data that’s easy to turn into profitable actions, it doesn’t matter how many screens of information they have in their cabs or how many different record-keeping programs they use. Growers who streamline their data collection and maintain quality control can more easily turn data into results.
Different Goals, Different Data, Different Results
AgriEdge, the whole-farm management solution from Syngenta, includes farm management software with features for seamless data transfers, record keeping, reporting and analysis. It’s a technology platform that helps growers link different technology and data sources within one tool for a 365-day, 360-degree view of their operations. Growers have different goals for their data, and AgriEdge offers the breadth of tools to meet each operation’s unique needs.
- Planning for Profitability
In Newport, Arkansas, grower Jennifer James uses her data to make sure she maintains profitability on her rice, corn and soybean farm, H&J Land Company.
“We regularly enter our invoice prices in AgriEdge, so we’re able to track to the day, or even to the minute, what expenses are in the crop,” James says. “If we exceed our planned budget, we can quickly pull back or adjust other line items.”
At the beginning of the season, she bases her budget on expected market prices and records of inputs she’s used in the past. But unexpected seasonal challenges and down markets are unavoidable.
“Having the data behind my decisions helps me feel confident,” James says. “Even with changing prices, we can see what we need to make our budgets work.”
Having a plan in place has also allowed her to buy inputs in bulk to cut costs. She also says it’s a great way to avoid billing errors. In fact, James says they’ve recouped about $40,000 in just three years, based on errors caught using the farm management software.
- Regulatory Compliance
Cale Rogers is a ranch foreman on Portwood Farms, a pistachio and almond farm in Wasco, California. He says one of his biggest challenges is maintaining and proving regulatory compliance.
“We have to be prepared for everything — from an OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] walkthrough and timely product-use reports to maintaining the right hazardous waste and restricted materials permits and keeping my applicator’s license up to date,” Rogers says. “AgriEdge makes regulatory compliance a lot easier for me.”
Rogers and his staff enter data at the time of application. “I don’t have to dig through emails or paper copies to find our recommendations from two months ago or to try to remember what I sprayed on each field,” he says. “It’s really easy for me to monitor product limits.”
At the end of the month or year, Rogers can easily print and submit the necessary reports.
- Better, Faster Decisions
Brandon Wilson, the farm manager at Davis Brothers Farms in Cunningham, Kentucky, has been using AgriEdge since he joined the farm in 2013. For this fast-paced corn, soybean and wheat farming cooperative, he needs to keep accurate accounting data so he can see exactly how much has been spent on a field-by-field basis.
“I can quickly assess values, which empowers me to make game-time decisions,” Wilson says. “I use that real-time dollar amount when making recommendations for inputs.”
For example, when comparing similar products — one that will cost $3 per acre and one that will cost $7 per acre — most growers review the probable yield bump. But with his historical data, Wilson can also see that the cheaper product has required an extra pass on a specific field in the past and may ultimately cost $10 to $13 per acre.
“I’ve found a lot of value in keeping up with data to make better decisions for the present and the future,” Wilson says.
Come On In. The Data's Fine.
Whether it’s in a notepad, Excel spreadsheet or farm management software, most growers and resellers are already tracking the right types of data, even if they don’t know how to use it.
Allen says a sales rep, an AgriEdge specialist or another trusted adviser can help growers get their data in order and determine next steps with the operations’ goals in mind. An easy first step is an annual review of general data for an input-to-output analysis. Then, they can move toward subfield analyses and decision-making.
“Having the data behind my decisions helps me feel confident. Even with changing prices, we can see what we need to make our budgets work.”
“There’s a lot of noise in this space,” he says. “Find someone who’s going to help you drive profitability on your farm and who wants it to move forward.”
Allen confirms most growers ease into data management. “You’ll have to try things that may be out of your comfort zone, but not many growers are using every button or data point when they first start. It’s an evolution, and it’s never too late to start.”
*Market research, 2018 Stratus Ag Research.