Mike's story

Digital agriculture earns its spot in family farming operation

Second-generation farmer Mike Helle is quick to note just how important each of his family members’ roles are on the farm. He credits his dad, who started Green Gold Farms in Edinburg, Texas, with overseeing all the operations and ensuring success. His brother, in addition to crop-specific roles, manages the leveling and construction side of the business, and his mom handles bookkeeping.

With everyone managing their own responsibilities, Mike took on the task of enrolling the operation in the AgriEdge program more than five years ago to help organize and improve record-keeping for the 2300-acre operation that grows over 23 different crops.

“We really needed a way to keep track of our spraying and chemical use on the variety of commodities we grow,” Mike says. “It’s easy to get lost if you don’t pay close attention and write everything down. I was just finishing college when AgriEdge became available to us, and it seemed like a good option.”

Finding the patterns

Mike, like most growers, says their biggest challenge is weather. Each year it varies, and it’s impossible to predict if a year will be easy or tough.
“In 2016, for example, we had no problem with quality because the weather cooperated,” Mike says. “But 2017 was very challenging. February was nearly 11 degrees above normal temperatures for us; we even had some 85 degree days. That was really tough on our winter vegetables.”

Regardless of the weather, downstream partners demand high-quality products, which the Helles are committed to providing. For Mike, this is just one example of when he turns to Land.db®, the farm management software exclusive to Syngenta customers.

“It’s really helpful to refer back to previous years’ notes,” Mike says. “I can see what I did in years with similar weather patterns. I can see what fertility or chemical plans I followed and how the crop responded, then develop a plan from that.”


Preparing for the future

“We can now better keep track what goes into each crop. It breaks it down more easily, so we can then make more economical decisions and see where we could trim costs, without losing quality,” says Mike Helle.
Mike uses the software to improve efficiency and profitability on the farm. In Land.db, he can analyze his various costs of input – from seed and crop protection to labor and equipment.

“We can now better keep track what goes into each crop,” Mike says. “It’s very valuable to itemize each of our inputs and then compare it to our yield. It breaks it down more easily, so we can then make more economical decisions and see where we could trim costs, without losing quality.”
Mike also uses the data to determine what seed, crop protection and fertilizer to budget for in the upcoming year. As he continues seeking ways to integrate the software in his operation, he’s anticipating future industry trends. Like most farms, Green Gold Farms is already implementing sustainable agricultural management practices. But as consumers and processors demand more evidence of those efforts, Mike acknowledges the need to track their efforts better.  
“Everybody in agriculture is going to have to move toward sustainability in a way that connects with people who don’t fully understand U.S. agriculture,” Mike says. “Like most farming operations, we’re already practicing sustainability, but we haven’t kept track of it. That’s something I’m looking forward to learning more about in AgriEdge.”

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