Think of it as a supercomputer in your living room--and an agronomist on the couch.
This month, DuPont Pioneer, the seed genetics business unit of DuPont, held a news conference announcing the unveil of its decision support service that crunches weather, farm and market data and pairs you up with a certified crop advisor to analyze the results.
The service is called Encirca, and it is the latest in a line of expert systems that you can hire to help you make more informed decisions about your farm. You can get answers to, for example, what seed would work best in this part of your field, when would be the best day to spray based on weather, and how much of a return can I expect from applying nitrogen on that a field? You plug in the questions. Encirca and its reps give you some answers.
An enabling technology that makes this system work is cloud-based computing, an online warehouse where you can store and access farm data that is geo-referenced to your fields. But unlike a data storage vat, you have an actual person looking in to translate the data and give you recommendations, or, “prescriptions” on how much of what to put where.
“The best way I would characterize it is, we’re moving away from descriptive- type services to prescriptive,” says Joe Foresman, director of precision services for Dupont Pioneer. “When you consider the way technologies are coming together--whether it is wireless communication, the speed of computing, and ability to handle much bigger data sets—we can offer this [capability] at this point in time.”
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Other companies are offering decision support services (DSS), too. DuPont Pioneer says one difference with its service is that it is combined with what already is the industry’s largest direct ag advisory groups. In 2013, the group mapped more than 20 million acres of cropland and 1.5 million acres of variable rate seeding ground. “When you combine that close customer relationship with additional science analytics and crop modeling capabilities, we will be able to achieve and deliver on the kind of results customers are asking for,” Foresman says.
Growers can view not only how their crops are doing but also how other farmers’ crops are doing.
The rollout will come in layers. The first one, available now, is Encirca View, a free mobile app that lets you record, organize and share geo-referenced crop observations and pinpoint improvements. Growers can upgrade to a fee-based version that includes market news and analysis, grain trading capabilities and field-specific weather forecasts.
The second layer is Encirca Yield, a planning tool designed to help growers assess and manage crop inputs such as seed, nitrogen and water, with help from an Encirca certified agent. Encirca Profit, a third layer, will be geared toward improving businesses management practices to improve ROI. The company says other types of offerings will come in 2015.
The company says the service is brand-neutral. In other words, it doesn’t matter what color of equipment you drive or the input insignia you have on your seed bags. It all works, because what you’re paying for is the service, not the products. Where the brand name comes in is with the certified crop advisors, who all work under the Encirca umbrella but are still classified as independent agents. So far, DuPont Pioneer has enlisted 50 crop specialists to work under the program. These agents are in addition to the dealers and Pioneer seed rep you already work with on your farm.
According to a company news release, “In the next decade, Encirca services are estimated to deliver a peak revenue stream of more than $500 million annually for Pioneer. Additional services will be rolled out under the Encirca services brand in 2015 and beyond.”