NOTE: We've added a video report on this story at the end, check out how TJ Coughenour is using the tech he has, in his own words.
Sitting in the combine, T.J. Coughenour was finishing up a field of soybeans. His first thought was they were high-yielders. For this fourth-generation Maxwell, Iowa, farmer, that was good news. The next step was getting that information from combine to cloud so he could do something with it.
Coughenour likes to put down about half his nitrogen in the fall using anhydrous, but he’s a big fan of variable-rate application. “We use 100% strip till, too, so we need to get that fertilizer right where we need it,” he adds.
He builds his own variable-rate application prescriptions from data he collects and has long advocated precision farming and data use. The key is getting that information from the combine in the most efficient way and having a way to share the information if he needs someone else’s input on a practice.
New tool maximizes legacy machines
Yet, his combine isn’t outfitted with JDLink for wireless data transfer. Coughenour is using a new mobile data transfer tool. It looks like a key fob for a car and fits in his pocket. But when he finishes a field, Coughenour can connect the fob to his GreenStar 2630 monitor, and the unit pulls data out and sends it to his smartphone.
“I have an app from John Deere that captures the data, and then I can simply just swipe my finger and send the information to the cloud from my phone,” he says.
The fob, which has a $249 list price, is a way to bring legacy machines into the age of cloud computing. And it also means a young farmer like Coughenour doesn’t have to go buy a new machine to take advantage of such data management tools as the MyJohnDeere Operations Center.
Adds Scott Meldrum, integrated solutions specialist, Van Wall: “Those mobile data transfer units are flying off the shelves since they came out this year,” he notes. “Farmers see the value of getting that information out of the combine faster, and for the farmer, it’s a one-time fee to buy the tool.”
Growing up on the family farm, Coughenour attended the precision farming program at Ellsworth Community College. He spent some time working at Van Wall, now his equipment dealer, before returning to the farm. “I raised calves as a kid, but we don’t have cattle on the farm right now,” he notes.
The operation includes more than farming; the family runs a trucking business that hauls everything from cement for concrete plants to grain from area farms to corn stover for the new DuPont cellulosic ethanol plant in nearby Nevada.
“The key for us,” he says, “is to use variable-rate application, and that means having our data quickly. We’re maximizing the seeding zone with strip till, and using the right amount of fertilizer where we need it. We want to see more yellow to green on that yield map, and manage the red spots.”