Knowing as much as possible about your fields is necessary to make wise crop management decisions. However, the prospect of collecting and analyzing data is a daunting task for many. This is why companies like Farmers Business Network, FarmLink and FarmersEdge are attracting customers who want help understanding the information, but also assistance with how to use it.
“Our goal is to make information accessible for all farmers,” says Charles Baron, co-founder and vice president of product at Farmers Business Network. “Organizing grower data is key to making it valuable, so by networking thousands of fields together we can also learn which hybrids, fertilizers, practices and chemicals are best suited for local conditions.”
FBN takes just about any type of file, cleans and organizes it, and turns it into a real-time picture of a grower’s operation via reports, maps, charts and historical views. The fee for this is $500 per member, with no limit on the acres analyzed.
“We try to take the pain out of working with data and, instead, turn it into information and analysis that can be used for decision-making purposes,” explains Baron, who says they have more than 1,200 grower members (with nearly 5 million acres) currently enrolled.
Data in action
FarmLink also offers actionable data and insights for growers through a benchmark tool called TrueHarvest. By combining highly accurate proprietary data from its managed combine fleet with the best publicly available data from the USDA and other sources, it analyzes more than 50 different variables across millions of acres to help farmers identify areas for greater productivity.
“There is minimal information and setup time required. All we really need are the boundaries of the fields to be analyzed,” explains Dave Gephardt, FarmLink’s chief strategy officer for data products and agronomy, who says soil type, topography, slope and climate are examples of variables analyzed to create benchmarks in fields in 150-square-foot increments.
Simply put, Gephardt says they can help growers identify spots in fields that might have issues and, in turn, validate economic and agronomic decisions to determine what worked and what didn’t work.
“We offer a means to validate decisions by measuring performance and deciding what makes most sense for the balance sheet,” Gephardt explains. “For weed management, that could be using the information to make decisions about whether to manage weeds aggressively in one location, or instead use resources elsewhere based on the profitability potential of the land being evaluated.”
Farming and resources
“We not only provide growers with precision tools needed to maximize yields, we also enable growers to minimize their environmental footprint by reducing their on-farm inputs,” says Wade Barnes, the founder and CEO of FarmersEdge, a firm focused on precision agriculture and independent data management solutions.
FarmersEdge customers are provided Precision Health Maps for their fields. They also have “Disease Forecast Models,” which help growers minimize loss due to disease.
“Data is the third revolution in agriculture, and it’s transforming the sector, enabling growers to produce more with fewer resources,” explains Barnes, who believes a “marriage between biotech and big data” will be the next major breakthrough.
- Yontz is a freelance writer from Urbandale, Iowa.
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