Wade Barnes remembers sitting at the kitchen table working with farmers to set plans and make decisions based on information collected in the early days of Farmers Edge. Over time, this high-tech startup has kept building on its program, and its philosophy of helping farmers not only gather data, but working with them to make sure the information is useful out of the chute.
Barnes, who is founder and CEO, of Farmers Edge talked about news of two new launches for the company as it keeps expanding in North America. The first is a new generation of its flagship FarmCommand software; the second is a high-tech corn-focused add-on that ramps up the decision-making tools you have available in season.
FarmCommand was first introduced in 2014 and it brought together a lot of what Barnes and his team learned working with farmers to create a decision-making tool. "We can apply data and machine learning to help with crop decisions," he explained. "With this next generation version of FarmCommand we're bringing more field data to the decision model."
For Barnes, it is a process of moving from what he called "precision ag to decision ag." In its original form, FarmCommand used a CANbus data gathering tool to bring as-applied and harvested information from field right into the software. In addition, the company developed early algorithms to help turn that information into actionable knowledge. For the new version, Barnes explained the system is a fully integrated platform to provide farmers with easy access to crop, weather, equipment, soil and other agronomic data all in one place.
Barnes explained that with this software farmers will not just have the "big data" for their farms; they'll be able to put it to work. He added that any system is only as good as the data that gets put into it, and for Farmers Edge, the "edge" is that there are account people for the company who work directly with farmers to make sure the information in the system is right before decisions are made. With the new FarmCommand product weather, fleet management, labor management, in-season crop nutrient management, in-season crop health and field variability, crop and equipment insights and return-on-investment analysis is available in one place.
The new system includes machine learning, and crop modeling, algorithms built around the idea of fine-tuning decisions like spray timing and variable rate applications. The "boots on the ground" philosophy of the company has also helped them find ways to work with farmer data in more accurate ways, Barnes explained.
New module, new capabilities
Added to this next generation version of FarmCommand is a new Corn Manager product. This is an integrated decision-support toolset to help manage high-yield corn production. The system is built to help track corn growth, plan nitrogen applications and visualize overall crop health and variability.
The new module has three tools in an integrated interface. A focus of that product is a system for managing nitrogen. The company is using field-centric variables and weather information from on-farm weather stations, plus zone-based sampling to provide precise nitrogen recommendations.
Barnes noted the company is working to install more on-farm weather states as part of this new program. Basically a farm would get one weather station for the first 500 acres put into the system, and on a 5,000 acre farm there would be two stations. The aim is to get to one station per 2,500 acres - on average - for precise weather information.
Using that local information adds to the decision-making for better nitrogen management; and the system will help with staging nitrogen use. Using that weather information along with other agronomic modeling built into the system, the Corn Manager can help determine when crops are reaching critical growth stages for nitrogen application. The staging tool monitors and forecasts crop development to help with application timing, scouting and equipment deployment.
The third part of the new module is imagery. The system will aggregate remotely-sensed data from up to four different sources - which the company claims is the highest in the industry - to generate precise crop health maps and new field variability maps. Crop health maps will provide a view of fields through time so you can track crop progress. Field variability maps show major locations of variability across the field, in-season, and allow you to pinpoint subtle differences for driving scouting, and other decisions for those fields.
You can learn more about these new tools by visiting farmersedgeUSA.com.