Optimizing people and technology are key success factors
By Ryan Ridley
Farms.com Business Writer
Producers are always looking for new practices and approaches to improve operations on the farm. This industry-wide spirit has inspired Bayer’s recent ‘It’s Grow Time’ campaign.
The goal: Speak with a variety of innovative Canadian growers about their most successful practices and key findings, then share this information with the world for the betterment of global agriculture.
“With the accessibility of technology and innovation worldwide, we’re now a global community. You can see what ideas are being implemented in Europe, South Africa and Australia and see what’s actually working,” explained Eric Jones, canola and wheat grower based near High River, Alberta.
So, what’s actually working?
The consensus: It comes down to optimizing people and technology.
The utilization rate of your people and technology, and getting to the optimal pitch, will drive your business.
According to Bayer, there are five areas of focus growers have identified that have helped them continue to succeed.
Identify and Account for Micro Climates in Trials
Often different fields and areas within a field have different moisture, temperature, and soil composition. You can’t be surprised when there are differences in each area and don’t always expect to a do a blanket application.
When testing new products, consider conducting 10 per cent trials in a variety of locations and micro climates. These should turn into larger trials each year, not just five-to-ten acre plots. Larger trials in multiple areas make a difference.
“Try to reallocate inputs and manage by the acre, so you can assess at a more granular level. With the variability of land, managing field-by-field or crop-by-crop won’t give you the results you want, since everything can’t be treated the same,” advised Kristjan Hebert, managing partner of Hebert Grain Ventures who grows malt, barley, canola and yellow beans in southeast Saskatchewan.
Plan for a Two- to Three-Year Implementation or Adoption of New Tools
Due to varying weather conditions and micro climates, you might not see results you were hoping for from a product.
Be willing to try a product for more than one year and test it in different environments.
If it’s still not producing results after three years, dig into why it’s not working to ensure future decisions account for that learning.
Gunter Jochum, Director of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers who personally grows soybeans, canola, wheat and oats in St. Francois Xavier, Manitoba says, “Turn to resources for help during the decision-making process. From agronomists to university extensions to local suppliers, learn as much as you can.”
Consider the Five Per Cent Rule
Focus on smaller increases and decreases as they can add up to a significant difference and revenue for the operation.
Farmers need to have realistic goals and know that a five per cent increase in yield and price with a five per cent decrease in expenses can result in a 117 per cent improvement.
“As a starting point, you must figure out every increment you can, then track it to see issues and inefficiencies.
“Keep looking at the industry and think, if I’m doing the same thing as everybody else then I’m doing something wrong,” expressed Grant Dyck, of Artel Farms Limited, a second-generation grain and oilseed operation in Niverville, Manitoba.
Focus on little areas to keep improving all the time, from the top of the balance sheet to the bottom.
Two main areas to consider are how to maximize and optimize with labour and machinery while focusing on education, marketing and paying attention to local trends.
Optimize People by Breaking Tasks into ABC Categories
Once a quarter, have staff fill out their ABC tasks: a) tasks you dread, b) tasks that are fine – just part of life, c) tasks you’re excited to do.
“In order to keep growing and hit your desired margins, you need to do the best job possible in utilizing your people and your technology.
“We spend a lot of time training and exciting our team to be as passionate about finding efficiencies as we are,” Hebert elaborated.
Make sure the people on your team are doing the things they love and productivity will increase naturally – this is all tied to your team’s culture.
Embrace Precision Ag and Data Analytics
You need to be in a position where you can make intelligent decisions quickly, which means taking steps in tracking and integrating data and running a live cost-of-production analysis.
Big data is not the critical success factor, live data analytics and turning data into decisions in the field is the critical success factor.
At the end of the day, data analytics can only be successful if the data itself is good. Many growers are considering new roles for auditing data collection on the farm, so quality data can be captured in an intelligent form allowing for timely decision making.
“Successful operations today need to be incredibly adaptable and embrace change. What’s being done today will be different in five years. You have to be willing to modify and adapt with new tech, new information and changes in structure,” Jones advised.