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Digital agriculture technology a 1-2 punch for farmer benefits

Digital agriculture technology a 1-2 punch for farmer benefits

Utilizing software and analytics, digital agriculture tech helps farmers run stronger businesses, according to Granular

Andrew Joseph

It may sound like science fiction—something made up—but digital agriculture is very much a real thing and is being utilized by farmers around the world, including the US and Canada. 

Digital agriculture uses digital technology to gain information they possess but may not have easy access to that allows farmers to make more informed decisions to improve their fields’ productivity. 

In a November 17, 2021 presentation by Jay Nauta, Digital Business Manager and Krista Klompstra, Digital Business Leader both of Granular (a subsidiary of Corteva Agriscience) at the 2021 Virtual Precision Agriculture Conference & Ag Technology Showcase, they described the impact digital agriculture has and will have, and how their company’s Granular Insights tool can help farmers become even better producers.

Digital agriculture is generally considered to be the combination of precision ag technologies, such as robotics, biotechnology, weather monitoring via satellite imagery, precision application of water and chemicals, and using it all for wireless and digital data management.  

But simplified, digital agriculture is all about using information to be able to get the right product at the right rate on the right location to maximize outcomes. 

The technology is available, so utilize it to your advantage and don’t get left behind.

Nauta and Klompstra both indicated in their presentation that farmers who utilize digital farming technology will be able to farm smarter—not harder—and earn larger yields and gain better farm management to improve their bottom line.

Right through the growing season, digital agriculture technology uses data and scientific modelling to create agronomic, financial and operational decisions, said Nauta, such as crop planning, scouting and monitoring, and even harvesting.   

He cited former boxing champ Mike Tyson who said: “Everybody has a plan until they are punched in the mouth.”

Although we can be sure that pugilist Tyson was not referencing an “ear” of corn in his infamous adage, the takeaway is that farmers always have a yearly plan when it comes to how they want to farm—but aggressive weather, such as droughts, wildfires et al have a nasty way of throwing the best laid plans atop the garbage heap. 

It doesn’t mean that farmers shouldn’t plan, however. Rather Nauta said that the use of digital agriculture technology will enable farmers more of an advance notification to enable them to react quicker to issues. 

He said that farmers need to “get planning done as early as possible to enable them to react better to those punches” as the Granular tool works with the farmer from the beginning to the end of the season. 

With Granular’s software, farmers can plan a smart, detailed and flexible crop. The tool will enable farmers to input the type of crop in every field, the variety of crop and the expected yield, noting via its algorithms just how much of the planned harvest is, for example, canola, lentils, corn, wheat or mustard, while also calculating how much of the acreage has yet to be accounted for. 

It provides farmers with the knowledge to plan for field usage, as well as how much fertilizer, herbicide, etc., is required. 

The Granular tool combines information from multiple sources, such as weather patterns, soil composition, machine data and even land records to build viewable data models of field analysis. 

Via the software tool viewable from a phone or other digital device, farmers can view imagery to determine, for example, if crops should be harvested or chopped—whether a field’s conditions are an anomaly or more widespread viewing in-season changes or field variability. 

Nauta cited the example of early Granular adapter Marc Hutlet Seeds Ltd., which used the system’s In-Season Change tool to assess field value as a means to monitor every acre to make confident proactive decisions as needed rather than being reactive. 

It’s all about collaborating and communicating, agreed Nauta and Klompstra. By examining imaging, farmers can see how a fungicide application, for example, is performing. Or it enables farmers to see where there is an issue and apply a fungicide when the imagery recognizes a thin or spindly crop. 

It may not be necessary to respray an entire field when Granular informs you that it’s only a small area that is in trouble. It helps save time and resources.   

Easy to use and understand, the tool helps a farmer make their own confident decisions after being presented with the data. 

And, as crass as it may sound, its whole purpose is to positively impact the farmers’ bottom line—driving profits with data already present.

It combines a farm’s planting and yield data with the estimated revenue and costs to view in real time just how each individual field is working, or which fields are not performing as expected. 

It doesn’t make decisions for the farmer, but it does present all the data in an easy-to-utilize format.   

Klompstra noted that farmers can compare field profitability in minutes without having to go through miles of spreadsheets, allowing farmers to understand what is going on in their fields to, if necessary, make the best decisions going forward. 

She added that the Granular tool can also provide an analysis of land rental costs versus profits, to see if it is worth the effort to rent or not.  

As for the all-important topic of ownership, Klompstra noted that the grower is the owner of all data compiled, that it is treated in the same manner as a financial institution would treat a farmer’s financial data.   

For those who require help, experts like Klomstra and Nauta are part of the Granular team who have farm experience and can will explain how to first capture the data and how to read the data to make informed decisions. 

Trainers are available to lead a farm through the initial setup—live customized training—to ensure that what data is being mined will align with the farmer’s individual business goals. 

Coaches are also available to help streamline data recovery efforts, and product and agronomic specialist support is also available. 

The key to digital agriculture, summed up Nauta and Klompstra, is to determine what data works best for your fields and your needs. 

This article was featured in the December 2021 Precision Agriculture Digital Digest — view it here.

Watch Jay & Krista's presentation from the 2021 Virtual Precision Agriculture Conference & Ag Technology Showcase below.

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