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On the farm, micromanagement is a good thing

On the farm, micromanagement is a good thing

Two John Deere precision agriculture experts discuss data, automation, connectivity and ease-of-use

By Ryan Ridley

Are you making data-driven decisions on your farming operation?

This is easier said than done, but the results of implementing a precision agriculture strategy will not only be beneficial today, but for years, and even generations, to come.

We had the privilege of receiving advice from two John Deere experts at the recent 2020 Virtual Precision Agriculture Conference & Ag Technology Showcase.

Their presentation highlighted John Deere’s precision ag strategy, diving into what is expected in the future and what this means for farmers.

John Deere has been a key player in the precision agriculture landscape for many years – going back to 1996 and its first GPS receiver, which was nicknamed ‘green eggs and ham’.

“Simply put, our precision ag vision is that our customers will be the world’s most profitable and sustainable farmers,” explained Doug Dickman, Project Manager – Precision Ag Technology at John Deere. “When I talk about profitability, that means that customers with our equipment and precision ag technology experience higher yields, lower cost and lower risk, year-after-year.”

“When we talk sustainability, that means that our technology will help farmers be even better stewards of the land, reducing waste and helping them do more with less – and as it speaks to financial sustainability, being able to have a profitable farm to pass along to the next generation.”

John Deere’s Smarter Equipment and Better Decisions precision ag strategy is comprised of three main areas:

  • plant level management,
  • simplified farm management, and
  • enabling data-driven decisions.

The focus when it comes to plant level management is helping farmers become better micromanagers through the use of sensors, machine learning, robotics and automation.

“When you think about micromanagement, you generally think that it isn’t a good thing – but in agriculture, it really is. We want to be able to monitor and control millions of seeds that are planted on the farm in a way to optimize things for the farmer to increase productivity and precision,” said Dickman.

Simplified farm management refers to a farmer’s ability to access the right information, at the right time, and from anywhere – including and especially in the cab of a tractor.

“We know that most farmers aren’t sitting behind a desk in a command center watching a large monitor all day – in reality, they’re probably in the cab or out in a pickup truck. For us, we need to simplify that farm management process, which means a mobile experience that allows them to manage his or her farm from their phone,” stated Dickman. “We’re investing heavily in this technology today, and you’re going to see significant changes in the future.”

The third pillar in John Deere’s precision ag strategy is to enable better decisions by harnessing the power of data and analytics.

“The promise of precision ag has been that as a farmer, I can learn from the data that comes from my farm. I think we haven’t quite delivered on that promise yet,” said Dickman.

He explains that data is still too fragmented and difficult to navigate.

“We know that as farmers, you don’t want to be a data scientist – you want to be a decision maker. That’s where we’re really focused on how to surface the value from the data in an automated and simplified way so that you aren’t required to dig for it yourselves,” he added.

In today’s digital age of farming, John Deere’s strategy is focusing on connecting equipment with decision makers and partners, across the entire production system.

“Data is really the fuel of our strategy – not the exhaust. We need to utilize the data that is coming in,” stated Dickman. “The investments we’ve made in connectivity are really the backbone of the strategy. Our strategy for smarter equipment is that we can leverage spatial intelligence from other passes as well as other resources – that’s going to bring that automation intelligence down to the equipment where it can complement our onboard sensors to create the smartest, most automated machines possible.”

Dickman discussed how data is fueling smarter equipment across the entire production system from soil prep to harvest.

“The fusion of off-board data, spatial intelligence and real-time, on-board sensor data is the fuel that’s going to create smarter equipment that creates more value for our customers,” he said.

“Micromanaging at the plant level means that the goal is to count every seed, the goal of spraying is to make every drop count, and the goal of harvesting is to make every grain count.”

Does it seem futuristic for a sprayer to become more intelligent because it’s utilizing information that it’s gained from prior experience? Well, John Deere recently released a new precision ag application called AutoPath™ which does just that.

“When using AutoPath™, guidance lines are automatically created from a map of crop row lines for each field. These mapped row lines are used to automatically create guidance lines for the entire field for all other in-field passes, such as spraying, nutrient application or harvesting operations, later in the year," explained John Mishler, Tactical Marketing Manager – Precision Ag at John Deere in the release on November 17.

Mishler went on to discuss the foundational technologies that are required to fully take advantage of the capabilities John Deere is currently building and plans to build in the future.

“We understand that getting started with precision ag can be daunting and if you have begun the journey, sometimes knowing what step to take next can be a bit unclear,” said Mishler. “At Deere, we’re trying to make it as easy as possible by including a solid foundation with all new large ag machines that are purchased from our dealers.”

John Deere’s newest machines are built with an integrated StarFire™ 6000 Receiver that is pre-calibrated from the factory and is priced with SF3 accuracy included.

“The integrated StarFire™ 6000 Receiver helps you get started more quickly and delivers the accuracy you need for whatever precision field work you have planned,” said Mishler.

Inside the cab is the 4600 CommandCenter™ Display which has foundational precision ag applications built in, including AutoTrac™, documentation and data sync.

“AutoTrac™ is essentially the application upon which all other more advanced precision ag applications are built,” added Mishler. “We also include documentation so that the work that you do – tillage, planting or seeding, application and harvest – are easily documented. That documentation serves as the basis for better decisions.”

All large John Deere machines come with connectivity built in and include 5 years of JDLink™.

Learn more about John Deere’s precision ag applications in this video:

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