Faster Data Equals Better Decisions

Collecting field data uniformly and transporting it wirelessly can help you make well-informed, timely decisions.

By Marilyn Cummins

As the agronomy marketing manager and precision farming coordinator for Christian County FS in Taylorville, Illinois, Nathan Rogers is a fan of data management systems that can transfer field data in real time using wireless Internet (cellular) connectivity.

Last fall, a customer who had been using variable-rate technology (VRT) to spread fall fertilizer based solely on soil samples took Rogers up on his offer of a prescription that would incorporate more precise information from his fields. It would, says Rogers, “apply the fertilizer in the proper places where it’s needed, based off yield data, yield normalization, soil-test data, soil type—taking those four factors into effect.”

Before harvest, the customer invested in a wireless data platform for his operation. Rogers preloaded the customer’s soil-sample analysis into the FS data management system, received authorization to access the grower’s data in his cloud account, then waited for him to harvest the crop.

“He would text me whenever he was done harvesting a field, and I would sign into his account online and download his harvest data. I already had his yield normalization going, his soil-sample analysis and soil type,” Rogers says. “Due to that, and being able to export the VRT prescription to our machine and call in the fertilizer analysis blend at our bulk location near his farm, we were able to have the blend mixed and loaded into the truck. We were,” continues Rogers, “in his field in 15 minutes after he pulled the combine out of the field.

“He was just amazed,” Rogers says. “This was a unique case, but that is how fast it can happen.”

Brett Isley, senior sales and marketing manager for FS Agronomy Information Services at Growmark, agrees with the advantage of wireless data transfer. “You’re talking about it taking 60 seconds to get yield or planting data versus taking possibly days,” Isley says. “Not to be religious, but it kind of seems miraculous at times, when you used to have to use a thumb drive, and now you can use a login to collect data.”

Mixed Fleets Made Easier

Rogers’ example shows how immediate transfer of field data to an agronomist or agricultural retailer helps them make fast decisions about fall fertilization and other time-sensitive services, says Ken Wagenbach, marketing manager for Farm Optimization Services, AGCO Commercial Strategic Initiatives. “It also stabilizes their workload and the efficiency of their equipment and their time.”

For some time, AGCO has been helping its customers and dealers optimize equipment performance and streamline maintenance by collecting machine operating data through FUSE® Connected Services. Now, AGCO is developing agronomic data-management solutions for mixed-fleet operations that can make it easier for farmers and ag retailers to collect and analyze field data from any equipment in their operation, no matter the brand.

“So, beyond using the data for operational optimization of the equipment, we’re talking about moving data around faster, so that farmers can do things faster,” says Jeffrey Ratliff, manager, Global FUSE Connected Services at AGCO. “Together, helping manage the machine and field data can ensure that our machines are being used for their best potential, so farmers can get the most agronomically out of their fields as well.”

What AGCO is striving for is “to be able to have accurate data in one full map that can easily be used and quickly be disseminated, no matter the brand of the tractor, planter or combine,” says Wagenbach. “With our partnership with farm data company Farmobile, we’re totally colorblind. Our goal is to have one login, one data point, for the farmer to access it all.”

Ratliff emphasizes that when it comes to farmers’ agronomic field data, the farmers own it. “We aren’t keeping their data; we aren’t using that data in any way because we at AGCO don’t even actually have access to that task data.” The Farmobile Passive Uplink Connection (PUC) devices “are basically capturing that data and allowing the customer to wirelessly transfer that to any farm management information system that they pick,” adds Ratliff.

“All of these steps to speed data collection and transfer help growers and ag retailers become more efficient,” says Corina Ardelean, marketing manager, AGCO Commercial Strategic Initiatives. “It’s allowing them to cover more acres, and especially right now, when margins are tight, more acres mean more dollars.”