Valley Irrigation reached out to Kerry and Angela Knuth of Knuth Farms, located near Mead, Neb. and asked them to write a blog about how technology is affecting their farm management. We are thrilled to share their article with you.
As a fourth generation farming family, we have experienced first-hand a few agricultural revolutions. In just four generations, Knuth Farms has experienced the revolutions from horse to machine, water drives to remote irrigation monitoring, manual steering to auto-steer tractors and now the latest revolution - DATA. As the current generation, my husband and I started out in the late 80’s and early 90’s, cutting our teeth on a good tillage and spraying program. This system worked well and seemed to make everyone happy from the early to mid 90’s. Then the agents of change entered the scene.
First, it was biotech and GMO seed, then machinery improvements with more horsepower and electronics in the cab. Suddenly producers were able to cover more acres in less time. However, with these agronomic and technological improvements came larger price tags without an increase in the price of the commodities that they helped to produce. This disparity pushed producers to seek more acres in order to spread out their increasing cost of production. This strain on ROI along with the growing concern about sustainable practices has forced producers to take a closer look at ways to measure profitability. Luckily, along the way to “bigger is better,” technology left us a breadcrumb trail - you guessed it, data - to help growers sort out the question, “is bigger better?”
New and emerging software is helping growers to answer that question. At Knuth Farms, we have personally incorporated three new platforms in the 2016 season to help us analyze efficiency of scale, efficiency of resources and efficiency of implementation. CropZilla is an analytical engine that uses equipment and field specifications to create a digital model of our farm to forecast costs as well as the above-mentioned efficiencies for every acre and moving part of our operation before a wheel is turned. Farmobile is the independent telematics hardware/software combo that captures second by second updates on machinery location, performance and agronomic data via their proprietary Passive Uplink Connection (PUC) technology connected to our equipment’s ISOBUS. This data is shared with CropZilla to validate forecasted costs or adjust where discrepancies are exposed. This software combination allows us to see inefficiencies before they happen and validates "what if" scenarios with real machine and agronomic data.
In the field, AgSolver fits like a hand in a glove with Valley Variable Rate Irrigation (VRI) speed and zone control technology. This software uses our historical yield and application data (dating back to 2000) along with soil type maps to classify every acre of a field as unprofitable, at risk, or profitable, at a 30-meter resolution. Knowing which acres are profitable and which are not allows us to tailor our inputs to the different profit zones. One of our most valuable resources, water, can be applied according to the water holding capacity of the profitable acres while cutting back on the unprofitable and at risk acres by creating a VRI prescription. A Valley zone controlled pivot can achieve this precision on a zone by zone, 2° resolution.
The value of on farm data is just starting to be realized through emerging software data analytics. So it turns out, maybe the question isn’t, is bigger better? But rather, what are you doing with your big data?
The views and opinions expressed in this blog article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Valmont Industries Inc.
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