Are You Using the Right Farming Technology to Boost Your Operation’s ROI?

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Historically, farmers have relied on season-after-season observations of their operation to determine what works on their acreage. That hasn’t changed. As you keep an eye on commodities prices, planting dates, and stand populations, however, you know that every decision can affect your end-of-season profitability.

Digital tools, such as apps and other cloud-based farm management software, offer an important aspect to new farming technology so you can make smart decisions that provide you a solid return on investment and more efficient business processes. 

Why should I use farming technology for my business?

If you’re a corn grower in the Midwest, you need to track exactly how much nitrogen to add to your crops. If you grow soybeans in the Southeast, you must keep tabs on the hours each piece of equipment runs during a planting or harvest season. And if you farm 20,000 acres of almonds on the West Coast, you must manage your irrigation needs and labor requirements. As past decades have shown, agricultural production requires you to be increasingly tech-savvy. You need to manage every acre of cropland, every head of cattle, and every gallon of fuel or fertilizer with maximum efficiency. 

Farm technology helps you keep track of all the moving parts. Your GPS, for instance, tracks the location and speed of your equipment in the field. Your combine’s monitor gives you a sense of your harvest yield before it hits the bin. Satellite imagery helps you pinpoint yield threats so you can manage them before it’s too late. 

Ideally, each of these data points feeds into your cloud-based farm management software or smartphone apps, which allow you to make smart, real-time decisions about your operation and help maximize your productivity and profitability. 

Here are a few of the many ways you can benefit from digital tools, such as software and apps, in your operation, no matter the commodities you produce.

1. Analyze profitability

Spreadsheets and handwritten notes just don’t cut it anymore. Farm management software can automatically generate records and create reports and charts so you can quickly zero in on the data you need to make better decisions.

Automated data saves you time and gives you a detailed view of what you’re spending and where. If you’re an Iowa soybean grower, for instance, you can view your financial and agronomic maps side by side to determine whether the extra nitrogen you added to those 120 acres of beans helped enhance yields this season. You can then determine whether the cost per acre of nitrogen was worthwhile and how much of the nutrient you should use next season.

2. Track planting, yields and inputs

Today's digital tools automate the process of combining yield and planting data with estimated revenue and costs. This data allows you to clearly see how this year’s crops stacked up against previous years’ and how — or if — your planting date affected your yield. All these data points from your farm allow you to determine why one field outperformed another and how to adjust irrigation, fertilizer inputs, planting times, or harvest schedules accordingly to increase the yield from other fields in the future.

Some digital farming tools also can recommend variable-rate prescriptions and allow you to tweak planting and harvest plans based on weather. Major seed companies may offer tools that help you estimate your planting rate by product. By entering a specific hybrid, the cost of seed per bag, and the grain price in your area, you’ll be able to use a planting rate digital tool as a guide while working with your agronomist for site-specific recommendations.

3. Quickly identify in-field threats

Western bean cutwormssoybean aphids, and Japanese beetles all spell trouble for your corn and soybean crops. If you’re scouting in the field and come across a spot with corn ear damage or holes in your beans, you’ll want to get to the root of the problem as soon as possible.

Use new farming technology like a smartphone or tablet app to snap a photo of your crop and diagnose the issue quickly. Mobile apps can provide instant identification of likely pest and disease threats, along with probable nutrient deficiencies. This type of identification tool also enables you to easily follow up with your agronomist for treatment recommendations.

4. Scout fields with new farming technology

One of the most useful ways to diagnose areas of concern on your farm is a boots-on-the-ground scouting approach. However, no matter the size of your acreage, you may not get to every corner on your farm with regularity.

Drones and their supporting apps are a valuable piece of farming technology that can give you a bird’s-eye view of your fields throughout the growing season. Even during the earlier planting stages, drone technology allows you to get a pretty accurate population count in your corn crop. Flying a drone over your fields as those corn stands continue to grow is an excellent way to quickly target and diagnose areas with water damage or compaction that can lead to a reduction in overall stand.

Technologies like Wide Dynamic Range Vegetation Index (WDRVI) and its predecessor Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) calculate the visible and near-infrared light reflected by a plant. Satellite images give you a snapshot of those light reflections so you have insights into each plant in a stand. A red area of your field could indicate a corn crop that’s struggling, while a dark green portion of that same field shows a healthy stand. Using both drone and satellite images enables you to catch and correct issues more quickly and helps increase your overall scouting efficiency. In fact, digital tools used for crop scouting can rank field variability and in-season changes, alerting you via email as to the status of your crops and helping you prioritize the areas you need to watch closely or target in your field. 

Even if you don’t have access to a drone, you can still take the guesswork out of where you need to scout by using high-resolution satellite imagery. Though it’s not new farming technology, satellite imaging has improved dramatically over the years. A decade ago, for instance, you may only have had access to satellite images once a month or once a season. But now, many satellite companies provide near-daily imagery so farmers across the globe can pinpoint areas of a field that are thriving—and those areas that aren’t. 

5. Manage your employees

As a farmer with an endless number of to-dos on your daily list, software solutions can help you stay on top of operations. Many new farming technology programs give you the ability to collaborate with your team, assign tasks to specific operators, generate work orders, and communicate with ease.

Your employee operating the combine at harvest time can snap a geolocated photo and send it to you with notes on a particular area of the field, and you can schedule yearly or seasonal tasks for equipment maintenance. New farming technology with workforce management capabilities can do everything from keeping track of employees’ time off so you can plan accordingly during busier seasons to tracking time worked and assigning various seasonal projects to each employee.

Find digital solutions that integrate into one platform

When searching for farm management software or diagnostic apps, look for digital tool solutions that offer comprehensive, all-in-one solutions. Farm software that focuses on day-to-day running of the business, including operational finances, employee management, and inventory, for instance, can help simplify your recordkeeping, minimize your data entry, and organize all your information using one tool. 

Use new farming technology to make more informed decisions

Digital tools provide a level of context about your operation that helps you manage all the variables that impact your ROI. Your crop insurance agent can get a clearer picture of the risk management of your operation when they plan your crop coverage, helping to save you money on your insurance. Your agronomist can consult your farm’s satellite or drone imagery to help make recommendations and generate planting prescriptions that maximize the efficiency of planting the right amount of seed and using more precise inputs. And your local equipment dealer can recommend the right planter or tractor for your farm based on your acreage, yields, topography, and budget so you can get the most from a single piece of equipment. 

Whether you’re out in the field or in the farm office, digital tools put new farming technology right at your fingertips. Increasingly advanced software, mobile apps and data-generating points throughout your farm help you better manage your operation’s bottom line and can help you get a better return on investment.


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