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Science

Technology serves as guide toward efficiency

Odenthal
Odenthal

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Utilizing technology can unlock savings or increase revenue.

“You have those things that you have to invest in — seed, chemicals, fertilizer — but what do you have that can make a return on your investment to better your farm?” asked Dawn Odenthal, Conservis Corp. sales director.

Odenthal was featured in one of the Soybean Summit breakout sessions to discuss the advantages technology can bring in a down year. The annual event was hosted by the Illinois Soybean Association.

With over 6,000 agriculture technology companies in the marketplace, technology can be a blessing and also a burden. Odenthal broke technology options into three components.

“No. 1, does that technology that you’re looking at to buy solve a problem that has been identified on the farm? We’ve all bought something and then it sits on the shelf and that’s not a good investment,” she said.

“Secondly, not only do I look at what problem it solves, but is your team willing and able to take on the change management of adopting that technology. Talk with your team and make sure that as your strategy moves forward on the farm, that you’re willing and able to take on the learning of that technology and adopt it within the culture of your farm.

“Three, do you know the company that you’re working with? If it’s a good investment, you know their culture and that it fits in with your culture and that you’re able to utilize the technology and move forward together.”

ROI Mindset

In numerous conversations with farmers, Odenthal noted a shift in mindset from achieving the highest yield to getting the highest return on investment.

How confident are you in understanding you direct field costs, that you’re understanding down to the zone level, down to the soil type and what’s best for your farm? How about traceability to get top line revenue?

“Those are a few questions that pop out in my mind in looking at technology and making changes on the farm. Think of those questions that you want answered as you’re looking at different technologies, no matter what the technology is,” Odenthal said.

“You have more than enough field data, but is it telling you what you need to know? Is the data telling the full story, which seeding rates are most profitable and are there areas of a field that’s not worth planting?”

Zone Economics is a Conservis program that integrates with John Deere Operations Center and Climate FieldView in real time to capture information and help make decisions in those particular fields.

Odenthal spoke of a North Dakota farmer who was growing his operation yet the income wasn’t increasing exponentially.

“They contacted Conservis and the following year we were able to go to him and say, by field, here’s where you’re paying high rent, but getting low return or maybe this one was a management decision based on what you planted. You need to make those decisions, but we can capture that data to tell you what is happening on your farm so that you can make the best decisions for you and your family,” she said.

“He ended up cutting probably about one-third of his fields and made a higher profit by doing that with a less work stress load.

“Technology can really help farmers define what makes them money or where they might be losing money on the farm. Both of those can come into play. So, in a downturn economy every small improvement helps. It’s this much per acre, but how many acres do you have and how much does that help grow your profits?”

Traceability

Traceability through technology is another practice that can be beneficial.

“Whether you’re going organic, or non-GMO or Global Good Agricultural Practices, knowing what goes into each crop and in each field through traceability can lead to higher revenue,” Odenthal said.

She gave an example of how Sproule Farms, Grand Forks, North Dakota, utilized traceability to benefit the operation. The farm is a certified supplier to Frito Lay. Paul Sproule is a Global G.A.P. grower, meaning he’s certified for his commitment to advancing good agricultural practices.

The food companies that the farm supplies are Global G.A.P. certified, and if they have a recall or question, Sproule in a matter of minutes can get back to the day that he planted that crop, the day it was stored, the day it was shipped, the truck that it was on and all the inputs put into that crop, be it any chemicals or anything, and it’s all in that report, and available within minutes. Sproule receives better pricing for the Global G.A.P. certified crops.

Better Decisions

Odenthal said farmers can make better business decisions when they have a holistic view of their operations.

“You have a lot of data information and how do you pull them all together. You need to have an integrated system, a holistic view. You have different technologies that tell your farm story and help you make better business decisions. That is the goal,” she said.

“You want to use those all together, so you need to find a company and a technology that solves the open issues you have with your farm, bringing together all of the data that you have.

“Then take that information and work with your trusted advisers, work with your banker, work with the CPA, work your crop insurance representative and have the holistic farm data from not only your operations financial data but all the way down the line. It really helps set up that dynamic team for strong strategic decisions. Solving for agronomic success or financial accounting in a bubble will not be enough.”

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