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Use tech to bash bottlenecks

Gil Gullickson 01/11/2013 @ 11:24am Crops Technology Editor for Successful Farming magazine/Agriculture.com

Determining the value of a tractor or combine is doable, but have you ever figured the value of your time?

At certain times – like harvesting – your time is worth plenty, particularly if a harvesttime bottleneck halts your combine and pushes harvest back into inclement weather. Experts advise targeting your time for the top payoff.

“The number one reason that goals are not accomplished is spending time doing second things first,” says Danny Klinefelter, Texas A&M Extension economist. “Don't spend time doing the $10-per-hour jobs. Put your time where it has the highest payoff.”

Nick Frey has tapped technology to make better use of his time and to improve efficiency during harvest. Frey, who farms with his parents, John and Lori, near Linden, Indiana, uses a Web-based tool called the Conservis CropTracker System to better track grain inventory.

Real-time tracking

The Freys have typically struggled with harvest logistics. “Our operation doesn't have a great deal of on-farm storage, and what we do have is spread out all over the place,” says Frey.

The CropTracker System enables them to track exactly how much grain is stored in each bin on a real-time basis. The system works on an Android app on a smartphone or tablet and a secure Web database.

“There are times that I may not know if the next truckload of grain will fit in the bin we're sending it to,” says Frey. “With real-time knowledge, I know when that bin is full and avoid a wasted trip.” Driving the truck to another bin site or elevator with ample grain storage saves time and keeps grain harvest running smoothly.

For contracted grain, they now closely monitor grain cart weights to track grain inventory. This tracking will be boosted when automated uploading of elevator and end user receipts becomes available.

Here are six other CropTracker System advantages:

• It reduces input errors and time with the system's wireless grain cart scale interfaces. “When I create data manually, errors pop up,” says Frey. “It is also difficult to use data once it is written incorrectly. It is tediously time-consuming to correct it.”

• It slices the time spent on record keeping. “More agile operations spend less time in the office doing paperwork and more time strategizing, planning, and looking into the future,” he says.

• It avoids discrepancies in scale weights and grading decisions with the elevators and customers.

• It determines crop allocations under share-rent arrangements.

• It tracks and manages production and inventory data by owners or by operating unit.

• It meets crop insurance and other reporting requirements.

Accomplishes 3 goals

System price varies, as it is a per-acre subscription that includes the technology and technical support.

Frey says the system's cost is outweighed by the time saved and accurate data collected. It leads into his three-pronged data-collection goal:

1. Identify on-farm bottlenecks.

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