How digital agricultural tools pass the dirt-under-the-fingernail test

Five ways digital agricultural tools helped farmers in 2020.

Digital agricultural tools just aren’t for the razzle-dazzle crowd anymore. They can now glean some dirt-under-the-fingernails agronomic and farm management information. Here are some digital ag tool insights that farmers Joe Haas, Holdrege, Nebraska; Nathan Reed, Sedalia, Kentucky; and Seth Lawrence, Brook, Indiana, shared on a virtual panel hosted by The Climate Corporation. 

  • Digital ag tools enabled farmers to better manage COVID-19. “For us, 2020 may have been a little bit of a blessing in disguise,” says Haas. “We have three 24-row planters and three tenders, and during planting, I deliver seed and keep our planter guys going. 

    “2020 threw an extra wrinkle into all this in that we have a couple of older gentlemen working with us,” he adds. “One is 74, and the other turned 75 this week. So, with all the (COVID-19) health concerns coming out in March, it was just really, really uncertain on what was going to happen. We all needed to distance ourselves to stay safe. My wife works in healthcare, so I had to be especially careful.”

To communicate and keep tabs on everything, Haas greatly relied on FieldView’s RemoteView function. This feature remotely connects to a 20/20 display, and establishes a wireless connection to the 20/20 display via the cloud. It allows the viewer to see live planting and harvest information in their FieldView App as if it was connected in the cab.

“I also talked a lot on the (cell) phone and used FaceTime,” Haas adds. “It worked out pretty well, based on all the digital tools we have and making sure they (operators) were planting the right hybrid or variety. I think we’re probably going to do the same thing (next year) because it allowed me to be two places at once. I could be working on one planter and FaceTiming with the other operator.” 

  • Digital tools help farmers decipher on-farm trials and better secure products for the next year. “We have a lot of different trials going on the farm, trying to be more efficient, trying to increase yields,” says Reed. “A lot of them are large experiments on several acres. When harvesttime rolls around, we are in the combine, collecting the data. We can verify that everything is set properly and quickly see the results of these trials while we’re out in the field and begin making decisions for the following year.

    There is still a lot of analysis that goes on after harvest,” Reed adds. However, an early look helps retailers who handle inputs like seed, fertilizer, and chemical plan for what they will need the following year, he says.

    “If we can give them a heads up and tell them what we’re thinking and what’s tentatively on our mind, that helps ensure that they can actually get their allotment of those products for us,” he says. 

  • Data tools are increasingly integrating with each other. Lawrence says they have FieldView data team with a farm management software product called Harvest Profit. 

    “It has really good features that we are pretty excited about,” he says. “When we record the data, whether it be a planting application or harvest, the data will stream into the Harvest Profit platform. We can utilize that to just be that much more accurate on our financial numbers and analytics.”

  • Digital tools can help farmers document specific practices that may help them access new markets and potential premiums. 

    There are some programs out there that will benefit (such as paying) growers doing certain practices that are very precision-ag oriented,” says Lawrence. Examples include capturing data showing pesticides are not being overapplied due to sprayer shut-off section control, he adds. 

  • Digital tools help strengthen relationships with landlords. FieldView enables landlords to view agronomic information pertaining to their land, says Lawrence. 

    FieldView is a way for them to stay connected with their land,” says Lawrence. “It provides a level of transparency, too, knowing that their land is being taken care of in a proper manner.”

Broadband Service Lacking, Though
If there’s a big challenge to using digital agricultural tools, though, it’s spotty broadband service. It’s virtually non-existent on southern areas of Lawrence’s farm. “It really limits us on some of the great features within Climate,” he says. “It’s even hard to do a video call in such areas.” 

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