By Jennifer Parillo
Current Data Transfer Methods
In comparison to advancements in other industries, ranging from traffic cameras to cell phones, the current methods of transferring agricultural task data have become outdated. Farming decisions are becoming more prevalently based upon data analysis, and the ability to securely gather and transfer data has become imperative. The speed with which this data can be transferred is becoming increasingly critical as well, in order to allow producers to make quick adjustments to time sensitive tasks.
Most precision farming technologies currently employ USB sticks to transfer the data from the machine to the office. While this is, by definition, “wireless”, it is neither the most efficient nor the most reliable means to transport the data. Bluetooth technologies have also been used, but proximity poses a limitation, thus this does not provide a viable solution for producers managing fleets or multiple locations.
Wireless Data Transfer
The transition away from prior transfer methods to wireless means of communicating machine and agronomic data will streamline this process, allowing producers more time to use and analyze the data, rather than spending their time and resources gathering it. Wireless data transfer is not just the fastest, but also the most secure channel to move the data both to and from the machine. Producers will no longer rely on their team of operators to manage the USB sticks housing their invaluable data, and they will have the data at their fingertips nearly immediately following the task completion. By utilizing secure servers to move the data through the pipeline, the data also cannot end up in the hands of anyone other than its intended recipient; this is of course more important when referring to agronomic data than machine data.
Benefits of Wireless Data Transfer
- Eliminates distance as a limiting factor in the transfer of data, allowing large scale producers with widespread fleets to manage their operation from wherever they are
- Reduces risk of lost or missing task data in FMIS from computer not downloading task data file after a job is completed
- Better enables growers to make operational decisions due to ease and speed of gathering their data
- Enables a faster and more efficient data sharing process with third party service providers
- Eliminates risk of lost task data that can result from lost or damaged USB sticks
- Reduces the amount of necessary steps taken for the producer to turn their raw data into usable information which can support their decision making process
- Saves money and valuable time by eliminating unnecessary trips to the field and back to the office
AGCO offers unique solutions for wireless data transfer depending on the grower’s machine(s) and needs. Visit the Fuse website to learn more about our solutions, and stay tuned for the release of the new Go-TaskTM app on the Apple® App Store, coming soon.
Jennifer Parillo is a Global Marketing Specialist for AGCO’s Advanced Technology Solutions group (Fuse).
Started in 2002 by two Washington state producers, Shepherd’s Grain now includes about 60 wheat growers, mainly in the Northwestern U.S., with a few growers located as far away as Southern California and the Canadian Prairie. Although they’ve begun offering some of the milled grain at the retail level, the vast majority of what the group sells is to bakeries in Portland and Seattle. In 2015, the Shepherd’s Grain farmers produced a total of 673,000 bushels of wheat, a growth of about 720% since 2005.
“It really started,” says Mike Moran, the Shepherd’s Grain general manager, “when a lot of growers in our region realized that the way that the land had been farmed over the last few decades was not sustainable long term. In fact, because of wind and water erosion, particularly in the hilly areas of the Palouse, they were losing topsoil at a rate that meant that their families wouldn’t be able to continue to farm there if they kept doing what they were doing.”
To combat the losses, as well as improve soil health, Shepherd’s Grain farmers often work together, sharing information on what’s worked for them and what hasn’t. As a result, many have minimized, if not eliminated, tillage. For instance, Garry Esser and his son John use rotational and cover crops, and say they only till the ground every three to six years, unlike their previous practice of churning up the ground almost annually.
In addition to farming methods, Shepherd’s Grain also promotes a business model that is sustainable. Selling to bakeries via longer-term contracts, the group of farmers not only forge business relationships, but build bridges between different groups of people who often do not have much contact with each other.
“It’s really about … connecting farmers with consumers … and without that,” continues Moran, “we wouldn’t have that information flow from the consumer back to the farmer, and on the other side, really helping the consumer understand all of the complexity of farming.”
“The end users who have bought into Shepherd’s Grain have done so for a variety of reasons,” says John Esser, a Challenger customer who recently became a partner with his dad. “But I’d say at the top of the list is they’ve loved the relationship that they have with the growers.
“You know, for so many people, you go to the store, you buy bread, you go home, you eat it. Nobody really connects the farmer to the bread,” continues the younger Esser. “Shepherd’s Grain offers an opportunity for people to know the information behind where their food comes from.”
For more about how AGCO customers are involved with Shepherd’s Grain from our exclusive customer magazine, FarmLife, see http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/shepherds-grain-bridges-built-alliances-forged/.
“We’ve been farming here since the 1840s. It’s definitely part of who I am,” says Dan Baum. Yet, the Illinois producer continues, “Realistically, I am not in the business just to say I am farming. I am making a living.”
Making that living, however, is a whole different scenario than it was even in his father’s generation, as the need for good communication and efficient machinery has become paramount for today’s farmer.
In west-central Illinois, farmland is typically held closely, especially the highest value land. With area land values having more than doubled since 2004, it’s attracted a lot of investor interest and, as a result, increased competition for farm properties. That’s one reason why the Baums’ acreage base extends almost 120 miles from their home farm near Geneseo, Ill.
For the Baum family, such a sprawling operation has spawned the need for new farm management ideas. “It does cause some of our operational costs to be higher for things like fuel, but we try to think about all of that when planning for those farms” Baum says. This approach puts a premium on performance, and that’s a big reason the Baums chose the Massey Ferguson 9545 combine to get the job done.
“We’re looking at fuel efficiency, ease of maintenance and simplicity of design,” he says. His AGCO-made equipment fits that bill.
Another challenge Baum and other farmers face today is that newer generations of landowners have less direct ties to the land. As a result, producers can find themselves hammering out farmland lease and ownership deals in a much different way than in decades past. As a result, Baum takes care to devote more attention to education and information-sharing with his landowners.
“We are working on a land deal right now that is only happening because of our focus on communication,” says Baum. “It’s a lot of time and energy. And, it can be tough at times of the year when you really need to be out planting corn.
“We’ve had land opportunities we wouldn’t have had otherwise because of our communication levels,” he continues. “We’re aware that we need to continue this work to keep those opportunities growing in the future.”
Flood irrigation has been one of the biggest casualties of drought and general efforts to reduce water consumption. The age-old method is frequently being replaced by subsurface irrigation (SDI). Yet, effluent—used at most dairies as a fertilizer—has frequently clogged SDI’s underground lines. That is, until recently.
A test of new SDI technologies at De Jager Farms, a 17,000-acre operation, supplying feed to some 25,000 dairy cows in California’s Central Valley, has shown considerable promise solving the clogging problem.
Working with drip-irrigation pioneer Netafim and Sustainable Conservation, a nonprofit organization focused on environmental concerns, De Jager has hosted the pilot project for the past two-plus years. Via proprietary technologies, the test has harnessed electrical conductivity and other methods to maintain the appropriate levels of effluent and keep the lines open.
It’s been an auspicious beginning, say those involved in the study, in which effluent was applied via SDI in a 40-acre field of corn. An adjacent 40-acre control plot received a synthetic fertilizer, which was also applied via drip tape. Not only did the use of on-farm nutrients eliminate $200-plus in synthetic fertilizer expenses per acre, the field with effluent applied in SDI showed yields 25 to 30% greater than the control plot.
Says Nate Ray, the De Jager farm manager, there’s not only more crop per acre, the corn is also higher quality. In addition, consider that crops grown with SDI, with or without effluent, require some 30% less water than flood irrigation, which has historically been the practice of choice for many dairies in the Central Valley and elsewhere.
Implementing SDI has, however, created an even greater need to reduce compaction. Ray found the solution in the form of a Challenger® MT865D. “We chose this Challenger track machine for our minimum-tillage operations,” says Ray, “and basically it was to reduce our compaction and just to give us more power to the ground.”
The recent drought has made the expansion of SDI and the effluent test all the more critical. “For the last four years,” Ray says, “we’ve been in the midst of one of the most historic droughts. The drought and the subsequent heat that’s come with it, it’s basically put a real strain on our water supply.”
All involved agree that protecting that precious resource and producing food are critical. Projects like this one at De Jager help farmers do both.
On Cody Waters’ first day of basic training, sirens sounded the lockdown of Fort Benning, Ga. “We’re going to war, boys,” a fellow soldier solemnly said.
It was Sept. 11, 2001. Waters, then an 18-year-old farm kid from Illinois, had followed family tradition by enlisting. Both of his parents served in the Vietnam War, while generations before them had enlisted as well. A desire to protect and serve the homeland was ingrained long before he was issued his dog tags.
What was not known at the time was that Waters would become part of a generation of soldiers who has never known peacetime service. He’s now also part of an armed force that has served more tours of duty than soldiers of any other era.
Back on 9/11, confusion, and then ire, set in for Waters as details emerged of the attack on U.S. soil. “It made me angry,” he says. “It made me feel more justified in being there. I wasn’t just serving my country. There was a need to serve.”
Waters, who’s been deployed overseas two times in his 15-year career with the Army National Guard, has helped Afghan farmers improve their farming operations when he served as part of an Agribusiness Development Team. While in that war-torn country, where he witnessed an ingenuity similar to farmers back home, Waters helped teach Afghans to improve farming methods, including use of more modern machinery. Previously, many used water buffalo or older tractors, often borrowed and in scarce supply, to pull plows.
These days, the company commander of the Forward Support Company of the 1140th Engineer Battalion of Missouri Army National Guard, Waters spends one weekend a month on Guard duty and two weeks in summer training camp. He walks a tightrope of working full time by day, farming small acreages in two states, Guard duty, education and family—he and his wife have two young sons. “We try to be good stewards of our time,” he says. “We don’t waste any.”
Nationally, 2.4 million veterans returned to civilian life in the United States in the past 13 years. Another 1 million post-9/11 veterans are expected to return in the next five years, and more than 40,000 to Canada.
Only 17% of the U.S. population lives in rural America, but 44% of the military comes from the countryside, according to U.S. Census data. In rural Missouri alone, where Waters now lives and farms, some 300,000 vets are expected to come home in the next decade. Many expect to return to their rural roots where a rooster’s crow—not mortars exploding—wakens them.
To all service personnel, those currently serving and veterans, and to all our customers and readers, we wish you a happy Independence Day and Canada Day.