Using agriculture software can simplify farming decisions by producing data insights
Making data-driven decisions can be overwhelming with the thousands of possible data points on the farm, but utilizing specialized farm software can make this process simpler, according to Canadian farmer Terry Aberhart.
“There really is tons of data to be managed on the farm,” Aberhart says. “When we lay it out, we have agronomic, analytical, tissue tests, crop insurance, human resources and a whole list of other possible data points to use to make decisions.”
He explains farmers must consider countless amounts of data every day and even argues farmers manage more data than any other profession.
“Our common goal should be to manage a few key data points and make decisions from there,” he says. “We need to be able to leverage the software available to us and use it to our advantage.”
Aberhart explains, as with anything, software used in the agriculture industry comes with a learning curve.
“Think about smartphones. They seem very simple to us because we took the time to learn them,” he explains. “But, if we were to give a modern smartphone to someone from 10 years ago, they probably wouldn’t even know how to turn it on.”
He explains people often fail with software because they want to be able to just turn it on and magically use it without any training or learning.
“Learning takes time, but once we nail down how to use software, making data-driven decisions becomes much simpler,” says Aberhart.
Key software uses
“Our four key uses for software are to manage people, track inventory, calculate profitability and determine sustainability,” Aberhart explains.
“People have to communicate to be effective,” he says. “Utilizing software allows us to share info and updates more efficiently, with less room for error.”
“Think about if a group of people are pulling a wagon. We want everyone to be pulling the same direction. If one person isn’t going the same direction, it makes achieving the task more difficult,” Aberhart explains.
He says this analogy can be applied to the farm, where ranchers want everyone to be on the same page, working towards the same goal. However, if ranchers don’t communicate, this goal is simply not possible to achieve.
Farm mapping can be a great tool in managing people, especially on large operations or those with a high volume of workers, he mentions.
“As farms get larger and more complex, utilizing mapping can assist managers on a variety of fronts,” Aberhart explains. “We can utilize GPS features to help new employees find specific fields and avoid giving vague directions, or we can use the mapping systems to set boundaries and avoid spraying our neighbor’s fields.”
“Inventory management has historically been a hassle for farmers,” Aberhart notes. “Inventory management is a key software area to learn, even though it often takes the most time.”
“Using the Trimble software, for example, we are able to track grains from field to bin to contract,” he explains. “I know what’s in every one of my grain bins, where it came from, what the moisture level is and where its going all from my phone.”
Data driven decisions
“I think a lot of farmers get nervous when we start talking about making data-driven decisions,” Aberhart says. “Farmers have so much data but don’t really know what to do with it.”
“By using software, we can organize data how we want it,” he explains. “For my own operation, we divide 15,000 acres into 220 soil test zones and use this data to make crop input decisions.”
“Without software, making these types of decisions would consist of weeks of number crunching with the handicap of human error,” Aberhart says. “Using modern technology, we can make these decisions in a matter of hours instead of weeks.”
Understanding crop inputs for each field and utilizing the inventory data can allow farmers to create a profit map, he adds.
“We can determine which fields are making money, which are breaking even and which are losing money,” Aberhart says. “We have to realize some fields will be more profitable than others and adjust accordingly.”
“We have to connect profitability and sustainability,” he says. “If a farm isn’t profitable, it won’t last in the long-run.”
He explains sustainability on the farm is so much more than just taking care of the soil.
“The fact of the matter is, if we don’t take care of the environment and our financials, we won’t have anything to pass down in the future,” he says. “Utilizing modern technology and agriculture-based software makes this daunting task simpler than ever.”
Aberhart was featured in a November webinar sponsored by Trimble Ag Software.
Callie Hanson is the assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.