Farm Progress

Starting a farm data journey

Moving all that information stored on machines becomes family’s next obstacle to tackle

Willie Vogt

March 6, 2018

Sometimes you don’t know what you have until you ask. In the case of Doug Scott Farms, Sikeston, Mo., it’s asking what kind of data is available.

For Scott, collecting data was easy; the machines do all the work in their John Deere 2630 monitors. But desktop software only accessible from one office made working with the information cumbersome.

“We just didn’t do it,” Scott says. “And it can be a challenge to work with.”

For Scott, and his sons Jerod and Taylor, better access to a range of information has value. This installment of Tech@Work spent time digging into the data the Scotts have. It was an eye-opener for the three.

Moving data

First step was to get the information from machines. Long a chore, this time it was even more complicated. When Farm Futures visited the farm, Sikeston had just been hit with 10 inches of snow. That meant slogging through snow to get into a machine shed to get to the data. The cotton picker was not in a shop near the house; it was a few miles away.

And that’s what keeps a lot of farmers from getting their data. It’s locked into the machine when you park it, and you forget it until later. Making the trip in winter to gather the information is less desirable. But this was Scott’s last trip to pull a stick from a monitor to collect information.

The family is stepping up to the John Deere Operations Center, combined with JDLink telemetry, to pull information automatically into the cloud. For 2018, the Scotts and their advisers will have nearly immediate access to information throughout the growing season.

What’s available?

When the Scotts sat down to start looking at their data, Taylor took the lead in exploring what information was available. “There’s a lot of information here we’re going to have to get through,” Scott says. “My sons will be more adept at using the tools.”

Yet Scott is aware that mobile access to key information will help during the season. “We can see how operators are using machines and understand what’s happening in the field,” he says. “And we’ll be able to make better decisions with this information.”

As he looked at his field data collected from one picker, Scott was already seeing patterns that would need further investigation. He likened the information — from yield to machine data — as a kind of “fingerprint of my fields,” Scott says. “We’ll want to make sure we’ve collected better information going forward.”

After the trip through the snow to gather the last data stick, the next step is to sit down with Matt Johnson, precision ag specialist for Greenway Equipment in Sikeston, to sort through the information. And first up?

“We’re going to have to manage field names for the future,” Johnson says. “That’s something we see a lot —that field names are not set up consistently in the data. It’s easy to fix, though it takes time.”

Lining up proper field names is important. Scott jokes around in saying, “I see a lot of ‘norths’ in there, but we’ll fix those.” That task only has to be done once, and going forward, data will be properly matched to the proper location.

It’s the start of a journey for 2018. When Farm Futures visits again, it will be during planting time, where we’ll learn how the Scotts are already putting their data to use.

Digging in: Doug (left), Jerod and Taylor Scott get a good look at their data using a new cloud-based service — John Deere Operations Center. When the 2018 season starts, the family will have full access to their information on any device over the web.

About the Author(s)

Willie Vogt

Willie Vogt has been covering agricultural technology for more than 40 years, with most of that time as editorial director for Farm Progress. He is passionate about helping farmers better understand how technology can help them succeed, when appropriately applied.

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