Editor's note: Don't miss the video at the end of this story for more information.
Darryl Kilmer has been farming his entire life. And from the beginning, he says the way he measured success was “how full the bins were at the end of harvest.” Today Kilmer, along with his two sons, Dan and Tim, are finding new ways to measure success on their operation. And they’re getting a significant leg up on planning for the 2017 season.
Tech at Work is following the Kilmer family, who farm near Dwight, Ill., as they bring new technology into their business. While they’ve used combine yield monitors for years, 2016 was the first year they brought together a range of tools. From planter section control to JDLink machine telematics to AutoTrac autosteering, they’re deploying a lot of new tools for their operation.
“It’s a lot for us to use, but we’re finding benefits already,” Darryl explains. “We can see the value of autosteering in the combine. And at the end of the day, you’re not so tired from harvest.”
The Kilmers have been ramping up their acreage in the past few years, as Dan and Tim joined the business. And local landowners reach out to the family to take on more ground. Darryl explains he’s honored when someone wants to farm with him on shares, which he says shows the level of trust they’ve been able to build in the area.
Decisions for a new year
All the fancy tech isn’t worth much if it doesn’t get put to use, and the Kilmers know that, too. During a get-together with Justin Blanchette of AHW LLC in Dwight, Ill., recently, the family did a review of the data collected, including machine telematics. And the Kilmers are learning what they can learn from the tech they have.
For example, they found that nonproductive time for combines was about 30% — that’s in addition to roading machines from farm to farm. The “sitting time” is related to waiting on grain carts, or other nonproductive issues.
“With this technology, we’ll be able to understand how we’re using our machines and find ways to get more out of them, and make sure we’re not putting hours on the machine with no work,” Darryl says.
Blanchette noted during the conversation that an hour of operation is about $100 in value. So every idle hour is $100 going out of your pocket. It’s a rule-of-thumb measurement worth considering.
As for crop year 2017, Dan explains that the yield maps, and some in-field trials they conducted, are al-ready showing value for seed selection for the new season.
“With this system, every pass is a trial,” Dan says. “We can learn a lot about how what we do adds up to more yield.”
As the Kilmers went through their raw information, they were already noting which seed numbers were nonperformers in 2016. Those won’t make the planter hopper in 2017.
And there’s one more technology the family will invest in, too. “Both planters will have section control for 2017,” Darryl says. “We can see the lower yield in overlap areas.”
And how does Darryl hope to measure progress at the end of harvest with the new technology? “I’m hoping we’ll have more grain in the bins,” he says. “And I think we will.”