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Keeping on top of it allKeeping on top of it all

Diversified farm operation turns to tech to manage labor, machines and more

Willie Vogt

September 2, 2016


Sitting in his Belzoni, Miss., office, Jeremy Jack can quickly determine what work has been done on any given day — even looking back a couple of months. “I can see what we accomplished and how weather is affecting what we do,” he says.

For Jack, along with the rest of the family members running Silent Shade Planting Co., keeping track of the details is what pays the bills. And cloud-based data management systems make a difference, whether he’s measuring irrigation water use on his operation or the time it takes employees to do specific tasks. The aim is to seek greater efficiency — not only in how labor is put to work, but also how machines are at work.

For example, equipment management can conserve fuel and improve operational efficiency of that key capital investment. Land leveling is an important task in this multi-crop operation, where improving water flow is critical for boosting yield. Yet, running tractors over the ground with scrapers and finishers is a time- and fuel-consuming operation.

“Most of the equipment we use here has the IVT transmission,” Jack says, talking about the electronically controlled continuously variable transmissions on his John Deere equipment. And in monitoring how that equipment works, he’s learned that running at a lower rpm can save fuel with no loss in productivity. That information has been translated to operators of non-IVT equipment, too.

“I have an operator running scrapers with a 9620R that doesn’t have that transmission,” Jack says. “But from what we’ve learned from JDLink about using the IVT, he knows he can gear up and throttle back and get the same productivity.”

That translates into fuel savings. The big tractor pulling three scrapers — using John Deere land-leveling software — runs at low rpm. Jack says when in operation — on sandy soils  — the tractor is using about 10 gallons of fuel per hour. IVT-equipped smaller tractors are doing land-leveling work at 5 gallons per hour of fuel use.

“It’s amazing how much we can save this way. And we learned this through monitoring machine performance,” he says.

Putting tech to work

Jack spends time reviewing operator records, and looking at why a field took longer, or the reason a tractor used more fuel. “This is a game of inches,” he says. “You want to manage the details.”

With JDLink, machine telematics make it easy to know what’s at work and where. That’s critical in this operation, especially at planting and harvest. “At some points in the spring, we could be planting six crops at one time,” he says. “You have to know what’s going on.”

For this 12,000-acre operation, with 30 employees, having systems that not only monitor equipment function, but also capture agronomic information efficiently makes a difference. “We know where we are with tasks at any given time, and we can capture information efficiently,” he says.

Jack is a second-generation farmer. He and his wife, Elizabeth; sister, Stacie; and her husband, Trey Koger, are taking on the business. Each of the family members has a specific role in the operation. And Jack’s parents — Willard and Laura Lee — are still involved.

Information management is a crucial part of the business, and they’re relying on tools like John Deere’s Operation Center for machine and information management in the field.


About the Author(s)

Willie Vogt

Executive Director, Content and User Engagement

Willie Vogt has been covering agricultural technology advancements for more than 40 years. He is passionate about helping farmers better understand how technology can help them succeed, when appropriately applied. His work has involved launches of several new products in agriculture during his career, and he continues to work to help farmers keep up with what's new.

As editorial director, he works with the Farm Progress staff as they strive to help farmers succeed in an ever-changing agricultural environment.

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