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The networked farm thrives

VIDEO ADDED: At Frahm Farmland near Colby, Kan., being connected is the only way to go. The approach allows the farm to cover many acres and manage each precisely.

Note: Check out more details in the video at the end of this story, providing greater insight into data use at Frahm Farmland.

The big flat-screen television in the office at Frahm Farmland shows a digital map of the farm’s fields around the region, including machinery locations. “We put that on the screen so it’s easy for everyone to see what’s going on,” says Jason Schielke, who heads up information technology for the operation.

Frahm Farmland is a 30,000-acre corn and wheat operation that has turned to the cloud and enhanced data management to improve efficiency and productivity in the operation. And while deploying all that tech has a range of advantages, the first one Schielke points to is that use of the cloud for information.

“In the past, all the yield data and machine information was on this computer,” he says, pointing to a desktop machine in his work area of the office. “If someone needed information, they had to come here.”

Those days are over. Today every employee has either a tablet or smartphone from which they can get access to the farm’s information they need to do their jobs. This makes managing the vast number of tasks needed to keep the operation going easier.

Lon Frahm, the operation’s chief shareholder, notes having that access has made the operation simpler — but what about data privacy? He shrugs: “I don’t see it as a problem. We’re transparent here, and we share our test plot data with our neighbors and anyone who wants to see it.”

The benefit from his standpoint, and Schielke’s, is access and enhanced management.

On the go

Our visit to Frahm Farmland came at a quiet time — in part due to the fact that it was too windy to spray, though some irrigation pivots were working due to dry conditions. When planters start rolling, however, Schielke and farm managers will be able to keep up with what’s going on, all from the cloud. And when a problem occurs, Schielke will have easy access to help the person with a problem.

“Using Remote Display Access, I can see their display and help them find the problem,” he says. “That saves a lot of time, and I can do that from my computer screen, a laptop and even my smartphone.” Though he notes that Remote Display Access from a smartphone is not the most desired approach, it works and saves time. In the past, that problem might have required a visit to the tractor or sprayer by Schielke or another person, which would be costly downtime.

All information — including task work from start to finish — is recorded in the system. For Frahm Farmland, the choice is the My John Deere Operations Center, and employees use JDLink for machine telematics. The information is recorded in real time, and once a task is complete it’s automatically stored in the cloud where those granted access — including external resources like consultants — can find what they need for variable-rate prescriptions and other data use.

“We can manage the level of information access,” says Schielke. “That way we can control what people see.” That’s an important feature, depending on what the outside supplier or support person needs access to for operation support.

Wired to run

Schielke notes that these days, most new equipment — no matter what brand — is wired to use these types of technologies, and farmers considering their use should try a test. “If you’re interested in machine data or telematics, sign up one machine for a subscription to determine what works for your operation,” he says.

Getting your feet wet with these new tools can help you determine the best approach for your farm’s future.

TAGS: Data
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