Farm Progress

Farmer needed system to manage and make sense of numbers

Mike Wilson, Senior Executive Editor

February 27, 2017

3 Min Read
Canadian farmer Landon Friesen manages wheat inputs with FarmersEdge technology.

Editor’s note: A new series called “Tech case studies” will focus on how farmers use technology in their farm operations.

“We had a mountain of crop and field data, but had no system that would manage and make sense of the numbers,” says Landon Friesen, who grows wheat in Manitoba. That’s when he turned to FarmCommand, a data management platform from FarmersEdge. Formed in Canada in 2005, the company has expanded into the U.S., Brazil, Russia and Argentina.

“The biggest problem is what to do with all the data collected from various machines and equipment,” says Friesen. “FarmCommand solved this problem by bringing all this data to one location that could be accessed from anywhere.”

Getting inputs right
“The second problem we are trying to solve is over- or under-applying inputs,” Friesen says. “In wheat, over-applying nitrogen can cause lodging, which can cause yield drag of up to 30%. By using variable-rate maps from FarmersEdge, we don’t over-apply the zones with more residual N, so we minimize lodging. On the zones that have less N, the system automatically applies more N to push yield up.

“We variable-rate-apply all products except seed, and I’m hoping VR seed will come along soon.”

Friesen subscribes to the VRT whole-farm package for the tech that comes with it: weather stations, Can Plugs and satellite imagery.

A weather station is set up on every 2,500 acres; customers then have access to field-centric forecasts, real-time current conditions and 10-day forecasts through FarmCommand. Weather stations record the temperature, relative humidity, dew point, rainfall, wind speed and direction, and solar radiation.

Can Plugs is the hardware that makes many of the FarmCommand features possible by tracking and transferring equipment and operational data automatically and in real time. Satellite imagery lets farmers accurately monitor crop growth.

Friesen uses the FarmCommand service in the sprayer, checking weather and wind conditions. “I have an iPad with me all the time, checking crop plans, applied product and even checking on operators when I’m not around the field,” he says. “I hope to get a better understanding of the land we farm, to be responsible with N applications using variable rate, and to make what I have more profitable.” 

Costs and returns
Friesen pays about $3.95 per acre for the FarmersEdge service. He and his company rep, Kory Van Damme, performed an ROI evaluation before making any decisions to buy the technology. When making the evaluation, he took into account previous farming practices. The ROI consists of possible savings in fertilizer, or reduced lodging and increased yield by putting the fertilizer where it needs to be.

“For ROI, we always like to say for anything a producer purchases, if you don’t get 2-to-1 return, it’s not worth doing,” says Van Damme.  “With this Ultra product, if you spend $3.95 an acre, you should get at least $7.90 an acre back. For Landon’s farm, I am thinking we will average 3- or 4-to-1 this year.”

“We grow lots of wheat,” Friesen says. “To be able to reduce lodging and gain acres per day harvesting is worth lots, but it’s hard to put a dollar figure on that value. One rock in the header trying to scrape off lodged wheat can cost up to $40,000, not to mention the time to fix it. It’s also hard to put a price tag on good stewardship, applying fertilizer only where it’s required and not wasting inputs on areas that often leech out.”

Contacts:

Farmer: Landon Friesen, Manitoba, [email protected]

Data adviser: Kory Van Damme, [email protected]

Crops: wheat

Data tech: FarmCommand by FarmersEdge

About the Author(s)

Mike Wilson

Senior Executive Editor, Farm Progress

Mike Wilson is the senior executive editor for Farm Progress. He grew up on a grain and livestock farm in Ogle County, Ill., and earned a bachelor's degree in agricultural journalism from the University of Illinois. He was twice named Writer of the Year by the American Agricultural Editors’ Association and is a past president of the organization. He is also past president of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists, a global association of communicators specializing in agriculture. He has covered agriculture in 35 countries.

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