Category Archives: Data Services

Yield Mapping Failure Is Not An Option

“This year’s crop is so bad I just don’t see the point of yield mapping.”

I’ve heard that line repeated by more than a few farmers this fall as they prepared to go to the field to harvest a severely subpar crop.

I don’t know who started the rumor that yield monitors were only to be used for good crops!  Granted there certainly is no pride down at the local coffee shop showing off maps of fields that only produced half a crop.  But that shouldn’t be the point of yield maps in the first place.  It is not a work of art.  It is an agronomic record to learn from.  Sometimes Mother Nature teaches us from very hard lessons.  Accept them, learn from them and move on.

I understand the inclination to want to wipe disaster years like 2012 from your memory.  But turning off a yield monitor or trashing yield data on a crop because it didn’t measure up should never be an option in the age of precision farming.  It’s sort of like turning off your young child’s baby monitor because you don’t want to hear them cry.  It’s irresponsible in both cases!

I would argue that you actually learn less about your fields and your management practices in a good year than you do a bad one.  A lot less! How do you fine tune seed populations to soil in a perfect year?  The answer is you don’t.  How do you evaluate drought tolerant hybrids if it rains just the right amount every week?  If there was ever a year that tested modern seed genetics it was this crop year!  How do you gauge nutrient removal if you don’t have a precision fuel gauge like a yield monitor?  Nutrient management alone is worth keeping a yield monitor on in both good times and bad.

As you can tell at Prime Meridian we take yield mapping very seriously.  It is the cornerstone of many of our multiple year Prime Packages.  It is critical information that provides the template for many variable-rate seeding prescriptions.  And finally it has become necessary digital data that will be required by government agencies and federal crop insurance.  Even if you do nothing with it – collect it, save it and protect it in a secure online AgriMAX account.

You only have so many harvests in a lifetime. They all tell a unique story.  It is important to you and your farm’s future not to skip a single chapter.

Precision Data: The Harvest That Lasts Year-Round

Even as planting season started this spring so too did harvest.

No not the harvest of corn and soybeans but the harvest of data.  And the big players in this space are the mega bio-science companies Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred who are harvesting millions of acres worth of data annually.

Those living alongside the dusty country roads out in the Heartland have had a front row seat in watching these companies jockey for position in this new digital agricultural sweepstakes.  It is also catching the eye of Wall Street as well.  In last week’s June 14th edition of the Wall Street Journal there was a feature article on the new “Data Harvest” taking place in agriculture.

There is no doubt in my mind that the recent purchase of the precision hardware company Precision Planting by the genetic powerhouse Monsanto prompted the writer to pen this article.

If you will recall a few weeks ago on my blog I wrote about Monsanto shaking up the precision ag world with this purchase. I said then that the purchase had little to do with the purchase of a profitable hardware company.  Rather it had everything to do with access to some of the best real-time planting data a researcher and a sales team could ever ask for.

But what was really intriguing about the article was the mention of another company – MachineryLink – who is also entering the race for data.  For those of you who have not heard the name MachineryLink it is a company based in Kansas City that leases combines to producers all across North America.  MachineryLink has created a company called FarmLink that is going to be collecting valuable real-time harvest data from their massive fleet of combines.  FarmLink will then distribute that data to its grower customers and then market it to crop insurers, farm management firms and farmland investors such as pension funds.  Now you know why Wall Street is so interested in what’s going on in the country!

Monsanto, Pioneer and FarmLink are just a handful of the companies that are attempting to fill the niches of this new market.  It has the feel of a modern-day gold rush and no doubt there’s going to be booms and busts and plenty of excitement along the way.

Jeff Banker a FarmLink representative quoted in the article summed it up the best of what’s going on.

“Every business that exists now is a data business,” said Banker.  “Farming is just on the cusp of that.”

To read more about this story check out the article entitled:  Farmers Prepare for the Data Harvest from the Thursday, June 14th Business Technology section of the Wall Street Journal.

Thousands of Reasons why Your Farm Needs an iPad 3

If you’re wanting an excuse to get Apple’s latest must have gadget – the NEW iPad 3Prime Meridian can give you one!

In fact, we can give you thousands of reasons – they’re called acres! When you sign up 2,000 or more acres of your farm in one of Prime Meridian’s multi-year precision plans called ‘Prime Packages’ the iPad 3 comes standard.

Photo from Apple.com.

Why? Other than it’s the coolest device on Earth – it is also the easiest way to connect you and your farm to your precision agriculture data. Plus, you can do so much more with it than you can old 3-ring binders full of maps.

Being shackled by a desktop PC and paper printouts can be compared to the days of using a rotary dial phone to talk with someone. Today, technology is mobile in a big way and we believe this mobile revolution being lead by the iPad is going to change the future of farming – big time!

Prime Meridian through its ‘Prime Packages’ delivers all of your maps ‘electronically’ so that you can view them right there on your iPad whether you’re in your La-Z-Boy watching March Madness or in your tractor planting corn. Your farm’s there in digital form everywhere you go.

With the new iPad3, precision agriculture becomes much more personal and greatly more interactive. It brings multiple years, thousands of acres and hundreds of agronomic variables into view on a magical 10-inch slate of glass. And with the new iPad 3’s retina high-definition screen its like holding a 42-inch HD TV in your hand!

To learn more about taking your precision plans mobile and viewing your farm in high-definition, contact Justin Ogle, head of GIS operations at Prime Meridian at 417-667-4471 or via email at: justin@primemeridiandata.com.

Precision Agriculture doesn’t have to be Puzzling

What is the most important piece of a puzzle?  Is it the corner piece?  Is it the centerpiece?

The answer?  It is none of these.  The most important piece of the puzzle is actually the picture on the front of the box.  It shows what the completed puzzle looks like.

This “big picture” view is exactly what is missing from most growers precision farming programs.  Everyone has handed them “pieces”.  The iron dealer has sold them a few of the hardware pieces.  The fertilizer supplier chips in with some of the fertility pieces.  The seed dealer contributed the agronomic elements.  And ultimately the grower added a few of his own.

What is wrong with the current picture of precision agriculture is most of the players in the precision arena are not really selling precision first. Instead they are using the facade of precision to sell tractors, fertilizer and seeds.  The end result is an aimless, scattered and disjointed precision program that leaves the grower frustrated, rudderless and frankly more confused than when he started his so-called precision journey.

One of the main reasons Prime Meridian exists is we believe there is a place in this “New World of Agriculture” for a new player — the independent precision advisor.  The primary role that this precision service provider fulfills is to serve as a guide to all players to help the grower bring the big picture of precision agriculture into focus.

At Prime Meridian we utilize a method called “precision profiling” to discover what pieces a grower may already have but more importantly find out the pieces he or she is missing and we are looking for pieces that simply do not belong.  Last but not least, we have the grower paint in their mind what the big picture of precision agriculture should look like on their farm in the future.

At the end of the day, this “Precision Profile” becomes an individual grower’s “big picture”.  It is the picture on the front of the puzzle box.  With it growers can discover how to use their current precision resources more effectively, what types of hardware they should be buying and when and what to do with the data they are collecting and pointing out the data that they desperately need to collect.  Most importantly, at the completion of a “Precision Profile” they have a multiple-year plan that uses precision to achieve positive agronomic and economic goals for their operation.

Until that precision picture is painted the grower will only be left with meaningless puzzle pieces that could have been so much more in this New World called precision agriculture.

Lining Up Your Precision Ag Data – Square Peg? Square Hole.

Remember that preschool exercise of putting the square pegs in the square hole?

Interestingly enough the same rules apply when it comes to precision agriculture data management – the square pegs have to fit the square hole.

The square hole in the case of precision agriculture is simply a field’s GPS boundary.  The digitized boundary is unique and so are the latitude and longitude coordinates that go with it.  No other location on planet Earth shares those same coordinates – in other words each field is unique.

Because of such uniqueness – every geo-referenced byte of data that belongs to a field fits perfectly within a field’s GPS boundary.  In layman’s terms that means every combine yield map, planter variety map and every GPS grid soil sample point that belongs to that field will fit seamlessly within that digitized field boundary.  Think of it like Legos that stack perfectly on top of each other.

As more and more GPS data is collected from field operations and other sources it is vital that producers have a master set of field boundaries that can be used to “sort through the laundry” of data.   When a producer asks where he should start when it comes to precision agriculture the answer is simple – start with the field boundary.  The field boundary is the foundation – the square hole – of everything to follow.

With today’s sophisticated mapping programs like the one’s Prime Meridian uses – all data from almost any sources can be sorted by a field boundary.  But be careful – not all GPS field boundaries are created equal.  Some can be created literally without even going to the field by just clicking a computer mouse around an aerial image of your field – just like how it is done down at the local USDA office.  Better than nothing but certainly not the best square hole when it comes to digital field boundaries.  The best field boundaries are still obtained by being onsite and physically running the boundary with a GPS device.

Because of its importance – Prime Meridian offers a specific field boundary service called Precision Boundary to make sure field boundaries are accurate, up-to-date and named properly to make sure that all the square pegs to come has a perfect square hole to call home.

Is Automated Crop Reporting Ready for Prime Time?

The subject of Automated Crop Reporting (ACR) to report planted acres and yields to your crop insurance company using precision technology has a utopian sound to it.

John Deere and its affiliated crop insurance company are attempting to make this utopian dream a reality.  Other insurance companies are following suit.  One thing is for sure, there is plenty of buzz in the agricultural forums over the subject of Automated Crop Reporting (ACR).

There are plenty of questions surrounding this subject – the biggest of which may be whether or not ACR is ready for prime time.  For all the promises that the technology holds in this arena there are real obstacles to whether it can be successfully deployed on a mass scale.

The biggest mountain to overcome may at first glance seem to be the smallest – preparing precision hardware to collect the RIGHT data, in the RIGHT format, in the RIGHT way.  The honest truth is that most growers don’t know the RIGHT way to collect  data or simply where to start.  That is why the cornerstone of Prime Meridian’s data services is an inexpensive service called ‘Precision Prep‘ that prepares grower’s monitors before they go to the field with the correct grower, farm, field information along with GPS field boundaries and standardized variety and product names.

If ACR is to work It will require more rigid data collection standards within the industry and basic data setup programs like ‘Precision Prep‘ from precision service providers.  The other obvious mountain in the way is the issue of calibration.  The painful, unspoken truth is that most precision yield monitors are never calibrated properly if at all. If such precision records are to be accepted by crop insurance companies for proving baseline yields and ultimately for crop loss claims then monitor calibration will have to clearly documented and accuracies will have to be in the 97 percent accurate or better range.  We have a long way to go before that becomes the norm.

Working with your crop insurance company to implement ACR on your farm will mean you have some of your own mountains to climb in order for such adoption to be successful.  It is our view at Prime Meridian that professional precision agriculture services providers will be invaluable guides in order for ACR to become mainstream within the industry.

What do you think?

Wireless Wave for Precision is More Like a Tsunami

A wireless wave is coming to precision agriculture.  Precision pundits predict that 2012 will be the tipping point in regards to wireless solutions for precision agriculture.  The technology, the economics and most importantly ease of use has matured from a junior high science project to a viable mainstream solution in the world of precision.

Some may ask what all the hoopla is all about concerning wireless data transfer and precision agriculture.  The industry’s seasoned veterans are hoping, praying that this technology can deliver information and data services seamlessly and completely like never before.

Why is this so important?  Simple. In computer terms the industry needs a reboot – a restart – to Precision Agriculture 2.0.  Ever since the early days of the first GPS yield monitors massive amounts of data never made it the short distance from the combine to the office computer.  It is the digital equivalent of leaving a crop in the field to go to waste.

Being able to seamlessly capture “real-time” data instantly from planting to harvest may finally unlock the agronomic promises originally predicted in the early days of precision agriculture.  Plus, it literally puts a “virtual” agronomist in the field by being able to wirelessly send prescriptions to the cab and also monitor growing crops from afar.

With all this promise also come possible pitfalls. Wireless data transfer sounds wonderful – but transfer to where?  Equipment and hardware manufacturers are quickly jockeying to build the infrastructure to capture these streaming bytes of information.  The big name players – John Deere, CNH, Raven, Trimble and Ag Leader all either have a solution or have outlined their wireless plans that will roll in the coming months.

But what are hardware companies going to do with digital mountains of agronomic data?  Certainly makes you wonder what their end game is. Just how this “data” is going to be made available back to the producer?  How much is it going to cost to retrieve it?  What happens when a grower has a “mixed” set of precision hardware brands?  Is it going to be like when you need $100 cash from the bank and you have go to 5 different banks to withdraw it?

It is because of questions like these that independent data management companies like Prime Meridian have a legitimate place in this new wireless world of precision agriculture.  Why?  Because producers want a single, safe, independent home where they can go online to do their precision business.  And with wireless on the way – that business is likely to boom.

“Precision Soil” Packages Built Custom for Retailers

Today’s producers are demanding more from today’s retailers when it comes to GPS grid soil sampling.  They expect more than just dots on a map and soil lab results displayed in rainbow colors on a paper map of a field.

Producers want a system where the GPS data they collect interacts with precision soil sample results ultimately leading to better agronomy decisions and practices.  On the other side of the fence, agri-retailers want a system where they can simply place soil sample orders, match-up grower data with soil fertility data and retrieve and upload valuable field GIS data anytime day or night.

That’s what growers and retailers get with Prime Meridian’s “Precision Soil” service. Click here to learn more about Prime Meridian’s “Precision Soil” service.

Discover the Superpowers of a Prime Meridian AgriMAX Account

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

Those aren’t exactly the questions people ask when they inquire about Prime Meridian’s online data portal called AgriMAX but there sure have been a lot of questions since the launch of our website.

What is AgriMAX?  Is it a mapping software?  Is it an online FTP site?

The simple answer to those questions is AgriMAX is the home for precision agriculture data.  More specifically it is a place for your retail business to streamline and do the business of precision agriculture.

Probably the most important question we’ve gotten is simply – “What can AgriMAX do for my business?”  The answer to that question is up to you the retailer.  But rest assured by using the tools and services offered by Prime Meridian through your secure AgriMAX account you certainly come off looking like a superhero to your customers. Click here to learn more about a Prime Meridian AgriMAX account.

A Message from the President, Steve Cubbage

I personally would like to introduce you to Prime Meridian.

We are a company working at the grassroots level moving the world of precision agriculture forward.  Our focus is DATA and that’s the focus of our new website – www.primemeridiandata.com.  We are the “precision bridge” between retailers and growers helping them harvest more from their data.

One of the Achilles’ heels of precision agriculture still with us today is the fact that no single software or system can handle all the different types of data.  Something either gets left behind or is discarded.  Growers are frustrated as the promises of precision agriculture have gone largely unfulfilled.

That is why we at Prime Meridian built the AgriMAX data exchange.

AgriMAX is two things.  First, it is a place where clients – both at the grower and retail level can store and share data in its original and processed form.  Second, it is an online fertility ordering system where retail soil sampling orders are submitted, processed and organized.  AgriMAX simply serves as the bank vault and clearing house to readily access and share data with anyone, with any software package anywhere in the world.

Store, share, profit – that’s our message.

Finally, it is our belief that the grower is and should be the center of the flow of precision data.  That is why many of the programs and services that Prime Meridian offers focuses on helping growers collect more and better data that can be shared with their local precision team.  With our proactive data integrity programs like “Monitor Prep” we insure that data is collected right from the beginning as we work to “prepare” monitors before they go to the field.

So whether you’re a retailer, grower or crop consultant – before you go to the field with your precision agriculture program we invite you to discover Prime Meridian.  We look forward to working with you to move your world of precision agriculture forward.

Sincerely,

Steve Cubbage

President
Prime Meridian