Sure you changed your clocks last weekend for Daylight Savings Time. But the question is – are you ready to go to the field to start the 2012 crop year? Sure you’ve greased the planter and the seeds in the bag are ready to go, but are you really ready?
As I was resetting all my clocks in my house I wondered why producers shouldn’t do the same thing with their “electronic devices” before they go to the field in the spring.
If synchronizing all clocks and changing out your smoke alarm batteries are a spring ritual – shouldn’t prepping your precision equipment for the season be just as important?
At Prime Meridian we created a service that we hope becomes a spring ritual called “Monitor Prep” – a lot like setting your clocks forward. Monitor Prep is like spring cleaning — wiping the slate clean to start the new year fresh when it comes to collecting good and complete data from your precision monitors all season long.
Good precision agriculture just doesn’t happen. It’s a lot easier to collect good data if a precision display has been properly prepped with the right field names, the right field boundaries and the correct labels of all the seed varieties and crop inputs that made your pick list for 2012.
Failing to walk away from your field operations without collecting the right data is a great waste of precision technology that will impact the management of your farming business for years to come. Precision displays should not be treated like Etch-a-Sketches that you doodle on during the season for entertainment value – and you can’t just shake them clean when you’re ready to start another season.
Those of us at Prime Meridian believe the real rewards in precision and farming’s future will go to those who think of the equipment as true tools – just like they would with their tractor, combine, planter, disk, etc. For equipment perform correctly it has to be set correctly – and that in a nutshell is the first step to success on the path to precision.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Harvest 2011 is in the books. But if you collected GPS yield data it still has a story to tell.
When producers question us about what is the most important piece of precision agriculture data – without hesitation our answer is yield data. Why? It is the last chapter in the book. It is the summary of all the management decisions you made during the crop year on a particular field.
Yield maps literally help paint a picture of a particular field’s personality. Strengths. Weaknesses. All are revealed in digital living color. Making major agronomic decisions however based on one year’s worth of yield data is sort of like getting married after only one date. Agronomy professionals say that most fields only reveal their true personalities after being tested by Mother Nature over the course of three to four years.
That’s why if growers want to graduate to the agronomic perks that precision ag can offer like variable-rate seeding and multiple-zone field fertility recommendations they need back to back to back years of yield data. Then through analytical agronomic tools like “normalized” yield maps you can better predict the tendencies of each acre and manage accordingly.
This is why those of us at Prime Meridian share such a passion in regards to the collection, calibration and preservation of combine GPS yield data. It is one of the main reasons we created our “Precision Prep” program for monitors to ensure data is properly organized and collected at the time of harvest. It also is why we offer either remote or on-site yield monitor calibration assistance for nearly any brand of yield monitor because only good data leads to good agronomy. And finally, it is why we offer producers free online storage for yield and other important agronomic GPS information through our online web portal called AgriMAX.
If you have been collecting and using yield data for years to make management decisions – then good for you. If not, your farms and fields still have a story to tell. You can never recreate GPS yield data. The Good Lord and Mother Nature only give producers so many harvests in a lifetime. So make each one count and make sure you harvest and store the digital crop of data as well as the one that showed up in your grain tank.
Every fall as soon as the combines are put away in the shed it is a race to soil sample acres before Mother Nature closes the door on the season. Choosing the right soil sampling computer can simply mean the difference between your equipment working when you get to the field or not. Lost acres due to old, inadequate or cheap equipment can mean the loss of thousands of dollars in revenue and fewer variable rate acres to spread.
Of all the advancements through the years of the precision ag era, soil sampling computers probably progressed the least in terms of technology and user friendliness – until now. That trend is changing and the newer field computers are built for the specific task at hand.
New field computer models offered by Trimble, Ag Leader and SST all feature ruggedized designs with long battery life and multiple weather-proof connections for tethering external GPS units or barcode scanners. These designs are acres ahead of the small, fragile off-the-shelf consumer handhelds that were pressed into service in the early days of precision ag.
Ag Leader’s new Mesa and Trimble’s Yuma are two new field computers that truly exemplify how far the technology has come. At first glance the most obvious difference is screen size – it’s big and bright in comparison to their previous counterparts. The Ag Leader Mesa sports a sunlight readable 5.7-inch screen and the Trimble Yuma has a full 7-inch screen. The list of options and capabilities is staggering – built-in WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, cameras and cellular modems.
Even though the new tech options like Bluetooth and built-in cameras are cool stuff – it is battery life and durability that simply win over the harshest critics and keep racking up the acres. Both the Mesa and Yuma sport military-grade ruggedness and literally all day battery-life. In fact, the Yuma allows for hot-swappable batteries in the field.
If you’re looking for ruggedness on a budget, you then consider the SST Field Computer with their built-in Stratus soil sampling and crop scouting software. The 20 hours of battery run time is impressive and the available options make it a very versatile and economical choice.
For more information on these field computer options and available soil sampling and field scouting software contact a Prime Meridian sales representative at 417-667-4471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details and pricing options.
We’re happy to welcome you to the Prime Meridian Blog. Our goal is to make this blog the center of discussion for all precision agriculture data while demonstrating how technology that provides storing and sharing tools can lead to profit for your farm.
We believe that farm data belongs to the customer. It’s your farm, and that means it should be your data. It should be yours to share with the local professionals you trust. We believe that is the only way that precision agriculture and your farm can grow. Not everyone feels the same way. Stay tuned, as we expect this to be a fairly interesting topic and potentially controversial topic on this blog.
But this won’t be a blog just about farm data. We’ll talk about Ag news, precision farming and hopefully give you some insights into what goes into making your farm perform at an optimum level.
We’d prefer that this be a two way conversation. So let us know what you think of what you’re reading and make suggestions on what you’d like to learn more about. We’re listening.
Lastly, we get a lot of questions about our name. The “Prime Meridian” is a line of longitude at which the longitude is zero. So basically, everything starts from 0 degrees, or, the Prime Meridian. When it comes to farm data, we’d like you to start with us.