Category Archives: Precision Technology

FBN Takes Data in a Different Direction

“Think different.”

Those words helped define a little technology company called Apple Computer.

FBN Take Data in a Different DirectionToday, another technology company called Farmers Business Network (FBN) hopes that same contrarian approach – thinking differently when it comes to farmer’s data – propels them to similar success.

It was FBN’s intent out of the gate to be a disrupter in the competitive and growing field of agriculture based Big Data firms.  At first glance there are three things that are noticeably different about FBN when compared to the current competition in the marketplace.

First difference – they are independent with no direct ties to any of the big name agribusiness giants – many of whom already have their data hook in the water. Arguably the biggest hook currently in the water is a company called Climate.com aka Monsanto. The Achilles heel of someone like a Climate.com is – whether right or wrong – they are not perceived as biased by most producers and their intentions are certainly going to be questioned when you have a multi-billion dollar agricultural conglomerate as the backside benefactor of such customer information.

FBN knows this and their business model is based on the logic that someone within the industry has got to wear the white hat. Why not them?  Farmers respect such independence and are much more willing to share data with a company that is working for them as their primary day job instead of selling seed, tractors or fertilizer.

Second difference – cost. The price of admission is reasonable and attractive. Rather than complicate things with a per acre pricing model or multiple tier pricing – FBN’s initial entry level product was rolled out to the market at a flat-fee of $500. Simple and affordable is always a good marketing strategy and FBN knew that in order to attract farmers in numbers they couldn’t discriminate based on the number of acres a farmer farms.

There is no doubt that as FBN grows in subscribers and capabilities there will be premium services that emerge. Even Henry Ford when he started out only offered one color of car – black! That soon changed and so will what is possible to do with data as both FBN and farmers continue to discover what is possible and what is practical down on the farm.

TFBN Dashboardhird difference – your data is shared anonymously among your peers – aka fellow farmers – and not among biased industry insiders. The peer-to-peer model of sharing data makes much more sense than the highly filtered data that might be published by private seed, fertilizer and iron companies as part of their marketing efforts.

This sharing of unbiased agronomic data is actually nothing new. In reality, a similar model has been around for years and it is called the university Extension system. As part of the original research mission of the land-grant universities, Extension was the vehicle used to deliver the discoveries of such research to the farmer. In some ways what FBN is trying to do is become the modern-day digital equivalent to the original extension system. However, instead of research being bottled up in tiny university test plots now with FBN every farm and every acre becomes its own test plot.

What is the true power of FBN? That remains to be discovered. But it will likely be discovered by farmers who are able to directly glean unbiased, affordable information from people they trust – peers who have actually tilled an acre of land and seen how things work in the real world and not just in some petri dish. Up until now some growers have been reluctant to share their data with others because they didn’t share the same values and goals. FBN has finally given farmers a choice and a voice when it comes to looking at the world of Big Data.

For more information on FBN and how to start learning ways your farm can benefit from the knowledge of fellow farmers contact Steve Cubbage at Prime Meridian at 417-667-4471 or via email at: steve@primemeridiandata.com.  Prime Meridian is also promoting FBN to its customers by including a free one-year FBN subscription for any farmer that signs up for its Precision First data management plans.

 

Mavrx – Crop Imagery Meets Crop Scouting

Crop Imagery Meets Crop ScoutingIn the world of precision agriculture, it seems that the number of crop imagery companies is multiplying faster than rabbits at the local county fair.

There is one company, however, that is looking to be different by putting a high-tech twist on crop imagery by mixing it with crop scouting. The name of this company is called Mavrx and it is taking its hybrid concept to the air in full force for the 2015 growing season.

Using in-season images to aid the actual boots on the ground task of crop scouting is nothing new. However, the way Mavrx does it – and the product that it delivers — is what sets it apart in this increasingly crowded field.

The secret sauce of Mavrx is that it takes the images and identifies the hotspots and trouble spots within a field before they are delivered to you. Mavrx automatically tells you where and how important these areas are before you get there. You know exactly how many acres the problems may be, plus the severity of the problem and the calculated economic impact to date. Think of it as your own John Madden chalkboard for crop scouting.Mavrx Screenshot

Crop scouting has traditionally been a very labor intensive task requiring not only long days but also a high-level skill set. The problem is that no matter how long the days are, there just aren’t enough hours to cover more acres and be effective.  Plus, in the past most of the scout’s time was spent in the field looking for problems instead of solving them.  You might have been within 50 feet of a growing aphid infestation, and you would miss the whole thing. These issues are going to be a bigger problem as farms and fields grow in size, while the number of veteran agronomists is not keeping pace.

Mavrx seeks to leverage such agronomy expertise by providing a product that allows agronomists and producers to monitor more acres more effectively.  This is accomplished by streamlining and refining the delivery of the product to the end-user.  Mavrx knew the first issue with past imagery products is that by the time the picture of the field had been taken and delivered, the value of the image had already become stale.  Mavrx seeks to deliver a fully processed product with 24 to 48 hours. You are personally notified by email and text when a new image is ready for you in your personal cloud account on the Mavrx web-based dashboard. Think of it as Instagram for your farm’s fields.

Mavrx’s intent is to make their online dashboard your in season flight control center where you can view changes within a field during the season. You can also integrate Mavrx imagery with other key GIS data to help provide underlying clues as to what is causing certain issues within a field, such as data to help identify troublesome wet spots and historical yield maps to see if such problems have appeared in the field before in similar locations. As a bonus to users, Mavrx is providing multiple years’ worth of field imagery from LandSat satellite imagery library to establish historical markers when evaluating current high-resolution imagery.

Mavrx on Desktop, Tablet and MobileThe functionality of the Mavrx imagery doesn’t stop at scouting. That is only one of the many possible uses for the imagery. When delivered to a user’s dashboard account, the imagery is already geo-referenced and in the correct file format (such as a GeoTiff) so that it can be easily exported to other popular GIS programs (like SST, SMS and MapShots) to create in-season prescriptions for nitrogen, or even targeted pest management.

One of the final feathers in Mavrx’s cap is the diversity of the imagery that you get from a flight. Currently, most of the imagery is flown by manned aircraft, with many of them equipped to capture regular, NDVI and also thermo images simultaneously.  Unlike many other providers who only provide one image type, with Mavrx you literally get three for the price of one. That’s a big deal: each image type has certain advantages. Veteran agronomists say that NDVI is better at telling them whether plants are hungry and need nutrients like nitrogen, while thermo does a better job of detecting whether plants are sick. Many times a thermo image can detect stress days before a regular or NDVI image.

By delivering imagery with a purpose Mavrx has set itself apart in this crowded field. Agronomists and producers who want to learn how Mavrx can help improve their field scouting and in-season crop management contact William Underwood at Prime Meridian at 660-492-5626 or via email: william.underwood@primemeridiandata.com. For more details on Mavrx check them out on the web at: www.mavrx.co.

Farmobile: Making Precision Just Happen

Successfully getting data from the field, out of the monitor and onto the computer has had a less than stellar track record.

Making Precision Just HappenUp until now most precision data has seemingly suffered the same fate as all those socks that get lost in the dryer.  Over the years millions and millions of acres of incredibly valuable yield monitor data never made it that short distance from the machine shed to the farm office. And the problem has grown exponentially as more and more field operations began to be recorded. Most of that data didn’t make it either.

You would have thought that there were mountains as tall as Mount Everest or rivers as wide as the Amazon in that short but “long” journey.  For whatever reason, important digital data is not making the successful trek to the place it can actually have some value and do some good.

Thankfully there is hope on the horizon.  One company called Farmoblie is seeking to drastically change how all this data from combines, sprayers and tractors gets from point A to point B. Not only is Farmobile seeking to change the way that data is transferred but they are intent on altering the way it is visualized, utilized and ultimately who’s in charge of the data at the end of the day.

Farmobile solves the original problem of transferring data by making it just happen – wirelessly. Although wireless data transfer is no longer new, what makes Farmobile different is the fact that the company’s wireless solution is practically colorblind when it comes to what it can connect to. Companies like Raven, Ag Leader, Trimble and now even John Deere all have brand centric solutions that only play nice with their hardware.

Farmobile Device

Farmobile Device

The way Farmobile works to gather and display data is what sets it apart from the competing pack of wireless solutions that have appeared so far. Instead of just transferring a single file of yield data from the combine monitor at the end of the day, Farmobile’s device plugs into a machine’s information nerve center called the CAN (short for Controller Area Network). By plugging directly into the CAN, Farmobile can record and decipher any information from any sensor on the machine itself.  That means access to much more data regarding what’s going on in the field. Plus, it can be viewed anywhere in the world in real-time on your mobile device.

So now instead of just recording and transferring a layer of yield data, the Farmobile user can see all the performance points of the machine while it is still in the field.  You will see things like yield and moisture, but in addition you will now see ground speed, engine rpm and other critical information. With such features Farmobile has become more than just a way to transfer data. It has become a logistics command center for your operation, tracking vehicles and employee efficiency.

Farmobile also addresses head-on one of big questions on the minds of many producers these days – where does all this data go and who’s in charge of it? That’s an area where Farmobile is getting two thumbs up from producers and the agriculture community.  All the data streaming from the field goes directly into your secure cloud account to do what you want to with it. Farmobile calls it your Electronic Farm Record (EFR) Vault and the data is yours and only yours to direct and dissect as you choose.

The current capabilities of the Farmobile device are likely only the tip of the iceberg.  Coming soon will be the ability to push and pull critical files to and from the cab of the Farmobile equipped machine. This means that the device can literally act as a wireless USB storage device and things like variable-rate prescription files can simply be delivered with a tap on the app.

Will Farmobile be the Apple iPhone of the precision ag world? That’s a tall order but it certainly has a robust feature set that makes it worth taking a look even today. Technology aside, Farmobile seeks to be the solution to centralize the “grower’s” data from multiple sources in one place. If it can do that plus solve the age old precision problem of getting yield data out of the combine and onto your computer – then we finally have our precision game changer we’ve anxiously been waiting for.

To find out more about Farmobile or even request a free on-farm trial, contact Steve Cubbage at Prime Meridian at 417-667-4471 or via email: steve@primemeridiandata.com.  Also visit Farmobile’s website for technical details and current pricing – www.farmobile.com.

Prime Meridian’s Free Flyover Program Takes Off

Is a drone a toy or a tool?

What truly is the value of the imagery and information that can come from this technology?

Can drone imagery help me farm better or offer better agronomic services?

In order to help growers, agronomists and agri-retailers answer these questions first-hand, Prime Meridian has launched its Free Flyover Program for summer 2014.

The program is simple. Fly one field FREE with an AgEagle UAV by simply calling 417-667-4471 and schedule your flyover.  After the flight, Prime Meridian will deliver to you a complete set of agronomic relevant imagery for that field – again all FREE.  And to cap it off you’ll receive a FREE 30-day subscription to MyAgCentral – your new home to access Prime Meridian’s new Precision Pixel imagery solutions and complete portfolio of precision services.

Fly one field for FREE with Prime Meridian!

Why are we doing this?

The biggest reason is education. Currently, there is an extreme amount of buzz in the industry regarding drones.  Unfortunately, there is also a lot of noise and conflicting claims about what this technology can actually achieve in a real production agriculture setting.

The reality of the situation is that not all drones are created equal.  And the same is true when it comes to drone imagery and imagery services. It is not as simple as snapping a “selfie” with your smartphone and posting it on Facebook!  It can get complicated, especially if you want to do anything with it – like write an in-season nitrogen prescription or compare differences between seed varieties.

Bottom line – there is a ton of value that can be extracted with this technology.  It is our job at Prime Meridian to show you how to do that in the smartest, simplest and most economical way possible. And although it may not be the Blue Angels, a personal flyover from an AgEagle still is worth seeing.  Call TODAY to schedule your flyover, because who doesn’t like FREE!

Drone Diaries – Our first flights with an “Ag” UAV

I guess you could call it our Orville and Wilbur Wright moment!  A few weeks ago Prime Meridian took to the air to discover what all the buzz is about regarding “agricultural” UAV’s – the so-called politically correct term for aerial drones.

Our bird of choice is the Ag Eagle – a four-and-half foot wide flying wing that sort of looks like a B2 Bomber on a mission from Whiteman Air Force Base.  However, its mission is not to deliver ordnance down the chimney of some Third World dictator’s summer home but rather to discover with a bird’s-eye view what is going on within a growing field.

Ag Eagle UAV Being Launched
The benefits we are finding because of that bird’s-eye view have been many and I have a feeling we are just getting started.  Our first flights involved taking pictures of wheat fields a week or two before flag leaf emergence.  Unfortunately, what we saw wasn’t very pretty but it brought into focus the toll of wet conditions at planting, a terribly cold winter and an usually dry spring.

The value of these images were evident immediately.  In some cases nearly 10 to 15 percent of the growing crop had been lost due to “drown-out” conditions at time of planting.  In the future we’re going to use these “images” to create prescriptions to make sure we’re not applying topdress N on bare dirt.  In addition these images have prompted a call-to-action that come fall after harvest there is a serious water management plan implemented on fields showing such losses.

Ag Eagle with Prime and APIS Crew

This is just the beginning of the possibilities we can glean from UAV’s in agriculture.  We’re going to be learning about making nutrient prescriptions from infrared images, monitoring things like herbicide and storm damage and getting a jump on pest and weed infestations. Like anything UAV’s are not a magic bullet but a tool – a tool that can spur more timely and even more common sense management decisions.  That’s what it is all about.

There is an old saying about not being able to see the forest for the trees.  The same thing could be said of a 8 foot tall growing field of corn.  Bottom line – your view is limited.  It’s amazing how much more you can see from an altitude of 400 feet.  Stay tuned.  We’ve got a lot more flights to go this season and we’ll be reporting back on just what we find.

Prime Meridian and IDEAg together in June…What a Great Idea!

Prime Meridian is set to connect with growers and industry technology leaders at the second annual IDEAg Interconnectivity Conference to be held June 26-27 in Altoona, Iowa.

IDEAgConferenceIDEAg is literally a “meeting of minds” coming together to discuss the farm of the future when it comes to connectivity and data. Prime Meridian will be there alongside industry names like John Deere, Raven, SST, SatShot and wireless telecommunication players like Verizon.

For Prime Meridian, IDEAg is the perfect venue to show how its services can connect clients to their data but also “interconnect” all the data coming from multiple sources.  The term interconnectivity is being pushed to the forefront in modern agriculture as nearly everything on the farm whether moving or stationary will literally be “talking back” in the future.

If you’d like to connect with Prime Meridian in Iowa at the IDEAg Interconnectivity Conference, visit booth #20 and check out the IDEAg website at:  http://www.ideaggroup.com/ideag-interconnectivity.

The Magic Is Back: EC Makes A Comeback

In the early days of precision agriculture there were a lot of technologies arriving on the scene that captured the title of “The Next Big Thing.” One of those “Big Things” was something called “EC” – the acronym for electrical conductivity.

The theory was that by shooting an electrical current into soil to measure resistance and logging that data with GPS you could make an “EC Map” of your field.  Why? For many it was like being able to peer into a soil’s soul as you could discover its character and how it might react under certain conditions. In scientific terms the EC data told you how much of your soil was sand verses clay and helped determined its water and nutrient holding capabilities.

verisECmachineinfield

In the early 2000’s the “IT” piece of hardware to have in your precision stable was a pull-type coulter EC rig called a Veris or an EM-38 machine that sort of looks like you’re pulling a landscape timber with wheels attached!

So, it was that EC maps became the “IT” layer to have in your precision portfolio trumping at the time the even still fascinating colored yield maps and those variable fertility layers.  For a brief moment in time EC soil data was considered the “magic bullet” – the “go-to” layer for making management decisions involving variety selection, seeding rates and nutrient and herbicide applications.

What happened next?  Reality sank in and it was discovered EC data is not exactly magic – but it isn’t snake oil either.  It is tool – a layer of data – no different than yield data, topo data or fertility data.  Unfortunately because of this reality, EC mapping went through a sophomore slump as precision service providers went back to their meat and potatoes services like making GPS soil sampling and making yield maps deeming EC data not worth their time or effort.  Both metaphorically and in reality EC became regulated to the fencerow right next to the 5-bottom plow that nobody used anymore.

Fast forward to today.  EC is back – and so is a little bit of the magic!  Retooled and this time with a purpose. The difference this time is that EC data is being leveraged to validate traditional data such as yield maps and soil type maps. It has also become a foundational layer as variable-rate seeding technology has hit the mainstream. It just makes sense to better understand things like the water-holding capability of your soils before deciding on how many seeds per acre to plant.

The other big reason for EC’s comeback is another new acronym called VRI – “Variable-Rate Irrigation”.  VRI is literally an electronic prescription that tells your pivot how much water to put on as it moves across the field. Again, it is just common sense that something that determines the water holding capabilities of a field’s soil be used when determining how much water to apply to the soil!

It is because of these reasons that we at Prime Meridian believe that this time EC is back and it’s here to stay simply because now there is relevance as we’ve discovered ways to apply what we can learn from it.

At Prime Meridian we saw this coming and for the past several months we’ve been gearing up to integrate EC services into our offerings to our clients. We already offer basic ala carte EC data collection and mapping but be looking for pending announcements on how you will be able to integrate EC data into popular our multi-year Prime Packages – making it more affordable and easier than ever to collect EC data on your farm. In addition, we’ll be offering new EC data combos by combining it with other advanced data layers like topo data and aerial imagery.

It’s nice to know that EC data was not a one-hit wonder and it’s good to see that the sophomore slump is over.  It is now clear that it is about to graduate to a whole now level.

What do you think?

There’s An APP For That! Prime Meridian Offers Digital Field Scouting Reports

When Prime Meridian first brought its multi-year precision data packages to market nearly 2 years ago we did something a little groundbreaking.  We decided that for any qualified client that signed up for one of our Prime Packages we would include a free Apple iPad tablet.

What we discovered was that delivering digital information via 3-ring binders should have been ditched a long time ago.  Our clients fell in love with receiving digital precision information digitally.  Imagine that?

But what we’re finding out along with the rest of the agricultural world is that these mobile devices are more than a digital one-trick pony.  Not only are they good at receiving and displaying digital information but they make pretty awesome field data collectors as well.

ScoutProScreenShot

There are a lot of great agricultural apps out there but one in particular caught our eye this spring and we’d like our retail partners and grower clients to give it a spin this growing season.  It’s called Scout Pro and what’s different about it is that it does one specific task very well – field scouting.  In fact, it is so specific the company offers separate apps for scouting corn and soybeans.

Up until now there has not been a really robust, full-featured scouting application that took full advantage of the power and simplicity of the new mobile platforms like iOS or Android.   What makes it so different?

1) Just a few touches and flicks through the app will reveal a rich multi-media library with almost every plant specific pest or disease you can think of.  Just identify, tag and touch and everything is geo-referenced and synced back to an online database where all data is sorted by field boundary.  Not sure of a particular pest?  Just snap a pic with you mobile device and it gets geo-tagged to the field and shared with key advisors.

2) In addition, to collecting data Scout Pro digitally disseminates scouting reports that look like works of art compared to their previous hand scribbled paper counterparts.  Plus, reports can literally be sent when exiting a field instead of having to sometimes wait days for a written report.

3) The final and most important perk we see with the Scout Pro app is that all the data once synced with the database is exportable to other key GIS packages.  This is critical as scouting data needs to be married with other real-time field information like variety and seed population information and yield maps and fertility data.  Wouldn’t you like to be able to relate yield loss in a field to insect damage?  Better yet wouldn’t you like to know which variety of corn was more susceptible to things like green snap?  That’s the exciting power of this app.

It is for these reasons Prime Meridian is looking to integrate the Scout Pro app and the data collected into its multi-year Prime Packages’ offerings.  It certainly is a natural fit and since you’ll have the free iPad anyway, you might as well take it everywhere you go – including to the field to scout bugs and weeds!

Want to learn more? For more information on getting set up on Scout Pro or its cost, please contact Justin Ogle or Steve Cubbage at Prime Meridian at 417-667-4471.