Category Archives: Prime Meridian

Billions and billions of bushels fit right in your pocket

How much grain can you fit into your pocket?

Thanks to new mobile and wireless technology introduced by a company called OPI-integris the answer might just surprise you.  To paraphrase the late astronomer Carl Sagan – “billions and billions.”

So what is this new technology and what does it do?

It’s called OPI-Blue.  And in simplest terms, its an app that runs on your Apple iPhone or iPad that gives you a direct link to what’s going on inside your grain bins.  Pretty cool, huh?

OPI BLUEGrain bin management technology can have some very quick paybacks for producers depending on the size and characteristics of their farming operation.  Perennial poor practices like the over-drying of grain, rising energy costs and larger and larger bin sizes being deployed on farms can lead to greater chances of grain spoilage – all good reasons why this technology is such a great idea.

The 3-D graphics of the OPI-Blue app gives you a 360-degree transparent view of temperature, moisture and capacity levels within the bins and it makes you think you’re playing an Xbox game instead of managing grain quality.  But the real bonus is the real-time email and text alerts you get on your mobile device whenever things aren’t going right. For the first time you can be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to grain quality.

The OPI-Blue App on the iOS mobile device simply connects to a solar powered wireless node mounted on top of your grain bins. The node is the connection point for the multiple sets of digital temperature and moisture cables that constantly monitor every inch of grain inside the bins. With your mobile device and the OPI-Blue App you can connect directly to the OPI-Blue wireless node via its built-in Wi-Fi hotspot or link it to your internet router so you can monitor grain conditions while on the beach sipping one of those umbrella drinks.

So why talk about grain bin technology on a post that’s normally reserved for topics like “Big Data” and “Precision Agronomy”?  The answer is simple.  Caring for a crop doesn’t stop at harvest.  And it also underscores the fact that the farm is very, very quickly becoming what is called the “Internet of Things.”

We spend so much time and effort to get as many bushels into the bins as possible. However, we frankly aren’t very good at taking care of them after they get there.  It’s the number of bushels and their condition when it comes out that you get paid on.  That’s why this subject is so important – especially with the new reality of lower commodity prices – every bushel counts.

That’s why Prime Meridian has teamed up with its sister precision ag hardware solutions company Record Harvest to start offering OPI-Blue to growers and ag retail grain and seed companies.  For more information please contact Steve Cubbage at 417-667-0220 or steve@primemeridiandata.com for your OPI Blue demo and a free cost savings analysis for your farm. Also check out www.OPIBlue.com.

Being able to check your bins from the beach – now there’s an App for that!

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.

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.

Moving Beyond the Iron to Precision Data Services

AgLeaderYieldMonitorIron dealers were there at the beginning of precision agriculture. For many, the piece of precision hardware called the yield monitor started this whole technological revolution in agriculture. Today, it has become integrated into machine as just one of the hundreds of sensors that make up a modern combine.

Yield monitors, planter monitors, sprayer monitors all should be the “domain” of the iron dealer. Because of that fact, machinery dealers are now being faced with whether or not to be more than just a “seller of iron” when it comes to precision agriculture. A recent forum by Farm Machinery magazine at the Ag Connect conference in Kansas City took a look at where and how machinery dealers should position their businesses when it comes to the business of precision data services.

View the full article, “Data Management: Waking the ‘Sleeping Giant’ in Precision Farming,” which features an interview with Steve Cubbage of Prime Meridian, by clicking here.

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.

Prime Meridian Champions “Precision Standards” at AgGateway Conference

Last month I had the honor of speaking at the AgGateway annual conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

My topic was “Precision Agricultural Standards” as it relates to data and the sharing of data within the industry.  I told the group attending that the lack of common naming standards and the continued use proprietary data types adopted by precision hardware manufacturers has slowed and even stalled progress when it comes to advances that could benefit the industry – most importantly at the producer level.

For those of you who do not know about AgGateway and the role they play within the agricultural industry I would encourage you to learn more about them.  Their website can be found here: http://www.aggateway.org/

In a nutshell, they are an industry standards advocacy group that has already done tremendous work to move agricultural commerce into the 21st century.  Their work in  areas of agricultural e-commerce has provided the “common language” whenever inputs like seed, fertilizer and crop protection products are transacted throughout the agricultural supply chain.

It would seem only natural that an unbiased, highly respected organization like AgGateway be the one to shepherd the industry players in working toward precision agriculture standards.  To learn more about this subject and what I told those who gathered in New Mexico check out Rich Keller’s post on the AgProfessional’s website by clicking here.

2012 Drought Will Change the Precision Agriculture Landscape

The drought of 2012 will leave a lasting impression on a new generation of farmers. It will change farming in profound ways – ways in which we do not yet realize.

When the dust has finally settled on this year’s harvest, the rains return and the cropinsurance checks are written, change will be in the air come 2013.

Possibly one of the most overlooked changes could come within the industry of precision agriculture itself. It is my contention that this year’s drought will change precision ag more than any one outside event in the last 10 years and quite possibly the most since satellites starting orbiting the Earth.

Why? How? What is this guy talking about?

Well the federal crop insurance system is about to write some of the biggest crop insurance loss checks to producers – ever!  The federal government is also broke – nearly $16 trillion in debt. It also just so happens that this “weather” event aligned when Congress is in the process of debating the next Farm Bill.

Clearing the future hurdles of compliance and claims for government programs and insurance will require new heights in the level of documentation. Electronic production records produced by the computers in the field during planting and harvest will become mandatory. So quite simply that yield monitor with no GPS isn’t going to cut the mustard anymore. Neither is the pocket paper notebook logging where you changed seed corn varieties.

Crop insurance auditors are going to ultimately require “real-time” data. USDA offices will move toward this for reporting as well. We’ve already seen the movement toward such “electronic” reporting within the industry and this drought is only going to accelerate those moves.

Like it or not, precision agriculture is about to become a government mandate. Are you ready? Is your farm ready? No one knows what the weather will do next year or the year after that but requiring more precision electronic documentation is a 100 percent probability.

To ensure accuracy and consistency in your precision ag data Prime Meridian offers reporting compliance through its multi-year Prime Packages program.  For a program that costs $2 to $6 per acre annually it literally pays participating growers back in spades – in good years – or bad.

Crop Sensing About to go Viral, GreenSeeker Handheld Only $495

Set your phasers to stun!

Producers, crop consultants and fertilizer dealers get ready — Trimble’s Ag division just launched a new product that would make Captain Kirk proud.  If nothing else it opens a whole new precision ag technology for mainstream agriculture.

What is it?

It’s a new handheld “GreenSeeker” crop sensor – it quickly and easily measures the health of your crop and provides instant feedback with a click of a button.  GreenSeeker technology is nothing new in the industry but its benefits were not widely known outside the “academic” and “agronomy” circles. Part of the reason for this was cost – it was expensive – costing nearly $5,000 just for a portable unit and nearly $25,000 for an “on-the-go” sprayer unit.

At its $495 price tag it is sure to change the marketplace and the minds of producers when it comes to this technology. Quite simply, this now should be a throw in the pickup seat agronomic tool that every farmer and every crop scout should have. If you have a moisture tester to test grain samples at harvest then why shouldn’t you have a crop sensor to determine the nutrient needs of your crops when they are still growing?

Think of it sort of like an oversized glucose meter for your nitrogen dependent crops like wheat and corn. Trying to determine the “N” needs of a crop is a fast-moving target. The success rate of nailing the N rate ahead of time is somewhere between the odds of winning the PowerBall lottery and pinning the tail on the donkey blindfolded. Not good.

With thousands and thousands more acres of wheat to be planted this fall following another short corn crop the need for N management will be critical. We already saw what excess N left over from a poor corn crop did to wheat last year. Farmers following their gut with normal top dress practices found come harvest they were picking up downed wheat with their combines at a breakneck speed of 1 to 2 mph. Bottom line – lost bushels and thousands of dollars of wasted fertilizer. Makes a $495 handheld look pretty cheap!

For more information about the new GreenSeeker handheld from Trimble contact Steve Cubbage or Justin Ogle at Prime Meridian to learn more or order yours today.

Looking for a Data Oasis in the Precision Desert

For much of the past decade agricultural producers have been left wandering in the precision desert.  The industry has sold them multiple mirages promising them oasis after oasis of economic prosperity if only they chose their precision path.  What have growers gotten in return? In many cases – a precision canteen full of sand and nowhere closer to the precision promised land.

It is time to put the producers in charge of their data and their precision destiny.  It is time for them to lead instead of being led.  To do that they must take back “ownership” and “manage” the information that will determine their future fate.  This will require an independent place, a home, an exchange, a robust platform where growers can store, share and add value to all the data that matters to their agricultural business.

Until recently (the last 3 to 5 years), most precision data fell into two categories or silos – fertility data usually captured and controlled by input suppliers and yield data from which farmers created maps from their own personal PC or more recently handed off to their seed dealer that gave them colorful paper maps in exchange for the valuable golden nuggets of raw data.

Today the industry is on the verge of monumental shift when it comes to precision data and precision services.  Growers, and frankly the people that serve growers on the local level, expect more than what the status quo is delivering.  Second, there is simply more data from all sorts of devices and sources.  Third, wireless and cloud technology has the potential to converge all this data for a greater good.  Fourth, growers are desperately seeking a new precision messiah – a trusted precision advisor, data traffic cop or precision accountant – that can direct the flow of data, ensure the integrity of the data and ultimately add maximum value to the information collected.  And finally, growers and the industry cannot afford to ignore the cumulative good or management potential that can occur when multiple years of multiple layers of data intersect.  Consider this to be the agronomic equivalent of the movie Moneyball.

Even with corn prices over $8 and soybeans over $17 – growers still need to realize that their most valuable crop is the precision data that is produced from their farm.  Make sureyou – the grower – puts your data in a safe BANK – and that YOU – not someone else has the key to YOUR Data Safe Deposit Box.  At Prime we believe we’ve created that Bank and its called AgriMAX.  For more details, click here.

Who is Your Precision Data Master?

CropLife Magazine’s annual “State of Precision Ag” article was revealing in one aspect – producers are tired of the status quo and they’re looking for more.

I was lucky enough and also honored to be featured as part of this yearly insight of where the industry is headed and where we need to go.  In many ways the reports highlighted in this piece are encouraging because industry professionals and growers are recognizing the most good is going to be found within the mountains of information being collected.  The discouraging part of the article is the realization that we still have a very long road ahead of us before any of us get this whole thing figured out.

The other tidbits that came out of the article show that producers are no longer just settling for “paper maps” of old school precision services like yield mapping and grid soil sampling.  Growers want it all put together and they want it now on their mobile devices.  They want access to premium services like crop imagery, aggregated data and variable-rate services.

More than anything growers want access to a data master or in layman’s terms – a precision service provider.  We think that definition defines Prime Meridian and what we do very well.

Who is your precision data master?  According to this article you’re going to need one, if you expect the “Force” to be with you in the future when it comes to the subject of precision agriculture.

Click here to read the full article, “2012 State Of Precision Ag: Data Masters.”