Tag Archives: Precision Ag 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.

Monsanto Rocks Precision World With Purchase

The precision headline of the week, month and maybe the year was made on Wednesday, May 23rd when Monsanto announced it was acquiring the precision hardware company Precision Planting.

Consolidation is not new in any industry but this one is different and has far reaching implications.  For a biotech company like Monsanto to invest in a precision hardware company means that the rules have now changed.  The extent, scope and nature of those implications are yet to be played out.  The one sure thing, however, is that the precision landscape is forever changed because of it.

Recently, one of the vice-presidents of one of the major precision agriculture hardware firms asked me who I thought the future players and primary competitors would be in the world of Precision Ag 2.0.  I could have given my standard response of John Deere, CNH, Raven, Ag Leader, etc.  But times have changed.  Instead my answer was simply Monsanto and possibly Pioneer.

Why?  Agronomy is the new foundation…the next frontier for precision agriculture.  The seed will drive future technology… including precision agriculture hardware.   If Monsanto is committed to doubling yields by 2030 it realizes that bio-tech alone will not get them there.  Execution in the real world is what Precision Planting does better than anybody else when it comes to putting high-priced genetics into the ground.

Monsanto did not buy Precision Planting because it is a profitable hardware company and because it likes how their technology plants picket fence rows of corn.  Monsanto bought Precision Planting because no one provides more data from the field on the planting process than Precision Planting’s array of planter sensors and instant feedback technology such as their iPad driven FieldView app.  Monsanto wants to build the holy grail of an agronomic database.  Precision Planting will help them on the way to such a quest.

Is this a good move for Monsanto and Precision Planting? What are your thoughts?  Click here to read a great blog post by Paul Schrimpf of the Precision Ag Network on this particular subject that addresses some of the same initial questions I had when I first heard the news.

Precision Agriculture needs a “Jitterbug” and an “Easy Button”

The other day the daughter of one of our customers said something that made so much sense that it bears repeating.

“Wouldn’t it be great if there was actually a Jitterbug monitor for precision ag,” she said. “This stuff needs to be simpler so people like my granddad can use it.”

Photo via Toptechreviews.net.

For those who don’t know what a “Jitterbug” is – it is a cell phone made specifically for those who are “technologically adverse” or simply were a generation ahead of the “personal computer revolution.” In other words – a simple cell phone – with an emphasis on being a phone and double emphasis on being simple. No smart phone apps or complex data plans – simply a nice phone with big buttons, large display and robust volume. You know – the important things you might want in phone!

These comments reveal a persistent problem that plagues precision agriculture. It’s still too complicated! The hardware is too hard to run! And sometimes you truly may need to be a rocket scientist in order to operate this stuff.

For a segment of the agricultural industry that is nearly two decades old – precision agriculture should be simpler and offer a better user experience than it currently does. When the most complex task most operators of the hardware can achieve is simply pushing a button marked “A” and another button marked “B” so that you can drive straight – that is not what I would call fulfilling the promises of precision ag.

A $25,000 autosteer system should be able to do more than just drive a straight line. It should be a management tool that is like your own personal assistant that you take to the field with you recording exactly what you’re doing agronomically on your farm. It should be easier than it is to record the varieties you plant, the number of seeds you plant, the herbicides you spray and the number of bushels you harvest.

But those tasks are still hard to do because iron and hardware companies remain clueless or too hardheaded on how to easily collect the most basic, yet most important agronomic details regarding crop production. In order to outdo each other these precision ag companies continue to awe us with their latest bells and whistles. Meanwhile, the basics and the agronomic promises of precision ag have been left behind in the dust.

So it my contention that whoever comes up with the “Jitterbug” or the “Easy Button” of precision hardware will win the game. Technology can only truly fulfill its promise when it becomes transparent. Because it is not the hardware that should be the focus of precision agriculture it is the agronomy. And if we’re too confused about which button to press we’ll never get there.

That’s why Prime Meridian has worked very hard putting together BASIC multi-year precision plans called “Prime Packages” that focus solely on getting good data to and from the field. It would be a lot easier if the hardware companies would jump on the precision agronomic bandwagon but until then we’ll keep fighting the good fight and continue delivering SIMPLE to our customers.

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.