Tag Archives: Precision Agriculture Data

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.

Whose Data? Growers Are Asking the Wrong Question

As Big Data has become a “big deal” in precision agriculture there are still some big questions to be answered.

The number one question that keeps making headlines in the ag press and even in mainstream publications like the Wall Street Journal is – “Who owns the data?”  Those in the industry who deal with growers on a day-to-day basis have their talking points down to a tee.  “It’s the grower’s data” is the politically correct, knee-jerk response from those who want continued access to your data. The reality of this situation is that even if growers truly “own” their data the question may be a mute point.  Why?  Because how can you truly own something if you don’t even know where it is?  And even if you do know where your precision data is – do you really know how to retrieve it?

datastoragepadlockA deer in the headlights look is the expression I typically get from growers when I ask them these questions directly.  At first their response is that they know exactly where their farm’s fertility data is – it’s down at the coop.   Planting and harvest data?  Well that’s easy – its on my seed dealer’s computer and I’ve got these cool paper maps to prove it!

The bottom line is that most growers do not have in their possession the original data necessary in order to build a successful long-term precision program.  The unfortunate reality is volumes of original data has either been lost in the shuffle of compact flash cards, hard drives that have given up the ghost or USB sticks that get a joyride in the family washing machine.  Then if this data does survive such aforementioned perils many times it is given away in exchange for those colorful paper maps or even worse just a bill in the mail.

Today, it may be necessary to process raw precision data multiple times for key people who serve your farm ranging from your fertilizer dealer to your seed dealer to your crop insurance agent and maybe even your banker – and the list goes on.  Growers must realize that the processing of data is no longer a one and done proposition.

It is important that growers start asking the RIGHT questions, DEMANDING answers and EXPECTING results.  If you do not have direct and easy access to the original precision data from the activities that take place in your fields then frankly you don’t have much.  Before you give away the electronic history of your farm – you need to put it in your own precision safe deposit box. Plus, if you’ve paid for precision services like soil sampling, variable-rate application and even scouting then you need to make sure you get an original “electronic” copy of this data.

So what does this precision “safe deposit box” look like?  The answer is in the clouds – well your “personal” cloud to be more specific.  Putting the grower back in control of his data is why we at Prime Meridian are rolling out this summer an independent, grower-controlled cloud-based service called MyAgCentral.  Its a central data repository and personal “precision safe deposit box” that allows grower’s to store and safely share their “original” with the members of their precision ag team.

If possession is truly 9/10ths of the law then truly independent “cloud” services like MyAgCentral are one of the few ways to realistically put growers back in the driver’s seat when it comes to controlling “their” data.  Do you know where your data is?  That’s the question you should be asking.

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.

“Paint-by-Numbers” Agronomy: A Black Eye for Precision?

A disturbing trend is emerging within precision agriculture creating a literal agronomic minefield. And growers are walking right dangerously into the bloodshed because the shiny new precision technology has blinded them from reality.

New Pitfalls

As the pendulum of precision technology has swung from the fascination of automated steering to more agronomic based hardware applications it presents some potential new pitfalls.

Sales of new planters have skyrocketed in recent years and most are decked out with individual row clutches, singulation seed monitoring, automated down-pressure and variable-rate seeding capability. What’s cooler than being able to variable-rate your seed population when going through a field? Sure, you’ve got to use it. Sort of like having a T-top Trans-Am and still obeying the speed limit. Hey, even I can’t drive 55.

In attending many of the Precision Planting grower meetings in our region one question is always asked of the group – “How many of you have variable-rate capability on your planter?” Typically, over 50 percent and sometimes upwards of 70 percent of the farmers in the group have planters capable of variable-rate.

Then comes the follow-up question – “How many of you ACTUALLY utilize variable-rate prescription seeding?” Crickets. Usually, less than two or three hands in a crowd of 60 farmers goes up.

Why so few? The answer is simple – many farmers have not done their agronomic precision homework over the past several years. Multiple years yield monitor data – the foundation for sound variable-rate agronomics – either doesn’t exist, is incomplete or frankly is so flawed you’d be better off saying the dog ate your homework!

Too Many Shortcuts

But instead of buckling down and collecting vital historical precision production data, many growers are looking for a shortcut to “agronomic” precision. Unfortunately, some precision hardware companies, so-called precision consultants and proclaimed agronomists are selling “precision agronomy in a can” or what I like to call “black box agronomy.” In other words, they are offering a “shortcut” to the precision “promise land” and growers are buying it.

Some may offer growers the ability to “variable-rate by soil-type” right from their monitor screen. In essence, it’s the precision equivalent of the old pre-school exercise “paint-by-numbers”. No one knows what numbers to put in but you sure have a pretty map when you’re done planting. Meanwhile, some consultants may “create zones” from something like a Veris machine, which reads the electro-conductivity of the soil (EC). From the readings some consultants are creating “zones” and that is the sole data they hang their hat on when it comes to variable-rate.

All these one-and-done methods are extremely shortsighted and each is like handing a grower an agronomic grenade with the pin pulled. Someone is going to get hurt because they don’t know what they’re doing or they’re in a hurry and don’t understand the agronomic and management consequences.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to making agronomic decisions with modern precision tools is that there is no substitute for due diligence. Do your homework! Let your own data – layers and layers of it – tell you the story over time. Good precision takes time. Just think of it as if the Bible ended with the Book of Genesis. As we know, there was a lot more that came after that!

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.

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.

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.