Harvesting data in April

All modern farm guidance and controller gear collects data, if you want it to. Just what you do with those shovelfuls of raw information is the question that dozens of companies are offering to answer.

Most pitch the idea that the process will be better, or more profitable, for the farmer.

Some offer to sort it. Most take that a step further and analyze it based on agronomic needs. Many will bundle it with recommendations on what actions farmers should take and build the guidance and application control maps.

Several offer to provide inputs for those activities.

The biggest systems will tie in machinery location and operating conditions (telematics), farm operations, staff communication, inventory control and marketing suggestions.

A few might even put it all together with crop marketing and tie the whole process up with a financing opportunity bow. And one is now partnered with an insurance company (see page 61).

Our own Glacier FarmMedia polling shows that many producers aren’t willing to put their data to work at this point and will need more incentives to make it happen on their farms.

Many producers might not see the need to invoke variable rate seeding and fertilizer technologies, as the payoffs aren’t well documented on the arid western Canadian Prairies or the United States northern Great Plains.

The real incentives in this region will likely not come from bigger crops or less fertilizer, but from the value of the data itself.

Farmers can show their bankers how they are reducing risk by tracking their activities and should be eligible for better interest rates or higher operating lines of credit.

Producers should be able show governments and commodity buyers that they are acting sustainably and deserve premium prices and lower taxes, until everybody does it.

As we see this week, insurance companies might offer a break to a lower-risk producer, or higher coverage at the same prices, knowing the operation was likely mitigating its exposure to loss though the evidence provided by accumulated data.

At some point, even land sales and rental pricing might be affected through data packages that show the potential of a parcel of land or its fertilization history. This is happening in the U.S. Midwest now.

But none of that can take place until the data has been collected. April seems like a good time to start harvesting.

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