Firm finds way to make digital farming pay off

Farmers can help simplify their decision making process by bringing all farm information into one program

Decisive Farming is a business built at the intersection of product traceability and precision farming.

“This is really a way for a farmer to get ahead of the curve on having really good digital records on the farm, and being able to share them efficiently across that supply chain so that they’re able to capture value-added markets and potentially also get paid for some of their data as well,” said Remi Schmaltz, Decisive Farming’s chief executive officer.

He said the company was built to be the primary operating system for farms, organizing the three main areas around which a farm operates.

“How do you produce your crop most efficiently in terms of where and how much fertilizer, seed, chemical to use in the field? And then how do you manage the information and improve performance on the farms?” Schmaltz said.

“The third piece is how do we maximize revenue on the farm? So, how do we make the decisions in terms of selling the crop, using different tools such as futures and options strategies.”

Decisive Farming was launched in 2011 and now has more than four million acres with customers across the Prairies. It also moved into the United States last fall.

The company recently received a patent for its agriculture enterprise management system that underpins its My Farm Manager program, which is the user interface for production, management, and marketing information.

There are more than a dozen application program interfaces (API), which enables different technologies, including hardware sensors and software programs to connect to My Farm Manager.

There are also different user log-ins or permissions in the program, and growers can allow their agronomist, accountant, and marketing consultant to access only the information they need.

The industry often requires farmers to provide the same data in different formats and to different agencies and service providers.

“Not only is it a big time suck, it’s the redundancy of having to enter the same data into multiple systems. There is an opportunity to streamline that and create efficiency for the farmers and for the industry,” Schmaltz said.

He said My Farm Manager is a web-based data program that helps keep things simple. As well, a grower’s information is always readily available.

Last year, Decisive Farming launched a program that pays malt barley growers $4 an acre for their data.

My Farm Manager allow growers to keep track of everything happening in the field. For instance, the barley initiative captures soil characteristics, weather in the field, all product applications and harvest information.

It keeps track of “what was the quality of that malt that came off the field, plumpness, protein levels and being able to provide specific traits or characteristics back to either a maltster or a beer company that is looking for a specific characteristics to create a certain type of beer or certain product,” Schmaltz said.

Increasing consumer interest in how and where food was produced plays an increasingly important role in how food is marketed, and Schmaltz said farmers should position themselves to capitalize on new markets based on sustainability measures.

For instance, he said farms that follow the 4R nutrient stewardship and other best management practices will want to be able to demonstrate this because there may soon be money attached to this information.

Decisive Farming already works with buyers interested in these data sets.

“A good example is Quaker Oats. We have a number of growers that produce for Quaker, which is PepsiCo, and they leverage our platform in terms of providing that data to PepsiCo,” Schmaltz said.

“So with a click of a button they can easily export key information on their farm and then share their information that they want to with that company.”

He said Western Canada has an opportunity to be a leader in sustainable agriculture by producing low carbon crops, and Decisive Farming can help demonstrate sustainable practices.

Also, the agriculture industry should be proactive and demonstrate that best management practices are being followed because it doesn’t want governments to impose their own policies.

“The more that we can show that the industry is being proactive on how it’s managing things and why they’re taking certain actions on their farm, I think the better position we’re going to be in, especially from a global competitive standpoint,” Schmaltz said.

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