Episode 004: Farmer Focus - Harvest Edition
Farmer focus podcasts are designed to do exactly what the name implies - focus on the perspectives of farmers. In this episode, four farmers from three different farm operations share their perspectives on how digital agriculture currently plays a role in their harvest operations and how they are using yield data to improve their farming practices. These farmers also offer some suggestions for technologies that would help them operate more efficiently. Toward the end of the episode, each farmer speculates on how digital agriculture might affect their operations in the future. Learning from a diversity of farmer perspectives on digital agriculture usage is important for researchers, professionals, and farmers alike, and that's exactly what this episode delivers. One of the primary conclusions from this episode is that when it comes to digital technologies it is all about finding the technologies that work best for your operation. Right now, that means that these growers are identifying whatever software is available to help them - whether that software is specialized for agriculture or not - and piecing it together to create their desired solution. As we look toward the future of digital technologies in harvest, it's clear that these farmers already have a vision for how digital agriculture will help shape their future operations.
"It's [Climate Corporation's FieldView Program] kinda my little pocketbook that a lot of guys used to carry, and it's nice cause I can access it from anywhere in the world at anytime." - John Oehlerking
"I really think it's important to own your data, so I would recommend keeping control of it as much as possible whatever that entails for their farm. … Data is a new revenue stream for farmers." - Angela Knuth
"If we had an app, that was always updating people's positions, wait times for trucks, delivery information. . . A lot of what we're using is free, and just piecing that all together to make everything work." - Phil and John Christenson
Samantha's Twitter: @SamanthaTeten
Jackson's Twitter: @jstansell87
Opinions expressed by the hosts and guests on this podcast are solely their own, and do not reflect the views of Nebraska Extension or the University of Nebraska - Lincoln.
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[00:00:10.320]Welcome to the FarmBits podcast: a product of Nebraska Extension Digital Agriculture.
[00:00:15.040]I'm Jackson Stansell, and I'm Samantha Teten and we come to you each week to discuss the trends,
[00:00:20.400]the realities, and the value of digital agriculture. Through interviews and panels
[00:00:25.280]with experts, producers and innovators from all sectors of digital technology. We hope that you
[00:00:30.960]step away from each episode with new practical knowledge of digital agriculture technology.
[00:00:39.680]This episode of the FarmBits podcast is our first "Farmer Focus" episode and we are very excited
[00:00:45.360]about it. We plan to incorporate Farmer Focus episodes often over the course of this podcast
[00:00:50.640]both as a way to expose you to the contemporary technologies and to provide a broader perspective
[00:00:55.920]of how farmers view digital agriculture in Nebraska. As you know if you've listened
[00:01:00.560]to our previous two episodes, we are focusing on harvest right now. Today we are joined by
[00:01:05.360]farmers from three operations in Nebraska. Angela Knuth is a member of a fourth generation farming
[00:01:11.360]family that farms around Wahoo, Nebraska. She is the precision technology manager in the operation
[00:01:17.040]that she shares with her husband and two sons. Our second farmer John Oehlerking farms non-irrigated
[00:01:22.560]corn and soybeans near Elmwood, Nebraska where he also raises pumpkins as a seasonal business.
[00:01:29.040]Also joining us for this Farmer Focus episode are Phil and John Christenson
[00:01:33.120]who farmed together near Aurora, Nebraska following in their father's footsteps.
[00:01:38.160]As you will see in this episode while these farmers all share a lot in common
[00:01:42.560]they also have different perspectives and experiences that have shaped how they use
[00:01:47.440]digital agriculture in their operations. First we will discuss operational aspects of harvest,
[00:01:53.120]then we will delve into yield data management and utilization and conclude by discussing
[00:01:57.680]future technologies for harvest operations. Now let's get started with this Farmer Focus episode.
[00:02:09.600]We will begin this episode hearing from John Oehlerking discussing his biggest operational
[00:02:13.760]challenges during harvest while making efficient use of his time interviewing with Samantha while
[00:02:18.560]operating the grain cart. Biggest operational challenge during harvest probably labor and
[00:02:25.760]unfortunately I'm fortunate right now I have I have some people that can help me. My father
[00:02:32.400]87 still does some my father-in-law is retired semi-retired is helping and I have another
[00:02:38.000]neighbor that I farm for who helps out once in a while too but in a few years once they're
[00:02:44.320]once they're gone it'll be me and I'll be pretty dependent on my son who's 16 right now but I'd
[00:02:50.720]say labor labor is the operational challenge. Similarly the Christensen's also perceived
[00:02:57.040]their biggest challenge being logistics and labor management. yeah yeah I think a lot of it's the
[00:03:01.520]yeah just your operational and you know logistics you know challenges and um you know some of it's
[00:03:09.040]just labor and having enough you know people or you're kind of making do with what you you have
[00:03:14.800]for um you know help on any given day and uh um you know a lot of it I guess is you know like
[00:03:22.480]you're kind of alluding to is that the you know sending trucks to the elevator how long is that uh
[00:03:28.480]that trip going to take and you know we kind of utilize our you know smartphones there typically
[00:03:34.320]to kind of see where you know the guy with the truck is at and you know whether he's
[00:03:39.600]you know close to returning from the elevator or ways off or um you know that sort of thing
[00:03:45.920]if everyone collaboration what's happening as far as where trucks are where you know whether
[00:03:54.240]whether the grain carts are full that that helps everyone do a better job because they can
[00:04:02.480]always be thinking about what is the next step how do we keep the combine moving. For the Knuth
[00:04:08.160]farms operation, Angela sees logistics particularly related to time and efficiency to be their biggest
[00:04:13.920]challenge. Because harvest is so intense you know there's so much equipment involved,
[00:04:20.560]people involved logistics and their long days. So how do you fit in the rest of your life you know
[00:04:29.200]especially if you have animals you know how do you get those done how do you get enough rest.
[00:04:35.600]I'm out there with them the boys are out there do you have your meals ready you know all
[00:04:42.000]all those external things are the hardest to because something something doesn't get done
[00:04:48.880]people can be on edge it's it's just a lot going on. So yeah wait we've got covers
[00:04:57.680]to put in um soil sampling to get we do all that you know in-house so it's like yeah so I mean the
[00:05:05.600]goal is to never have the combine stop you know always going and in the timing of that is that
[00:05:13.040]is I mean that's a challenge but it's fun when it when it's humming yes yeah that you know get
[00:05:18.160]a load get to that truck I mean I can unload and just be gone and he never has to never has to stop.
[00:05:27.520]As farmers do with most challenges they face, these farmers have been resourceful with existing tools
[00:05:32.960]to develop methods for overcoming their harvest challenges. They're also thoughtful about potential
[00:05:38.640]technological improvements that would be helpful in solving their challenges. The
[00:05:43.701]Christensons shared that they have been piecing together free apps to help manage their harvest logistics. Right now
[00:05:48.960]we're kind of piecing together that information using Life 360, using the the co-ops app,
[00:05:58.240]using the cell phone and an awful lot, using the radios and the in the combine
[00:06:02.880]of the grain cart to to try and communicate with with each other. But if we had an app
[00:06:09.520]you know that was always updating people's positions, wait times for trucks
[00:06:17.760]yeah you can kind of get into the delivery information there with you know what yeah what
[00:06:21.680]was the what in the scale tickets say in terms of moisture and and using Life 360 to track the
[00:06:30.080]truck operator and determine whether he's in town at the elevator whether he's coming back.
[00:06:35.920]One of the pieces of information that's kind of missing from that is uh it would be nice
[00:06:43.040]to to know how long he's going to be at the at the elevator. It would sure help
[00:06:49.760]when we're we're making decisions as to whether we haul the town that day or if we're gonna uh
[00:06:56.960]haul the corn into our own on-farm storage on that particular day. A lot of the the the apps and the
[00:07:05.280]that we're using are our free apps you know we're using Life 360.
[00:07:09.760]We talked a little bit about using slack we use that just to keep notes of
[00:07:16.240]of calibrations. If we change calibration the combine we'll put that in slack that becomes
[00:07:21.920]handy because in the next year when we go back and say hey what was our calibration last year
[00:07:26.960]we can go back a year later and say okay this is what it was yeah that seems consistent with
[00:07:32.240]with what we're doing now we'll keep track of gps shifts in there if we have a field that's shifted
[00:07:39.040]from the on the guidance tracks one way or another. So yeah a lot of what we're using is free
[00:07:46.240]you know and just piecing that all together to make to make everything work. Similarly John would
[00:07:54.080]like to be able to have more remote monitoring, tracking and control technologies particularly
[00:07:59.120]for combine settings and grain transportation. One of the things I'd like to see that probably
[00:08:03.600]is available I'd like to be I know you can monitor the combine certain things with the
[00:08:07.600]combine from a remote location. I'd like to be able to make those adjustments from a remote location.
[00:08:14.320]There's a lot of times if I have somebody in the combine that's not familiar with it, they
[00:08:17.280]know how to run the basics but not setting it. Now the combines will set themselves they've
[00:08:22.160]adjusted that or they've done those things but I would like to see you know I could control it
[00:08:27.360]from the ipad and just kind of monitor some things there and make that adjustment from when I'm away
[00:08:33.040]and not have to try and explain it over the phone. Yeah. It would be nice to be able to
[00:08:37.600]track and they are doing a little bit now with uh they have an app with the co-op that will
[00:08:42.880]tell me when that truck gets there and when it's dumped and when it's back it tells me
[00:08:46.560]all the information so I can kind of track it that way. But it'd be nice going ahead knowing
[00:08:51.120]being able to see the line, and I'm sure with a request or two they could put up a camera a guy
[00:08:55.840]could log on and see it or you know or or if they had some way of tracking you know what your wait
[00:09:00.880]time is going to be ahead of time before you send the truck so if you want to send a different place.
[00:09:05.600]The Christensons believe the solution to this problem might come through crowdsourcing
[00:09:09.600]technologies similar to modern navigation software. Yeah we depend on yeah either kind of I guess
[00:09:17.760]information provided by the you know ethanol plants or the you know elevators themselves in
[00:09:22.000]terms of weight or you know kind of you know crowdsourced type of you know information there
[00:09:29.520]where you've got various operators in the area where you know sharing you know I arrived at the
[00:09:37.440]elevator at x time, and I left it at x time and being willing to kind of share that between you
[00:09:44.800]know between different farmers. And it's similar to what google maps does and with tracking
[00:09:51.040]that would be a potential future future uh application of that kind of technology is to
[00:09:57.200]estimate best yeah estimate wait times and that sort of thing and sure because we've kind of seen
[00:10:03.760]work in that area before but you know i don't think there's anything commercially available
[00:10:10.560]right now that does something like that. For Knuth Farms, intensive spreadsheets
[00:10:15.200]help them to manage load inventory marketing and transportation decisions during harvest. We have a
[00:10:20.880]pretty intense spreadsheet like I mentioned that that tracks I mean it's the date, time
[00:10:31.200]load on the on the cart. If it's wet moisture shrink already calculated
[00:10:41.840]and then what truck is on where it's going to and then we have a summary sheet for each
[00:10:47.360]field by truck, where it's and then um and then dry down, so we know by when we when we're done
[00:10:55.040]harvesting that field we know um exactly how much we have in each field. And then we have a summary a
[00:11:02.240]summary page for all the fields that shows where every bushel is and total bushels and shrink.
[00:11:10.560]Ao you're using that for your inventory management or using it for like marketing of your grain or
[00:11:15.040]helping you make those decisions? yeah yeah and now Kerry as you mentioned um earlier we don't
[00:11:20.720]have enough storage for all of our our grain so yeah he's got market ahead of time and and
[00:11:25.840]then that helps. That helps knowing what load needs to go where and and you know if the elevators are
[00:11:35.760]slow you know that slows us down it's like no we have to know what our bin situation is.
[00:11:41.360]In addition to their use of spreadsheets, they have started using more integrated telematic
[00:11:46.000]technologies to improve their efficiencies and manage labor, grain transportation
[00:11:51.360]and spatial harvest decisions. You know we've played a little bit played around a little bit
[00:11:57.200]with how you should harvest a field you know to make it more efficient because like if the
[00:12:06.240]elevator is really slow. That's one thing with uh Farm Mobile that helps us a lot, so Kerry's
[00:12:12.400]got that in his cab so he can see where the truck drivers are. and so if they're back further
[00:12:19.840]um in the line he knows that he has time to go do the the not so efficient parts of the field.
[00:12:25.120]So that when they come they're you know he's he's got a load but then he can get another load
[00:12:31.040]real fast for the the next guy that's coming so it's like being able to visually see where
[00:12:36.400]people are at because you you know we have mobile phones but for some reason all of a sudden they're
[00:12:41.600]not used when you're sitting in line. You have to tell and we have two ways but some that sometimes
[00:12:47.520]the truckers just don't. So how is Farm Mobile doing that? Do you like is there like a puck in
[00:12:52.960]each truck? Yep a puck in the truck. That's awesome and then a maps it for it yeah it's a real time uh
[00:13:00.560]tracking of where they're at that's awesome. So and then so you know if you use the satellite
[00:13:05.600]image review he can see how far they're back, you can't see the other trucks but you can see how far
[00:13:10.960]away from the weigh scale so you know that you've got time. Yeah that's awesome yeah
[00:13:18.400]and I mean yeah we see everything from how fast you know how fast we're traveling to I mean just
[00:13:25.280]everything so yeah. That's very helpful. We track everything we do machine wise
[00:13:33.520]also uh input wise and people-wise we've tracked that and have a cost for all of that
[00:13:41.360]and then uh what we do then is put that in so that we do that with Farm Mobile and we do
[00:13:48.000]that with Cropzilla. They share data for mobiles are telematics and that automatically dumps into
[00:13:55.520]Cropzilla's system which is basically it's given us a cost for each activity.
[00:14:03.040]I mean wow like that. How much of it is you have to hand put it in versus just uploading like
[00:14:09.280]layers like you're planting data or whatever? With with Farm Mobile and Cropzilla
[00:14:16.400]the that stuff is seamless but I mean we still go in to Cropzilla and make a field plan.
[00:14:23.280]Because the the combination of those two is only machine data whereas with Farm Mobile,
[00:14:31.600]I can go in and look at field and field data and look at we get our yield maps from that as well.
[00:14:39.520]And then with Cropzilla it's um yeah it's manual as far as putting in your field plan,
[00:14:46.240]putting in your mixes and so that yeah it gets a little tedious. But if you do you know if you
[00:14:51.760]do your diligence then we've got some really good data at the end of the year. Getting good
[00:14:55.520]data is critical to getting positive results from yield data driven management decisions.
[00:15:00.240]Getting a good yield monitor calibration is the first step toward ensuring good data, while this
[00:15:05.200]can be a challenge given the time crunch of harvest, farmers understand the importance of
[00:15:09.440]good calibration. For the Christensons, dialing in the calibration at the beginning of harvest and
[00:15:14.400]maintaining calibration throughout harvest is key. We're focused on it on the first couple of
[00:15:19.280]fields getting making sure everything's calibrated, but after the first couple of fields if we're in
[00:15:26.560]similar motions or if if we're in similar test weight for corn we'll stay with that calibration.
[00:15:32.320]But, we'll just be checking it every every so often and we've got a scale in the from the grain cart
[00:15:38.160]so we'll just call over and say hey I'm going to unload let me know what the weight was,
[00:15:45.440]and we'll just double check the calibration. John Oehlerking also values proper calibration
[00:15:50.240]and emphasizes the importance of calibration assurance using post harvest data. There is some
[00:15:55.440]logic that if the data is only on you know if it's off ten percent it's ten percent off the
[00:15:59.520]whole field but that's not good logic. It needs to be fairly exact, so I would like to
[00:16:07.360]to do that. On the back side just making sure tickets match with fields and and then entering
[00:16:14.880]those and doing the same thing correcting all that data making sure acres are right,
[00:16:18.400]boundary lines are right, you know the yield the bushels are correct the moistures are
[00:16:23.520]correct so that all matches up and checking that and making sure that yield data is there
[00:16:28.880]and clean. You know we ran into a situation earlier and this is again I jumped in the combine
[00:16:36.320]thought it switched everything for me it stayed with the corn head not the bean head
[00:16:39.760]so we have one field that's cutting it 20 foot wide instead of 35 foot wide so i have
[00:16:44.400]all these stripes through my field that will not be good data. As a farmer in southeastern
[00:16:48.240]Nebraska, John has to deal with steep slopes and terraces which can pose a challenge for
[00:16:52.480]harvest logistics and data quality. As far as yield data that is a problem I think
[00:16:59.200]especially combining beans corn not so much. But when we're running uh the head that we are
[00:17:05.760]and you come around the hill and you have it to where it's two header widths wide
[00:17:10.240]because the terraces are close together if you can take full header widths that's
[00:17:16.240]that's you know good data but when you come and you're only taking three or four rows where they
[00:17:20.960]don't quite or they're not spaced to exit equally uh I don't know if it's calculating proper data
[00:17:28.800]necessarily or accurate. So you you infer some of that a little bit if it's um 40 or 50 bushel on
[00:17:37.280]one side 40 50 or bushel on the other side and you have an anomaly in the middle that's less I kind
[00:17:42.320]of interpolate that myself and go and probably feathers across that's just a narrow band that
[00:17:46.960]we took and it just wasn't and that probably takes more calibrating of the of the heel monitor off
[00:17:52.960]off the beginning. But I still don't know if you can get it dialed down to that much when you're
[00:17:58.240]measuring 35 feet and only cutting five feet, if it can sense that that well. So that is
[00:18:05.440]a little bit of a challenge is getting 100% clean data in a terrace situation.
[00:18:12.320]Practicing good data storage is also key to effective data usage.
[00:18:16.480]Farmers have come up with a variety of practices that fit their operation including cloud and local
[00:18:21.840]storage methods. Phil and John Christenson prefer cloud storage methods. I started farming in 2008,
[00:18:28.960]and we started using yield mapping right away. That was the first thing that we
[00:18:33.520]that we used um and so we have the old data going back until 2008. But until there was
[00:18:43.440]cloud we were just saving that onto a hard drive. In fact I had a hard drive once that
[00:18:51.840]that failed and had to spend two thousand dollars to have it recovered by some place
[00:18:58.560]in California because all the yield data was on there. So now having it on the
[00:19:06.160]on the cloud and having it upload to the cloud automatically has really made things
[00:19:10.640]a lot easier. It's something you don't really think about too much anymore because
[00:19:15.760]if you finish a field or even while you're in the field harvesting,
[00:19:19.840]you can see that data uploading and be able to go in there right away and and start looking at it. So
[00:19:26.880]that's that's been that's been useful. Dealing with a lot of data can be a challenge but for
[00:19:31.360]Angela Knuth her priority is local storage where she can control transfer modification
[00:19:36.800]and access. I mean we got a lot of data and II just don't I mean we've got hard drives full
[00:19:44.560]and I've had a raids in the past and they've crashed. Or they got they were shut off and then
[00:19:53.280]it does you know they puts the data in multiple drives and then if it doesn't start up right.
[00:20:01.280]So it's tricky but it needs to be done. I usually store it on two different hard drives,
[00:20:08.240]and I have it in software packages. But I don't really store it remotely yet.
[00:20:18.880]So that's what we do but I got to get organized there's just I mean storage-wise I
[00:20:28.480]just don't know which which way to go yet. We're pretty organized we just need I mean we
[00:20:32.880]have a lot on google drive and and like that I'm not yeah not sure that's the right thing
[00:20:38.400]to do either but it's easy. Data compatibility is a major challenge particularly with machine data.
[00:20:45.680]It'd be nice if everything interfaced across the board.
[00:20:48.880]I would say if you could go from if it were color blind you know the ISO stuff is supposed to do it,
[00:20:54.560]but that's a nightmare I've worked with that it would be nice if those things were all somewhat
[00:21:01.040]compatible. It'd be nice if not everybody was so proprietary with everything it's like certain
[00:21:06.080]information gets locked into some place and then it costs an arm and a leg to get it back out.
[00:21:12.880]If those if those systems could talk or if there was a place for it to talk.
[00:21:16.560]John Oehlerking has overcome this challenge using climate corporation's Field View program. Though
[00:21:22.240]the one I like the best probably is the Field View.I have been on board with that since the beginning,
[00:21:29.760]Just the simplicity of it uh i like the I like the stuff you can do in the yield monitors but
[00:21:35.120]it takes more time it's it's removing the card getting it to the computer um I get
[00:21:41.360]lackadaisical with that. So by I wait until the end of the season and then find out half
[00:21:45.040]my data's missing because the card didn't write correctly with the Field View uh it may not be as
[00:21:51.120]sophisticated in some respects at this point, but if I see it on the screen I know it's logging to
[00:21:56.800]the ipad or to the cloud and I know I have it wherever I want to look at it in the future. So,
[00:22:02.320]that's been really helpful. Field View also provides multiple useful analysis to John Oehlerking in
[00:22:08.480]a user-friendly, easy, comprehensible format. One it's just to see the performance of the hybrid
[00:22:14.320]in the field I mean and what we've done to to try and improve yield goals. So
[00:22:20.560]we'll look at the field and see you know does our fertilizer program working? is it
[00:22:28.400]Where are our weak spots in the field? How can we improve that those things? You know
[00:22:31.760]one of the other read one of the other things that's really nice is like with the Field View,
[00:22:35.200]I can just hit the button and print my acreage and yield reports right to the crop insurance company.
[00:22:41.280]I don't have to spend a lot of time doing that it can go to FSA then as well
[00:22:47.120]So the yield data is basically just analytical at this point,
[00:22:51.200]seeing you know what we need to improve and how we how we did over the year. and
[00:22:57.040]I guess that's that's a lot of it with yield data. And you mentioned using it for prescription
[00:23:02.000]maps like are you doing a lot of variable rate seeding? All my corn is variable rate seeding,
[00:23:06.160]the soybeans this year I didn't do any variable rate. All the corn ones are done uh with populate
[00:23:13.360]with very well rate populations, and I do generate those off of the yield maps. Yield maps and
[00:23:20.880]satellite data. John has found Fieldview's prescription generation algorithms helpful
[00:23:25.680]for everything from nutrient applications to seeding. I've used it to create nitrogen scripts,
[00:23:31.040]I've created used it to create population scripts for planning. Tracking uh where i've sprayed
[00:23:38.880]different things test trials and and varieties and hybrids. Planting dates it's kind of my little
[00:23:45.760]pocketbook that a lot of guys used to carry, and it's nice because i can access it from anywhere
[00:23:51.440]in the world at any time. And anybody else can that I give permission to so that's kind of nice.
[00:23:56.480]And it also does some simple analysis of like different hybrids performing on different soil
[00:24:01.360]types and things like that right? Correct yeah there's a lot of information that
[00:24:05.280]aggregates it and separates it how you want and and uh there's probably a few features
[00:24:11.520]that can be enhanced. But for the most part, it really does a nice job and it's it's user
[00:24:16.080]friendly. That's the really nice thing about it is most anybody who can run around the ipad can
[00:24:22.960]figure out what they want to find you don't need a computer science degree to get it there and
[00:24:29.360]analyze the information. You can do their automatic script and just go off of that if you want to and
[00:24:35.120]then within that automatic script there's a low, a medium and a high or there's five settings in
[00:24:39.520]there. You can go within that region, if that still doesn't satisfy you you can break off from that
[00:24:44.640]and change those numbers manually. And do it that way. How they're coming up with it
[00:24:50.160]I don't know that I other than just a lot of aggregated data that they've got
[00:24:55.200]because they're able to see all that data from every grower over different you know field soil
[00:25:03.440]types they've got all that in the system it then starts to generate the populations and the
[00:25:08.720]yield goals from that. The Christensons have found value in having real-time data via the John Deere
[00:25:15.120]operations center. Well we yeah we use the my John Deere the operations app in the combine.
[00:25:22.880]So when we're when we're running it well a lot of times we'll have the variety map pulled
[00:25:30.160]up from planting, so we can see where in the field certain certain hybrids or varieties are planted.
[00:25:37.600]We'll also pull up the harvest data from from years previous so that we can if we're if we're
[00:25:44.720]in a particular area of the field and we're seeing lower yields or higher yields we can look back at
[00:25:50.400]previous year's field information and see whether it's a pattern or if it's just a
[00:25:56.320]one-time dip or spike in yield. They also use John Deere's apex program for generating variable rate
[00:26:03.760]prescriptions based on their yield data. When we're creating our prescriptions for seeding rate
[00:26:10.800]we usually use our yield data from the previous year or the previous several years. We usually are
[00:26:23.680]just creating usually just an irrigated rate and dry land rate but we what we found is that
[00:26:28.960]the it's it's not always just what's under the pivot. A lot of times in a field we might have
[00:26:35.360]a little bit of runoff from the pivot that actually irrigates
[00:26:38.640]the portion of the field that's downhill. So we'll include that in our irrigated area. So
[00:26:44.480]when we're creating prescription maps, we're basically just tracing around previous years
[00:26:50.640]to create those prescriptions. Angela Knuth is exploring Ag Solver as a program for helping to
[00:26:56.320]determine spatial roi in making farming practice decisions. So with the yield maps like in the past,
[00:27:03.200]we had used the yield maps to make variable rate nutrient applications. So we'd use we use
[00:27:08.800]those heavily but going forward uh trying to get to the point where- have you heard of ag solver?
[00:27:15.280]No. It's a software, okay, that will take your yield data plus all your cost of production,
[00:27:22.640]and then give you a cost a return on roi. whatever um on each acre- wow- For all your inputs?
[00:27:30.480]Yeah that's where we need to get to. I would like to use that to
[00:27:39.520]farm it a little some acres a little different. Comparing input application programs
[00:27:44.160]is particularly important in their operation. We look at uh each input and how much it costs
[00:27:50.640]in there. You know our product mixes yeah we've got each one in there and what that costs us.
[00:27:56.640]Because yeah Kerry's got different programs like um there's a one pass program versus a two.
[00:28:02.080]You know, what is the cost difference on that. Cropzilla has also proven to be a useful program
[00:28:07.760]for scenario modeling which is helping with financial decisions for the Knuth Farms operation.
[00:28:14.000]Well, like with Cropzilla itself um we can do a lot of scenario building. Like last winter the
[00:28:23.120]question was do we buy a bunning spreader, or do we just rent it? And we did the numbers and it's
[00:28:32.720]like you don't buy it you can rent it and it'll work better. So I guess our goals with the data
[00:28:40.160]is the return on investment, and then also well what I want to say
[00:28:49.840]the the the healthy soil movement and and the the critters in the soil. The biology and all that.
[00:28:59.920]It's like, what is the impact of the inputs that we're putting on there? How do we measure that?
[00:29:06.800]That's hard. The equipment- is the equipment um the right size
[00:29:14.720]and for the fields? We actually are over sized we know that. But efficiencies are are
[00:29:25.440]pretty good, but you know the return because of the cost of the the size of our tractor, the size
[00:29:31.680]of our combine. You know would just you can be really efficient but if the market isn't paying
[00:29:37.760]you for it, you know you have to take a hard look. And we're looking at things like that.
[00:29:44.400]The Christensons have even found ways of using multi-year yield data to spatially
[00:29:48.240]identify potential pest pressure and unexplained variability. We've seen in the past, we've I think
[00:29:53.680]we've kind of picked up on a few fields where what we think is a uniform area of the field.
[00:30:01.040]But for some reason we're seeing a dip in yield. We'll go back and look at that that yield data
[00:30:07.600]from the previous year and several years back. We'll be able to see that there's a trend.
[00:30:13.280]And in one case we I think we determined that we had nematodes in that area and we were seeing
[00:30:20.240]lower bean yields. We kind of noticed that there was this this area of the field that was pretty
[00:30:24.800]small to begin with and and well we didn't notice it yeah the first couple of years but then
[00:30:33.360]maybe in the third year we started to notice in that area was getting bigger and then we
[00:30:38.960]went and looked back at the previous yield data, and they said okay there's something going on
[00:30:44.480]here that that's not explained by by the you know the topology of the technology fertility or
[00:30:53.680]anything like that. New opportunities for ecosystem services and programs also require
[00:30:59.680]extensive data reporting including yield data. Last winter I spent getting ready getting information
[00:31:05.600]information ready for organic certification and nori which is a carbon network that you know they
[00:31:13.280]pay us for storing carbon. So and that was really intense because they wanted data from way back
[00:31:17.840]from 2000. They wanted all your field activities. So between which actually they coincide the organic
[00:31:24.000]and the carbon coincided really well together. But that took up all my time. While programs using
[00:31:29.520]a cloud-based storage method can automate the data compilation process, farmers like Angela
[00:31:34.480]may prefer an automated process that is compatible with their local storage preferences. How to pull
[00:31:40.240]it in together with not so much hands-on. I don't I don't know you know if we can make
[00:31:47.840]if we could work with software developers for um apis that would we could dump data
[00:31:54.080]in and then they would just pull it in i mean we have it a certain way. You guys talk to us about
[00:31:59.840]how how's our data how's it set up and then then make an api so that you can just upload it.
[00:32:07.440]And and do the magic then. We just we just don't have time to do all this. Especially now now that
[00:32:15.520]with these like these ecosystem services and organics there's so much more recording. There's
[00:32:23.600]a lot of recording and it's like we just don't have I mean when we go out to the field. We're
[00:32:29.120]we're working with um farm OS you've heard of them? We're working with them to
[00:32:36.800]for an app on the phone so that when we every time we go out there we have far mobile
[00:32:42.560]tracking us but the little things when you know what you know if there was a problem why why did
[00:32:49.520]it take you from one till seven to do something that shouldn't have took that long. So just
[00:32:57.040]that type of that type of recording is so important to help especially as you get older.
[00:33:03.040]Help you remember what went on. And it just makes you know decision making during the
[00:33:10.720]winter a lot easier when you have that data in front of you. Similarly data and software
[00:33:16.160]consolidation are immense issues for farmers trying to improve their data management systems.
[00:33:21.680]Having data stored locally is critical to some farmers, like Angela,a particularly as they are
[00:33:27.200]trying to determine which software works best for their operation. Kerry has his spreadsheets.
[00:33:33.840]I have my spreadsheets. And then we're getting information off of software, is you know we need
[00:33:40.240]to consolidate. I think that's probably a really common challenge, there's so many companies
[00:33:45.680]with so many different softwares you know so many different things that it's hard to you know.
[00:33:51.760]There's not one that works for all of it. And so. Bingo, we need something like a google that
[00:34:00.400]you can you know you can have all these different modules plugging in. Whichever one you want because
[00:34:06.880]because there's multiple software's doing the same thing. But one guy might like this
[00:34:11.440]one better than this one. So but you just can't interchange it takes forever to
[00:34:16.960]move data. I've lost not lost data but so there's been a couple companies that I've been
[00:34:24.000]with one for a long time and they got bought out. They didn't update and they charged more.
[00:34:31.280]I'm like I'm not doing this right but all my stuff is on their cloud so it comes you have it on cards.
[00:34:38.720]It either comes back to you and just static you know not connected. Right- in their
[00:34:46.880]form of the file where you can't use it. Or it doesn't come back to you at all.
[00:34:53.440]One of the things that I think all software should do, if they're really a friend of the farme,r is let
[00:34:59.280]them have it back on their pc again. It's your data. They should provide a
[00:35:06.400]pc version of it so that when they want to move, they can move in without that penalty. Because
[00:35:12.400]that's wrong. I don't know it just needs to be in-house but you also have to have a backup
[00:35:18.000]and then you have to we have to be able to use whatever software we want. For John Oehlerking,
[00:35:23.920]his biggest priorities for new technologies are usability and reliability, since support
[00:35:28.800]resources are sometimes limited during peak demand periods like harvest. That's probably a you asked
[00:35:34.320]about operational challenges before too. That was one of the reasons I went to Field View, because
[00:35:38.720]finding somebody to analyze the data or just to get it off and help me analyze it. Those people
[00:35:43.040]weren't around, that's something that's really changed in the last 10 to 15 years. But it's
[00:35:47.600]still really a neat, there's just not enough of those people around and especially at dealerships.
[00:35:52.400]It used to be that they needed guys to turn wrenches they need more guys with computers now
[00:35:56.480]and laptops to diagnose a lot of these problems and answer questions so that's probably
[00:36:02.960]one of the things is just becoming more user-friendly and more people available to
[00:36:08.080]to help with it. Another major gap in modern software systems is integration of traditional
[00:36:13.680]note-taking systems with digital storage methods. As Angela previously stated a service like google
[00:36:20.080]would be beneficial with multiple modules, including potentially searchable notes.
[00:36:25.760]What I'm finding, is the gap that we have with our software is that-
[00:36:31.120]so the machines don't tell you those you know- those notes that you would be writing down. And
[00:36:37.680]it's fine if you write it on notebook, a little notepad, but that doesn't match it.
[00:36:43.840]It doesn't upload to the computer. It's static. It's not dynamic.
[00:36:50.160]We need that that's why I'm work using farm OS, trying to keep catch those notes that are missed.
[00:36:57.280]You know, it's layers of information and that way when we go and look at the Cropzilla numbers,
[00:37:04.560]we can put real real live situation information. Farm OS is so important to get
[00:37:11.680]running because exactly if the puck is not working, we lose that data. So that's why we
[00:37:17.600]need a second, you know we need not a well second layer or we need to overlap
[00:37:24.320]on that so that we don't miss anything. So because, we've had that before where the puck went bad
[00:37:31.840]and so that wasn't collected and nobody kept any notes. When asked about the future of data
[00:37:38.960]collection, particularly the value of increasing data resolution, John Oeherling had this to say.
[00:37:44.880]You know what does the future hold? I think it does- I mean a lot of this information I'm collecting I
[00:37:49.280]don't think sometimes it's going to be applicable to me in some respects. It's more my son in the
[00:37:55.520]future generations. I think as technology increases we start going to row by row planting or or if
[00:38:02.480]you will robot planting where they're doing it individually. I think all that information becomes
[00:38:08.960]more pertinent. So I think you know right now somebody say well they say well that's not
[00:38:14.080]important at all to me. Well, it may not be to me but in 10 years or five years it may be really
[00:38:19.360]important to my son. Or who knows consumer the purchaser you know the end user, whoever
[00:38:26.640]may want that information. I guess that's that would be cool like to see some of that. You know,
[00:38:33.040]head or loss like if you can see that per row. I mean I don't know there's all sorts of things that
[00:38:38.000]are I'm sure are possible. And I just like I said- I'm not aware of right now. John also expanded upon
[00:38:44.960]the value of aggregated data in the future of data utilization. That's been the problem in the past as
[00:38:51.040]everybody does a test plot and puts it on their best ground. So is it really realistic data,
[00:38:57.120]it's more likely so when you get full field data- I mean the field we're in now is 270 acres. If
[00:39:03.760]they can pull that data in that's a pretty good representation of what this particular particular
[00:39:10.960]variety is doing in this type of weather here. You get like I said it may not be so much beneficial
[00:39:17.120]to me but my son or my grandson after they have another 30, 40 years of data collected.
[00:39:21.760]Might be really really key. The Christensons are beginning to explore
[00:39:26.160]Corteva's granular platform for understanding their operations performance. We you know uh
[00:39:32.560]been using granular here this this past year. But we really haven't explored what you know,
[00:39:40.480]how that's going to kind of integrate with um you know our harvest operations.
[00:39:45.200]I think we both kind of hoped that that would be a a useful tool
[00:39:52.000]in the cab. But I guess we just we haven't got there yet. Angela Knuth has explored
[00:39:56.720]both granular and Field View and provides another perspective based on their fit in her operation.
[00:40:03.200]We tried both of them because you gotta see what's out there. I'm concerned
[00:40:11.280]about what they what they're making on the back side of it. I'm also concerned with farmers
[00:40:18.960]I'm concerned with farmers farming that that those tasks out too much.
[00:40:27.760]It seems like you know, like you hear a lot with the the input dealers around here it's like let us
[00:40:34.960]do your yield maps and we'll tell you what you need to put on there. It's like
[00:40:38.480]yeah so what are we are we just surfs you know it's like let's uh let's do your own homework.
[00:40:45.200]And that's what I mean that's what would Ifear with the the companies that you know
[00:40:50.240]just sweep away your data and then they give you a report. And but it's like no I don't I don't want
[00:40:58.880]some big company coming and saying hey we'll take care of all your problems for you.
[00:41:04.080]Now we want help but we don't want you to be in control. Yeah I just worry about once because
[00:41:10.640]like I said it's happened twice where um your data if it comes back to you it's not usable.
[00:41:18.000]Again you know and and that's where it's like you need to be able to yeah you know move it from
[00:41:24.800]one piece of software to the other. And that's why Farm Mobile and Cropzilla are so nice.
[00:41:29.200]Because they're talking to each other, they have no problem with that. It makes them stronger.
[00:41:34.560]Similarly while Angela sees the value of the cloud, she prioritizes data redundancy
[00:41:39.280]through local storage. She is still looking for the right data storage offering for farmers.
[00:41:44.560]Moving to the cloud is a good it's good but I think it's taking
[00:41:51.040]it's like how do I say, I wish wish there was a independent just a storage that
[00:41:58.880]did farmers. I know they're out there like cdw and all them but and asus. So i wish there was a
[00:42:05.520]a place, and I've talked to a guy his same idea where farmers could store their data
[00:42:13.680]again. And then but it could be pieced out with with the blockchain and and and plus you could
[00:42:20.400]you know bring it into any software you want. But it's stored off site as well as what you have like
[00:42:26.720]on your pc you know if you have just one year or if you keep five years of data. I'd love to see
[00:42:32.640]that. Blockchain is a particularly interesting technology Angela mentioned, which has implications
[00:42:38.320]for protecting financial contracts and other important information like agricultural data.
[00:42:43.440]The potential for blockchain's impact in agriculture may be a future topic of this podcast,
[00:42:48.320]but for now you should understand blockchain as a ledger of mathematically linked records
[00:42:52.480]or transactions that is distributed digitally amongst all participants on the ledger. Any record
[00:42:58.720]added to the ledger is instantly observable by all parties and must remain unchanged as it is
[00:43:04.160]secured through the linkages. This is essentially like nesting glass safes inside of each other
[00:43:10.640]and needing to know the codes of every interior safe to open the exterior safe.
[00:43:16.000]That's not a perfect analogy but hopefully it helps to create a picture of the blockchain.
[00:43:20.720]With blockchain you know we should be using that to tag our data and then anytime
[00:43:30.480]someone wants to use it they have to buy it. Each time, you know put it out there they can have
[00:43:38.560]it but they got to pay for it. And they only get it every time they use it, if they use it
[00:43:44.480]in this market or and then they use it in this market they have to pay each time.
[00:43:48.800]Phil and John Christenson's biggest advice for other farmers looking to invest in new
[00:43:53.040]technologies, is to invest in and used cloud-based services. If they do have
[00:43:58.160]the capability with their their machinery to have the data uploaded to the cloud that is
[00:44:04.640]that is pretty handy. It is and especially then being able to use an app in the combine
[00:44:10.720]or or the grain cart operator wants to see what hybrid are we in now yeah that's uh putting those
[00:44:19.120]to you to use if if you have it already and maybe you're not using it. It's useful
[00:44:26.160]to use. When asked for his biggest piece of advice, John Oehlerking suggested these technologies that
[00:44:31.760]are relevant to harvest operations. You know, one of the first ones that was probably a big
[00:44:39.680]money saver and time saver for us and and yield increaser- was row shutoffs on the planter. That was
[00:44:45.680]that's a simple technology if a guy doesn't have that on his planter or drill, that's a must.
[00:44:52.480]The next one would be yield data or you know collecting yield data.
[00:44:55.600]If you're going to go to the if you want to know what your farm is doing and really want
[00:45:00.240]to improve, I think you need to have data to do. And you got you've got to be able to do that.
[00:45:04.480]So I think that's important, you've got to be able to get that and get it in a format that
[00:45:09.600]you can understand and work with. That was one of the problems, as I said before.
[00:45:15.120]You get it out you get some of your print then you're like what do I do with it.
[00:45:18.800]So that was you know I probably lost 10 years on that just trying to find that. Fieldview-
[00:45:24.160]There are some things that you can do with that program just with the touch of a finger that you
[00:45:28.240]can simulate out of a specific specific part of the field. It will tell you how many acres that
[00:45:34.320]is, what the yield was in that particular area. And that's stuff that took hours before my computer.
[00:45:41.680]But I do think that's one if a farmer is going to get started if you're going to look at one
[00:45:45.200]who have you not done a lot of technological stuff that something like that is easy to to use.
[00:45:52.240]And farmer friendly and can get you a baseline. Then as you want to progress
[00:45:56.160]as you understand it there's other programs that probably are more sophisticated. To Angela Knuth
[00:46:01.200]the most important thing is to own and understand the value of your farm data.
[00:46:06.480]I really think it's important to own your data. So I would recommend keeping control of it
[00:46:13.600]as much as possible whatever that entails for their farm. For us, I think it's better
[00:46:20.080]storage on farm and then finding a trusted neutral site. Well, like we talked about with
[00:46:26.240]a place where farmers could upload their data and then and then buyers could come and and they
[00:46:33.360]buy each time. That's to me what I would recommend farmers start moving towards because data is a new
[00:46:40.880]revenue stream for farmers. Thank you to all of these farmers. John and Phil Christenson, Angela Knuth
[00:46:47.200]and John Oehlerking for interviewing with us. Harvest is a busy time for everyone involved
[00:46:53.360]in agriculture, but especially for farmers. We appreciate them taking the time for this podcast.
[00:46:59.120]My favorite part of this episode was learning how each of these farmers has pieced together
[00:47:02.800]technologies that work for them to solve the challenges they face during harvest.
[00:47:07.920]Basically these farmers are doing what computer science folks might call bootstrapping digital
[00:47:12.080]agriculture, which is a topic we'd like to explore more on this podcast at some point in the near
[00:47:16.800]future. For me, my greatest takeaway was you need to find what works best for your operation.
[00:47:22.960]If data privacy and flexibility is your priority, it may take lots of spreadsheets
[00:47:27.840]careful data transport and diligent data input. But on the flip side, if there are a lot of .
[00:47:34.000]companies that make data input very easy to use but it may be difficult to make adjustments to
[00:47:40.160]this data later on. So it's just what works best for you. This farmer focus podcast was
[00:47:45.600]a great experience for us and we hope it was for you as well. If you want your perspective
[00:47:50.400]to be included on a farmer focus podcast, don't hesitate to reach out. We would love to talk to you.
[00:47:56.160]Thank you for taking the time to join us today on the FarmBits podcast. We would like to thank
[00:48:00.880]Nebraska Extension for their support of this podcast and their commitment to providing high
[00:48:05.360]quality informational material to members of the agricultural community in Nebraska and beyond. If
[00:48:10.720]you enjoyed this episode and it sounds like something you'd listen to each week, subscribe
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