Reached on a sublime sun-drenched afternoon in early May amidst the once-a-year blitzkrieg also known as spring planting, at times one could barely discern grower Steve Pitstick’s gravelly voice over all the displays and gadgets in his Deere cab squawking in their native robot tongues (BLEEP! BLOOP! SQREEEEEK!) as Pitstick motored around his fields, discussing with me his second year of participation in the Climate Corp. FieldView Drive pilot program.
“The idea that we had originally was that everything that we do in the field – when we enter a field, when we apply fertilizer – everything that we do in that field has an effect on final yield in some way,” Pitstick shouted over the digital symphony in his cab. “Until the FieldView Drive came to be we never really had a chance to track every single thing that we do in the field with data.”
Pitstick, who farms corn and soybeans on 2,600 acres 50 miles north of the Chicagoland area in Maple Park, IL, picked up the FieldView Drive last season after representatives from the previous manufacturer, Chicago, IL-based-640 Labs (640Labs was acquired by Monsanto Company subsidiary Climate Corp. back in December 2014) engaged him on Twitter to join its pilot program. He currently has two of the drives installed across his fleet collecting data and hopes to soon have enough data to start basing in season agronomy decisions off.
Pitstick also farms as part of a collective family unit comprising 10,000 acres. He estimates his family is deploying a total of between seven and nine of the FieldView Drives this season.
“We’re looking at everything from machine performance and diagnostics, fuel consumption, positions in the field, etc., but I’ve got to be honest and say that we’re not really doing a whole lot with the data yet, but we hope to do a lot with it once we have enough accumulated,” he said. “I’ve found that typically with data we don’t know exactly what we’re looking for but then you get in there and start analyzing you have that ‘Ah ha’ moment where it all comes together.”
One of those ‘Ah-ha’ moments transpired during fall harvest when Pitstick used the FieldView Drive to track grain cart paths in correlation to the total weight of the carts as they completed their harvest duties.
“We used the data to produce heat maps that showed areas along the path of the cart where the cart had maybe too much weight and was causing compaction issues, or where the carts were too light,” he recalled. “We found that, in those areas of enormous compaction, we could perhaps do a little extra tillage, or maybe come in during the offseason with a compaction-relieving cover crop, and get more incremental yield out of those areas.”
Pitstick, who’s part of the FieldView Advisory Panel, characterizes his interactions with the teams both at 640Labs, as well as Climate Corp., thus far as “fantastic.”
“It’s been a real good two-way street,” he explained of the relationship. “I knew what I needed from the device as a farmer for it to be valuable to me, and they didn’t because they are electronics guys, and I knew I needed the data but didn’t really know how to get it, and that’s where they came in.”