Find a platform that can grow with you.
If you are not using precision ag technology in your business, the time is now. If you are already compiling and using data collected from the field and want to advance to the next level, the time is also now. Having a strategy in place to grow your level of engagement with precision ag is the best way to maximize its use and avoid getting lost in the data. Scott Cogdill, Director of Agronomy Solutions at Proagrica, advises a step-by-step process, taking into account where you are now and where you want to go.
The easiest starting point is with general record keeping and scouting, Cogdill says. Find an in-field app that allows you to track information such as yield data, soil fertility and pest pressure. Then you can start to develop a history of that field that can be used in more advanced applications later.
“People tend to think they need to start off with a high-end solution and try to be everything to everyone,” Cogdill says. “That rarely works. Figure out the most obvious areas where you need help and try to find tools to match that.”
Finding the right app is important. Cogdill advises doing your research to make sure the app fits the requirements necessary for customers’ needs. Important factors to evaluate are:
- Is it compatible with the device(s) you will be using?
- Is the data available 24/7?
- How easy is it to share the data with partners such as agronomists, customers and employees?
- Is the data repeatable?
- Is it expandable – can it grow along with you as you grow into using precision ag?
- Is it able to connect with other platforms through Application Program Interface (API)?
Next Step: Using the Data to Help Customers
After finding the right app and becoming comfortable with using the data, Cogdill says a logical next step is to choose what service you want to start offering to grow your program. Soil fertility, yield analysis, and planting recommendations along with imagery are areas Cogdill recommends as good next-phase areas.
“Start diving deep into understanding what’s going on in your customers’ fields,” he says. “Help customers identify variability across the field and create a plan for managing that variability.”
It’s an important service to offer to customers, Cogdill says, because the ability to identify differences in soil productivity in various areas of the field, for example, can allow in-season adjustments to inputs that can help maximize ROI. Likewise, knowing areas of increased risk for weed, disease or pest pressure can guide scouting efforts, saving labor and decreasing response time.
Putting It All Together
Once you have in-depth knowledge of your customers’ fields and are routinely tracking information and creating recommendations for customers based on that data, the next step is connecting and sharing that data.
“If you chose an app that has the ability to connect with other platforms through API, you can now aggregate that data, standardize it and use it in a variety of ways within your company and outside of it,” Cogdill says. “For example, through the use of scouting data shared via apps, we can create visualizations about growth stages, weed breaks and pest pressure across geographical territories. It gives management and field-level staff a view of what’s happening on a larger scale so they know what to look for while they’re scouting, determining timing of inputs or ordering product.”
Proagrica’s Agility data insight platform aggregates and standardizes data from multiple platforms using APIs to create in-depth, and even custom, visualizations for retailers. It also has the unique ability to share those visualizations with other platforms and apps.
Cogdill knows stepping into ag tech can be intimidating.
“Don’t view it as a roadblock,” he says. “It’s just another series of tools that have become a part of production agriculture to help us make better agronomic decisions. You still make the decisions; the tools just give you
the information to make better ones.”