Turn digital agriculture into on-farm profitability

Innovation and technology advances continue being game changers to the agricultural industries. Boosting on-farm profitability through the clever use of digital agriculture is the way of the future.

The wide-reaching benefits of digital agriculture are being recognised across a growing number of farm businesses

As the wide-reaching benefits of digital agriculture are being recognised across a growing number of farm businesses, the New Zealand farm sector sits on the cusp of an era-defining change in the way food and fibre is produced, according to John Deere Australia and New Zealand precision agriculture manager Benji Blevin.

"Delivering simple-to-use packages of technology that help farmers to adopt AgTech in a time and resource-effective way would be crucial to industry further accessing the production and performance gains achievable through precision farming," he says.

"There’s no doubt digital agriculture has made the transition from what was a concept for the future to something that is being effectively used by producers to make management decisions that are yielding real economic and sustainability outcomes.

"We have created easy-to-use and relevant resources for farmers that enable them to either begin their digital ag journey or develop knowledge to extract even more value and performance from digital technology."

John Deere’s Digital Ecosystem, including the John Deere Operations Center, connects equipment, people, and information to enable near real-time data collection, with streaming every 30 seconds to the Cloud, while ensuring information is preserved for future decision making.

Importantly, John Deere has also addressed a key concern raised in the early days of digital agriculture – the security and control of data.

"Our customers trust their John Deere machinery is reliable and of high quality, and their data is no different," Benji says.

"John Deere has invested in robust data systems with cyber-security protocols, underpinned by data privacy policies about how we collect and use data in our user agreements.

"To us, it is critical customers control their own data and make the decisions about who can access it."

Benji Blevin

Inbuilt capability through telematics

Telematics technology was first introduced in John Deere machines with JDLink™ in 2011. Growers with equipment manufactured since then will most likely already have the tools they need to achieve positive shifts in efficiency and production.

As equipment operates in the paddock, the data collected is automatically streamed to the grower’s John Deere Operations Center account. This central portal can be accessed via computer, tablet, or smartphone, empowering users to take control anywhere, anytime.

The connection to equipment is two-way, allowing growers to send information, including boundaries, guidance lines, flags, and work to be completed to operators in the paddock, helping them to execute the work more efficiently and accurately.

Progress can be monitored remotely, with potential mistakes identified before they cause machinery downtime or costly repairs, while other layers of information on yield, re-fuelling, and delivery of seed or fertiliser can be integrated to help identify opportunities to grow efficiency, reduce costs or increase outputs.

How can I do more with digital ag on my property?

If you’re a farmer who is keen to harness the Digital Ecosystem, Benji offers a few key tips to help turn your on-farm data into a powerful decision-making tool.

1. Know what you want to achieve
Data collection can be overwhelming, so Benji urges farmers not to "collect data for data’s sake. Instead, ask yourself: What do I want to get out of collecting this information? What do I need to put in place to get those results?"

2. Get the set up right
Just as you wouldn’t take your machine into the field without it being set up correctly, it is worth investing time in properly setting up your Digital Ecosystem. "It is important to take the time to set up your digital assets, so you are collecting the right information for your needs," Benji said.

3. Automate your data collection
Once data collection has been robustly set up, this process can be automated so that information is consistently gathered and is ready for analysis.

4. Understand your data
Now that you know what you want to achieve and have the right digital set-up, which is automatically collected and synced to your account, the next step is understanding that data, using it to drive decisions and applying these on-farm to achieve efficiency and profitability gains.

"If you can identify that a field has 20% yield variability, you know that there’s money to be made there, and you can focus on it," Benji said.

"Another way to extract even more value is to bring in a specialised skill set​​, such as your agronomist, farm advisor, or financial advisor, and allow them to access and analyse information such as crop records to make strategic recommendations.

"This can further support growers in taking full advantage of the decision-making opportunities of digital agriculture."​

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