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Thursday, 23 March 2017 13:27

Gold in data

Mining the data stemming from wide-ranging new agricultural technologies to boost on-farm efficiency, increase product value, segregate markets, meet regulatory requirements and protect resources can appear overwhelming to many growers.


But in the central wheatbelt of Western Australia, grain producer Brad Jones is rapidly moving towards full data-enabled production on the 11,000 hectare Tammin property that he runs with wife Kate.
He said using data sets for precision agriculture from tools such as global positioning systems (GPS), auto-steer, WeedSeeker®, GPS flow control, spatial mapping, soil test mapping and predictive yield models could greatly improve crop production processes and efficiencies.
“There are also strategic business uses for farm data sets that are important at a regulatory level to show how operations are run sustainably and successfully to help reduce risk and protect and develop capital,” he said.
Adoption of latest technologies and the data these provide is helping to lower variable costs in an environment of tight business margins through better management of fertiliser, herbicide and other inputs and minimising risk exposure, according to Mr Jones.
“We collect vast amounts of farm data to help in our decision-making and closely monitor how each of our paddocks are performing,” he said.
“We have individual paddock rotation plans mapped-out for three years in advance, so the data helps us make decisions for products with a decent horizon out in front.”
Mr Jones said as consumers sought more information about food production, it was also increasingly important to have verifiable answers to their questions and proof of the use of good on-farm practices.
He uses the Agworld app platform to capture and manage all data for crop planning, protection, nutrition and management.
His five full-time farm staff have the Agworld app on their iPhones or iPads to record key production information and advice in the paddock in real-time for immediate sharing.
“It is a reference point for all of us, where we all know the plan, can check what we are doing and have confidence we are capturing and acting on robust data,” Mr Jones said
“We track all our agronomic activity on Agworld, which has benefits in managing residual herbicide issues, use of herbicide and fungicide modes-of-action, potential disease build-up and liming programs.”
Mr Jones said the Agworld system for data collection was also proving valuable as a record of provenance - by retaining information about on-farm production methods and systems.
An example was when he was audited for International Sustainability and Carbon Certification Scheme (ISCC) certification of canola sales into Europe. The ISCC certification requires verification that farming practices are sustainable, adhere to regulations covering state and federal laws and comply with export standards.
“We had all our chemical and other canola crop records at our fingertips on the Agworld app, including that we had used registered herbicides at acceptable rates, which made the audit quick and easy and we passed it with no problems,” he said.
Mr Jones said the Agworld app was saving him time, improving his knowledge and use of data and providing better capture of historical farm information.
“The old saying that you can’t manage what you can’t measure rings true here,” he said.
“Our margins have to be increased incrementally and that requires good analysis.”
Mr Jones said, in future, the farm’s data strategy was likely to include more stakeholders along the chain and potentially be accessed more by financiers and insurers.
“It will generate value when used by these providers through lower costs and less regulation,” he said.
Agworld Australia general manager Simon Foley said as new technologies change the face of agriculture, it is important for farmers to consider a farm data strategy that results in collection of useable, relevant production information to help manage business risks.
“Markets, regulators and financiers are increasingly seeking easier access to vital farm enterprise information that is collected electronically from machinery, or through integrations between data systems,” he said.
Mr Foley said the Agworld app was ideally suited to production data collection and was designed to be intuitive and user-friendly.
He said it was being used by about 17,000 farmers and 700 agronomists across Australia and the company had a wide network of locally-based support staff to provide complimentary support and training to users.
Agworld is available via web browser or through its iPad and iPhone apps from the Apple App Store.
For more information visit www.agworld.com.au

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