For 2016, the idea of data collection on the farm is becoming a more accepted task. Producers who have been using yield maps for more than a decade know there’s information out there they can pull together. The key is moving away from a stack of spreadsheets into a system that will help you make decisions.
The challenge comes from those very spreadsheets you’ve relied on all those years. The key is taking that information and moving it into a platform that allows you to make decisions on the fly.
The idea is called a dashboard. And for older readers the idea may seem more like something from your ’57 Chevy than a high-tech computer concept. But the idea, like a car dashboard, is to have all the information you need for your farm on screen at one time.
This is under development by a number of players in the market; the key is getting different systems to talk to each other. The opportunity is to have better information at your command at all times. Here are some steps for creating a useful dashboard as software catches up with the idea:
1. Develop systems that get information into your “system.”
This is a fundamental issue. The fertilizer delivery or the crop protection application and all its inherent information has to move smoothly into your system. Got an order for 5 tons of urea? You’ll want to know the delivery date, amount, cost and drop-off site. All of that should flow into your management system, so you can match applied information with that original delivery transaction.
The same goes for custom application. That information should flow into your system simply from the application equipment. If you use a third party, consider finding ways to maximize the relationship for best results.
2. Connect your information to trusted partners.
This phrase “trusted partners” is not something to toss around lightly. When you’re connecting with someone electronically, the person can see all of the information you share. Yet, you need those partners to make the creation of variable-rate prescriptions, for example, seamless. Having those conversations now with agronomists and crop protection specialists will help ensure you’re on the right path.
3. Don’t fear the information.
This will be tough. You need to be able to make decisions from that information. If you don’t trust it, that won’t happen. Building a financial dashboard takes time. But when done right, you should be able to trust what you learn. Farmers are constantly being told to “know their costs,” and these dashboard systems can make that happen.
How you go about setting up a data-based system for decision-making on your farm depends on the systems and partners you work with. However, starting with a few basic rules will help the process move more smoothly as technology catches up.