Making Precision Agriculture Work at the Farm Level — An Interview with Wade Barnes of Farmers Edge

It was only ten years ago that Wade Barnes and Curtis MacKinnon, two agronomists in the Pilot Mound, Man. area, decided to start an agronomic consulting business for local farmers.

“Our focus was to deal with the handful of really good clients in our local community, about 25 thousand acres. Our thoughts were we’d get to play hockey, go hunting and fishing, and do all the things that rural kids want to do, but the business really expanded quickly and broadened our horizons throughout Western Canada,” explains Barnes in the above interview with RealAg’s Shaun Haney.

Farmers Edge logoA few years and many miles later, those horizons have expanded around the world, with Barnes and MacKinnon’s company — Farmers Edge Precision Consulting — flourishing beyond the Canadian Prairies to Eastern Europe, South America and Australia. This past week, although the company already had a significant presence in the U.S., it was announced Farmers Edge will be establishing American headquarters near Minneapolis.

In this context of rapid growth, Barnes describes what he sees as potential for his company and precision agriculture in general, whether it’s in Saskatchewan, Nebraska or Kazakhstan.

“Our goal is to put this program out where we log all this data and information and then figure out how that information can help the farmer with decisions or create value,” he explains. “I’m a huge believer in how big data can make big changes in agriculture. Our goal is to create the big data so we can do analytics and make those changes.”

By logging more information and developing tools to analyze it, Barnes says farmers will be equipped to make more informed decisions.

“We want to take the coffee room discussion and actually put science behind it, so when a farmer says this air-seeder with this opener works better, they can know for sure that it does. That’s where data will make an impact,” he says.

Barnes also discusses some of the obstacles facing precision agriculture, the company’s focus in the U.S. and what’s next for Farmers Edge.

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