Digital tools simplify management decisions as farms grow


Intellectual power required to optimize many on-farm decisions has moved beyond human capacity, which is quite the statement.

Even the smartest farmer can only “scale-up” their thinking to a certain extent when they’re handling large acres. At some point, that farmer will have to make so many complex and nuanced decisions that other tools will need to be implemented to complete the puzzle.

A lot of focus is put on particular technologies within the ag tech sector, but a recent paper co-authored by Wes Lefroy, agriculture analyst with Rabobank in Australia, explores how ag tech will impact farming systems and its related decision making systems.

“We’ve identified, when it comes to on-farm decisions, farmers are facing increased complexity at a global level from things around regulation, also climate change is another big challenge, but also the fact that farms are getting bigger,” says Lefroy.

Farm decisions typically are based heavily on intuition, says Lefroy, so as farms get bigger and as farms are put in positions where they previously haven’t been before, where experience may count for less, it becomes much harder to optimize decisions.

“For example, if I have a farm that’s 50 hectares, the amount of attention that I pay to 50 hectares is X. Then if I buy another farm of 50 hectares, all of a sudden I’m distributing the same amount of attention across twice the amount of land,” says Lefroy. It’s not that farmers can’t handle large acres or that they can’t multi-task, the issue is that the intellectual capacity can get spread too thin as farm sizes get bigger, and the amount of time decreases for optimizing their inputs.

You can access the report here: Digital Pathway to Power: The Trigger for a Deeper Relationship Between Farmers and the Supply Chain

Implementing ag tech in a central role in farm decision-making could be useful, not only for farmers, but also farm input companies and other supply chain businesses. Ag tech may create a stronger link between the supply chain components and relieve some of the burden on farmers to capture and document all variables impacting their acres.

However, before jumping to adopt the latest ag tech tool, farmers should be aware of the pitfalls of integrating it into their decision making processes.

The paper mentions two major barriers to implementing ag tech on a larger scale, the first is that technology doesn’t account for all the variables that impact a decision. A lot of the technologies used today only collect data from a small number of variables, Lefroy says, which requires farmers to heavily adjust the output from those datasets. The amount of effort to adjust those outputs is more than the effort to collect the data in the first place.

The second major issue is the process of collecting data, analyzing it, and then actually executing on it, says Lefroy. It’s all well and good to have the data in their pocket, but it’s an arduous process to go through it all. Furthermore, the technological skill levels of every farmer is different. To add to the issue, rural broadband speed can determine if the technology can even be implemented in the first place.

Related: Mind Your Farm Business: Data driven profit decisions

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