You don't know what you don't know: the importance of tracking farm data

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As autonomy and emerging technologies take centre stage in agriculture equipment, MNP is shining the spotlight on the importance of the basis of ag-tech: data collection and tracking.

Andrew Van Os, field optimization program lead with MNP, was a keynote speaker at Ag in Motion 2022 and says comparing data year-over-year, such as soil samples and other environmental factors along with other variables, can make an impact on making annual adjustments to maximize profitability.

Outside of soil and weather, many, if not all, of the data that MNP is tracking with their clients is all fairly standard considerations that farmers go through each year, including fertilizer use, seed placement, including depth and row spacing, along with other decisions made on the farm that could impact yield.

He says most farmers have this information somewhere, whether it’s in a notebook, a computer or simply stored on the hard drive in their grey matter. The real value, however, is recording this data in a way that is trackable and comparable — it’s the comparison that allows farmers to see what may have caused a positive or negative effect on the crop or farm business.

“That’s where we come in,” Van Os says. “We said, look, we’re going to work with running the numbers and statistical analysis, so we actually have the data scientists to look at and come up with an optimized set of variables,” he says.

Tracking individual streams of data can also be an important factor when a farmer is running machinery that doesn’t necessarily communicate with other units. To compare specific information from each step in the operation can show where possible adjustments can be made for the following year. Van Os shares the farmers who are willing to try and track new processes, products and procedures stand to see the biggest changes on farm, this with the assumption that big changes are needed and wanted.

For those who have been relying on the memory bank or some other kind of incomparable data entry, Van Os says for farmers who want to start comparing data, to not get bogged down in the details and to simply start putting it all in one area, whether it be a spreadsheet or a box of papers that they hand over to a professional to compile and compare.

“I would just say, start measuring; don’t worry about having every single bell and whistle. There’s a lot of information and data that you can get online, whether it be for weather or other information, again, just get started. The key is that you’re measuring across everything,” shares Van Os.

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