Building Trust in Technology

Farmers are under intense pressure to produce more with less – whether by input price hikes, drought, rising diesel costs or labor shortages. Agtech has the potential to help farmers better manage these challenges — but only if they use it.

According to a 2020 study, agtech faces two main obstacles to adoption. While connectivity may be the biggest barrier, convincing farmers of its value is a close second.

That’s where trust comes in. Turns out that the advisors most farmers rely on to help them decipher yield are the best individuals to convince them that data and technology can drive efficiencies and profitability on the farm.

To further explore what’s possible when the right agtech is supported by the right people, Tim Hammerich, host of the popular “Future of Agriculture” podcast, recently hosted Indiana grower Jake Smoker and his advisor Cassie Misch to discuss how they’re using technology together to improve yield and drive efficiencies on his farm.

Cassie Misch is an independent crop consultant and owner of Platinum Ag Services in Northwest Indiana, and Certified Services Agent for Granular Agronomy. Jake Smoker runs Smoker Farms in LaPorte County, Indiana, where he and his father grow corn and beans, and raise cattle.

Putting Technology to Work

Looking for a better way to manage nitrogen, Smoker Farms were early adopters of Encirca, which evolved into Granular Agronomy. Farmers who use Granular Agronomy partner with a dedicated Certified Services Agent (CSA) who uses Granular’s industry-leading technology to create custom variable-rate seeding and fertility prescriptions. Farmers can also add on custom nitrogen prescriptions and management based on Corteva’s proprietary crop model and patented Decision Zone technology.

Explains Misch, “There’s a lot we understand about nitrogen, at least on the surface level. But, there are so many variables that affect N availability and loss in the soil that it’s impossible to predict what you’ll need, let alone account for by zone or hybrid, based on weather, soil and so much more.”

That’s where the technology comes in.

Misch uses Granular’s software and crop models which take into account the hundreds of thousands of variables, plus data from Smoker’s own fields, to generate prescriptions down to the zone level.

And here’s where the advisor comes in.

Misch works closely with Smoker to understand his goals, factoring in multiple scenarios and his risk tolerance, to tailor the seed, fertility and N prescriptions to his exact needs – and adjusts those prescriptions as the season goes on.

“It’s agronomic science plus software plus service,” explained Misch. “That’s what farmers need. A lot of tech can help growers save time on the output side, but there’s a ton of work on the input side. That’s where the advisor can help.”

“That’s what farmers need. A lot of tech can help growers save time on the output side, but there’s a ton of work on the input side. That’s where the advisor can help.”

– Cassie misch, Granular agronomy CSA

Seeing Is Believing

“At first, I didn’t think the model made sense, but I trusted Cassie,” said Smoker. “There’d be zones where we used to blanket 160 units of anhydrous and she’s telling me to back it all the way down to 70 units. Sure enough, we’d pull the test strips, and she was right.

“Cassie is basically an extension of our operation. She’s constantly challenging us, researching, using technology to help us think differently and push our ideas further. With her services, we’re not only reducing inputs but increasing yield on our farm substantially.”

The Human Touch

Smoker, like his father and grandfather before him, has always been quick to adopt new technology, but acknowledged that the support of a trusted advisor is vital to successful adoption. “There’s a lot of technology designed to get farmers out of the field – from satellites in space to drones in the sky – but there’s no replacement for boots on the ground.”

To hear more on how Smoker Farms is relying on its trusted advisor and technology, listen to the entire podcast here.

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