Critical Management Practices of the Digital-Forward Farm

Farmers are collecting reams of data, and the majority that use it report a positive yield impact from their data-informed decisions. According to a recent study on farm data usage by Purdue University, many farmers are using data to influence fertilizer application, seeding rate, and drainage decisions with positive results for their business. 

Here at Granular, we’ve seen that the farmers who leverage digital technology not only benefit from the insights of compiled data on yield, but drive profitability because of it. We believe their experiences can inspire you. As Steve Hettinger of Hettinger Farms acknowledged, “It’s not easy to use your data, but you have to make an effort. It’s coming like a train and we have to get on it.”

3 Fundamental Data-Management Practices of Profitable, Digital-Forward Farmers

1. They have a plan for data management across the entire operation that is clearly communicated to and executed by the team. They define:

  • How the data will be collected  
  • What data is most critical to capture
  • When is data collected (planting, harvest, inputs, etc.)
  • Who and how data will be verified for the accuracy of field boundaries, calibration, input names and activities performed  
  • How they are going to use the data

2. They spend time managing and analyzing data and use it to make decisions.

  • They follow good data-in practices 
  • They manipulate the data captured to measure and compare performance
  • They use data to identify what is and isn’t working
  • They tweak decisions and plans based on what they learned.

3. They share information.

  • With advisors to inform input purchases.
  • With lenders to secure better interest rates.
  • With landowners to negotiate better rents.
  • With market advisors to strengthen commodity marketing strategies.

Building a Data Management Plan

Our customers know that capturing the details of every pass across the field is critical. When it comes to collecting data, Linneman Farms in Missouri sums it up best, “With this information, I know with certainty that my decisions are made to maximize profit not just yield.” 

Like anything, it helps to have a plan to translate data into action.  By creating a data management plan, you can break it down into incremental jobs, starting with who collects it, what specific data you want and when you need to collect it. You also need to choose the best software and digital tools for your operation.

Also, collecting data in one system over time allows farm specific information to accumulate, enhancing the value of data analysis. Our most successful customers invest in capturing and using data today because of its compound value tomorrow, when variations in farming practices and conditions are represented in their analysis. Shawn Feikema of Circle F Farms emphasizes how historical data gives him confidence, “We’re making decisions worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. As I build historic data, those big decisions have backing.” 

Analyzing Data for Better Decisions

The payoff to collecting and managing your data is better decision making.  Our customers are interested in not only yield but, more specifically, cost of production and efficiency, and the productivity of a given field relative to others.

For example, Greg Baltz of Running Lake Farms used his data to target which fields weren’t making a profit. “I discovered that at least 250 acres of corn would be barely profitable this year. I swapped soybeans into those field plans and now I’m projecting an additional $30,000 in profit.” 

Sharing Data Insights with Your Entire Team

Your “team” extends well beyond those who work on your farm. It includes your lenders, your seed and fertilizer reps, your crop insurance agent, your marketing advisor  and so many others. Every relationship you have can benefit from the deeper insights your data provides — whether it’s deciding what crops to plant, whether another application of nitrogen will pay off, or deciding what percentage of your inventory to pre-sell.

For example, Chris Hudson of Hudson Farms used his data in Granular Business to track loads and inventory, and identified an elevator error that saved him almost $10,000. “Over the last three years, Granular allowed us to spot mistakes — we discovered the elevator had the wrong allocation of some loads, incorrect spills, and missing loads.”

Data and Analysis At the Heart of Successful Farming

We never know what next year will hold, but our farmers are a testament to the value of capturing, analyzing and using data for decisions. Data and analysis doesn’t just enable them to respond with confidence to the challenges ahead, but to seize on any opportunities presented.

We look forward to sharing more of their stories.

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