Directed Scouting: The Path to Efficiency and Profits

This post was written by guest contributor Shane Thomas, agtech industry expert and author of Upstream Insights.

The digital landscape can be a complex topic for farmers and their trusted advisors. There are so many different platforms, tools and systems in the market that it can be intimidating to select the right one.

The reality is that this is primarily in our own heads; selecting digital tools needs to follow the exact same logic that we select herbicides or seed or fungicides from! What problem, constraint or opportunity are we looking to address and which product has the best fit for our farm?

Just like when you have corn borer issues, you look for a variety that has corn borer resistance bred in. If you’re a farmer that is looking to more efficiently monitor your fields and schedule your scouting endeavors, you look for a system that can effectively monitor and direct you to the right field at the right time without losing yield or quality!

That leads us to Directed Scouting from Granular Insights, an effective tool that has continually proven to save time and provide tangible returns to farmers across North America.

What is Directed Scouting?

Directed Scouting helps you to prioritize your fields based on real-time, in-season occurrences that allow you to pinpoint issues in fields where your biggest challenges are arising. The software stems from two capabilities, both unique to Granular Insights:

  1. Access to Planet Labs 3m resolution, high-frequency imagery, a necessity to deliver the best quality imagery to obtain actionable insights such as priority scouting lists by field.
  2. Machine learning capabilities that have been trained to apply a lens or a filter across the imagery and all of the data points to be able to identify where the biggest problem areas are by field.

In-season is one of the busiest times of year for you as a farmer and being able to more effectively and efficiently manage your day can help you accomplish more. Let’s dive into how these capabilities help you do that! 

In-Season Change

In-Season Change will compare at least two clear images within the past two weeks to provide insights into how your fields are changing. It then ranks the fields for those with the most change to the least change by crop type. This can show the expected vegetation maturity impacts, severe weather impacts, fertility misses, disease and insect issues, and much more.

I have used this feature extensively and as an agronomist saved farmers hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. One example I have is of late impacting cutworms in-season where large acreages of the field were getting decimated by cutworms. Through the comparison filter and email alert prioritizing fields, I was able to get out to the field, do stand counts, and get the portion of the field re-seeded that needed to be re-seeded.

Knowing exactly which acres to prioritize saved time for both me as the agronomist and the farmer. It also saved the farmer financially from re-seeding the entire field and sticking with the portion that specifically needed it.

Field Variability

Field Variability looks for uniformity across your field. Like in-season change, each field gets a ranking, high to low, comparative by crop type. Some examples of things you may see with this include the difference in varieties if you’ve planted two or more in a single field, soil types, water, and fertility will impact this as well.  If it’s not known as to why the variability looks as it does, that would be a good indication that it may require your attention. This can be an effective tool if you are doing trials or taking on a new rented field you want to evaluate.  

Scout Priority

Scout Priority will take the two other rankings 50/50 and combine them into a single ranking to better help prioritize your scouting efforts by crop type. Adding these field rankings along with your knowledge about your fields will help prioritize the boots-on-the-ground effort, and ensure you are investing your time and money where it should be. You will receive a weekly email update of where your assigned crop types fall in ranking compared to each other.  

The Implementation

One of the biggest aspects to consider when looking at Directed Scouting is considering how to continuously engage with the tool.

Thinking critically about implementing it into your daily routine is one of the best practices to start with. Some ideas I have experienced working well in the past:

  • Ensure agronomist or trusted advisor has access to the emails and your Granular account (also make sure they know about the ability to take notes and photos so that you can document observations throughout the growing season)
  • Set expectations with specific staff to utilize the tool and what the process is after the tool has been used. (eg: input scouting report)
  • Incorporate into daily or weekly meetings with team
  • Use at the end of the season to review the year and determine planning for the following season.

Manage Risk with Digital

Nothing in farming is a fail-safe option. There will always be risk and challenges to navigate and manage. The aim is to reduce the risk and have a higher chance of a successful, profitable crop. Granular has tools that can mitigate this risk and help you stay ahead of unforeseen issues and take action. One of the best tools to enable this is Directed Scouting from Granular Insights. It has the potential to identify field scouting priority, create a time-saving list of fields to visit, and get you to the right spot in the field in order to make the right decision for your farm leading to saved time and higher profitability on your farm.

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