Taking the fear out of data sharing

Cash cropper shares how precision ag benefits his farm business

By Kaitlynn Anderson
Staff Writer
Better Farming

Jason Robinson, a third-generation cash crop and vegetable farmer in Courtland, Ont., uses a range of precision ag technology in his family’s operation. Much of his equipment can collect data.

Robinson, who farms with his father, uses this data to make decisions throughout the year.

In the spring, he uses a real-time kinematic (RTK) positioning system to navigate when strip-tilling his land. Then, when planting, Robinson’s system tracks population counts throughout his fields.

Before spreading fertilizer, he examines soil test results and customizes application rates across his fields. Robinson also creates variable rate prescription plans for pesticide applications.

“The technology allows you to treat each section of the field as a separate entity,” he said.

As a next step, he reviews Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) stats to generate variable rate nitrogen maps. NDVI values indicate the density of plants in an area.

combining wheat
    Orientaly/iStock/Getty Images Plus photo

Finally, when combining his crops, he collects yield data. He uses this information to create maps to see any variations throughout his fields.

Farmers can use these precision ag tools to ensure their operations are profitable, Robinson said.

“You can’t afford to farm without this technology,” he said. “It’s almost a necessity nowadays.”

And producers don’t need to make huge shifts in their operations to accommodate this technology.

“I still have my agronomist sit with me at the table to help me through decisions,” Robinson said.

Farmers who are new to the precision ag scene can make relatively small changes to reap the rewards of this technology.

For example, producers can start by collecting yield data, Robinson said.

“That’s where we started,” he said, adding that this information can help farmers decrease their cost of production. “For example, if our crop isn’t going to yield higher than 100 bushels per acre in a certain area, then I won’t put 200-bushels-per-acre worth of product on that section of the field.”

When collecting this data, Robinson has no concerns about the security of his information.

“Truthfully, I don’t worry about it too much,” he said.

While Robinson generates most of his maps independently, he would like to use cloud-based services in the future.

He understands why some farmers may be reluctant to use these services, but believes these tools will be necessities for producers as the industry moves forward.

“It’s going to be (increasingly) important for people to adopt this technology,” he said. “You want every acre to pay for itself and these (tools) will help you do that.” BF

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