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Exclusive: Monsanto's New Integrated Farming System

August 27, 2012
p28 Following the Script 1
Illinois farmer Jay Norton used FieldScripts on a 400-acre field with three distinct management zones to test the program’s recommendations.  

A first look at Monsanto’s Integrated Farming Systems and its initial commercial offering, FieldScripts

By Ben Potter and Charlene Finck

When you visit your family physician, he leans on years of training and taps into a vast network of established knowledge. But before he can write an accurate prescription, he has to diagnose your symptoms.

That analogy captures the spirit of FieldScripts, Monsanto Company’s first product to come from its Integrated Farming Systems (IFS) platform, and its first foray into what the company calls "seed by environment" farming.

"The space that we feel we can really add value to for farmers is on seed science," says John Raines, IFS business lead for Monsanto. "We’ve developed proprietary algorithms to help farmers take information into the cab of their tractor."

The backbone of FieldScripts is an enormous cache of field trial data that Monsanto has collected, analyzed and sorted during the past decade. It paints an amazingly detailed picture that nonetheless falls a few pixels short unless one more critical puzzle piece comes into play.

"The other piece is some specific knowledge about each field from the farmer," Raines says. "This is a true business partnership. It’s about working with farmers who really want to help drive their yields and reduce risks."

In 2013, FieldScripts will double its testing efforts through Monsanto’s Ground Breakers research program with DeKalb corn hybrids. It will be commercially available in 2014.

p28 Following the Script 2
Farmers using FieldScripts in the field see a view similar to this on an iPad in their tractor cab. Called FieldView, it shows producers the execution of the prescription written for specific areas of the field.

"With IFS, we’re combining our knowledge of the genetics of the seed with all of the computer technology, the geo-spatial and field analytics to create an opportunity for growers to be more precise and optimize yields every few feet in the field," says Robb Fraley, executive vice president and chief technology officer for Monsanto.

FieldScriptsFarmers will continue to buy their DeKalb seed as they normally would, and then work with their dealer if they want to use the optional FieldScripts service. They pay a per-acre fee, but prices have not yet been set.

Raines says initial users of FieldScripts will be somewhat self-selected: the farmers likely to use the product are the ones already dabbling in VRT and likely have the equipment needed to get started (a Precision Planting 20/20 SeedSense setup, for example).

At this point, FieldScripts is only compatible with equipment produced by Precision Planting, the company purchased by Monsanto this summer. In the future, IFS will be compatible with equipment from most major equipment companies.

To ensure its seed dealers are prepared, Monsanto is offering certified training for select dealers in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana in time for the limited launch. Certified dealers will need a dedicated agronomist on staff and the DeKalb dealer will be the point person for much of the day-to-day interaction and troubleshooting. As Raines puts it, "The certified dealer agronomist is the doctor."

Future rollouts will widen geography and scope. More Monsanto corn brands and crops will be added. Down the road, IFS will also have applications that cover variable management of fertility, crop protection and water.

Farmer experience. Kip Tom of Leesburg, Ind., was the first farmer to test IFS. Tom Farms tested the system on 120 acres the first year and jumped to 8,000 acres the next year, after seeing the powerful impact it had on yield.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - September 2012
RELATED TOPICS: Technology, Precision, GPS, Production

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