Farmers Gain Up To $100 Per Acre With Data Technology

12:00PM Sep 18, 2018
Cropped Dowson Farms
Tim Eike, left, and Steve Moffit, right, use technology to guide farm decisions.
( Sonja Begemann )

Sitting at home, at a ballgame or hauling grain, Steve Moffitt keeps a watchful eye on harvest. App technology allows him to “see” each combine at work, the information flowing into the cab and who’s driving, from any location. With several employees and moving pieces, knowledge like this helps him manage logistics for an efficient harvest.

From the ground up, Moffitt uses app and data technology to guide and track decisions from planting to marketing their crop. Along with his brothers-in-law, Scott Mundhenke and Tim Eike, they primarily use four technology tools to make decisions: Climate FieldView, My John Deere, ADM Investor Services and AgYield app.

Before grasping onto the power of technology, their harvest and planting data sat unused and collecting dust on countless USB drives. Now, two of the brothers-in-law, Eike and Moffitt, put that information to good use to drive decisions, starting first with seed selection.

“Today we’re using Seed Advisor by Climate Corporation and they track our data to help us pick the right products for the right field,” Moffitt says. “They use what they know about hybrid history to tell us the best hybrid for the field and give us density maps to best plant that field.”

Because hybrids only stay on the market for three to four years, Moffitt says the information provided by breeding companies can help guide his success better than even his own side-by-side research. For example, when a hybrid performs well one year he’ll typically plant it to more acres in subsequent years. However, this year his data told him to plant a newer hybrid instead—and combines are proving the app was right. For example, a field he planted to the older hybrid didn’t yield as well as the field across the road planted with a hybrid recommended by Seed Advisor.

During the growing the season, monitoring available nitrogen help determine sidedress rates. In addition, they’re part of a testing program for a new tool that alerts them on disease risk and how to treat it.

Grain marketing tools increase their profitability up to $100 per acre. Eike takes the lead on marketing and does much of it from the tractor or combine seat.

“We got hooked up with AgYield market advisory company about a year and a half ago, and they help us with some of our marketing,” Eike says. AgYield is a free app that shows live futures and any options he’s purchased. It also calculates profit or loss after farmers enter cost of production and any contracts. It’s updated every 10 minutes to give real-time information about profit levels.

The AgYield app doesn’t allow Eike to put in options; it’s more of a tracking system. To put in market contracts, he uses ADM Investor Services, which costs $165 per month for the desktop version and an additional $60 for the app. The two platforms sync for seamless data transfer.

That synced data results in more up-to-the-moment information that can be used to guide marketing decisions.

“I saw it put like this ‘a man who knows his break even and doesn’t sell above has no advantage over a man who doesn’t know his breakeven,’” Eike says. “If I know where I’m at every day and can change my yields in the app, I know whether or not I can sell at today’s market or if I need to put in an offer at a different level.”

Moffit and Eike can store 100% of their grain on farm with a combination of permanent storage from grain bins and temporary storage in grain bags. Eike contracts throughout the season and already arranged most of their deliveries for November through March.

AgYield provides market information, including the pros and cons of the positions they’re holding. In addition, it gives notifications when there’s a marketing strategy available based on parameters they’ve outlined.

“The apps have helped us quite a bit—anywhere from $20 to $100 per acre difference,” Eike says. “It makes it really convenient to track what we’re doing, but when it comes down to it it’s still our decision.”