Tech Journal

January 2, 2016 01:08 AM
 
Tech Journal

By Chris Bennett and Ben Potter

Record Keeping On the Cloud

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General accounting software works well for retail- and service-type businesses but lacks the inventory management required for farming. FarmBooster is online accounting specialized for crop farmers. An online package, FarmBooster runs in the Cloud with nothing to download. No backup, installation or upgrades are necessary.  

“Many farmers today use programs such as QuickBooks, which isn’t always a good fit on agriculture operations,” says Clement Gutel, CEO, FarmBooster. “We built FarmBooster from the ground up with farmers in mind. What is my exact cost per bushel, or acre, or enterprise? We let you know right where the inputs are going and give detailed reports on where the money is going. It’s the ease of QuickBooks but specifically designed for farmers.”

Simplicity and ease-of-use is a big part of FarmBooster, Gutel says. Pricing is still in flux, but it will be a few cents per acre. There are no contracts and a farmer can start and stop the service anytime. Data sharing with consultants, accountants or others is available, but farmers have total control over data.

“If you want to know exact costs and track inventory real-time, FarmBooster is a way to get uncomplicated insights,” Gutel says. 

For more information, visit www.farmbooster.com.


Living Filtration System Gaining Attention

Could water be drained off farmland with living pipes, while improving nutrient capture? The award-winning concept, developed by a group of University of Oregon students, is moving toward the testing phase.

Wade Hanson, Casey Howard, Matthew Jorgensen, Alison Lewis and Krisztian Megyeri received first prize for the Living Filtration System (LFS) in the annual Biomimicry Global Design Challenge—a contest steered toward sustainability issues with solutions drawn from nature. Essentially, LFS uses micro-organisms in the soil to retain vital nutrients for plant absorption.

The team is exploring different material types, but the design is multi-layered. The inner pipe is a perforated bioplastic composite pipe instead of PVC, surrounded by a carbon-based material such as wood chips or chaff.

“The outer layer is filtration fabric, inoculated with mycorrhiza, mycelium and micro-organisms. Those would be the living part of the system to capture nutrients before they run out of a field,” Lewis says.

Hanson grew up on a farm in southwest Minnesota and knows the bottom line. “Our key is to make this economically feasible. It’s got to make sense for farmers. We want a system that saves farmers money and has environmental benefits,” he says.

LFS is an organic closed-loop drainage system aimed at absorption, filtration and sequestration of nutrients. The system would require no maintenance after installation and last as long as current drain tile systems, Howard says. “We think a 25% reduction in nutrient runoff is a reasonable goal, but we’re shooting even higher.”

Currently, the team is moving forward in another round of competition, with a $100,000 incentive as first prize. They are working on product components and will be heading toward lab and field testing. 

“We think the idea is feasible and we’ve had an overwhelming amount of positive support from so many people in agriculture,” Lewis adds.

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Flamethrower Burns Weed Seed

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Narrow-windrow burning now has a flamethrower friend. Windrow burning, a new weapon in the war on resistant weeds, captures and kills weed seed flowing through a combine, rather than allowing it to return to soil where a farmer will have to contend with it again. 

The Accufire Broadacre Firelighter enables producers to burn windrows, chaff heaps and residue stubble from a truck cab with speed and efficiency. 

Accufire allows for in-cab on-and-off fire control with windows up—no dead arm trouble. The flamethrower device functions in forward or reverse and easily attaches to vehicles. Hands-free operation, fuel efficiency, fast ground speed and long-range onboard igniting capability are key features, according to John Stewart, inventor and developer of Accufire. 

“The Accufire Broadacre Firelighter enables managers to efficiently ignite large tracts of target HWSC [Harvest Weed Seed Control] windrowed stubble material, quickly, safely and remotely from a pickup truck,” Stewart says.

For more, see www.accufire.com.au.


Make It Easy, Make It Work

Farmers rarely describe precision ag technologies as “easy,” but that’s something FarmLogs CEO Jesse Vollmar wants to change.

Vollmar, who grew up on a farm in Michigan, has been slowly adding to his suite of digital products and says the latest additions are among the best yet—a nitrogen-monitoring tool and custom variable-rate prescriptions for seeding and fertility.

“Our theme is make it easier than it ever has been before,” he says. “The challenge is something like nitrogen; it’s complex and changes every day.”

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That’s why FarmLogs takes a multi-tier approach to solving on-farm problems using technology, Vollmar says.

“We combine the best of agronomic principles and knowledge and then translate those learnings into software and algorithms to ask questions and find answers. Five seasons of high-resolution, multi-spectral imagery and soil-survey data, combined with data science and analytics, allow us to capture variations in the field in an entirely new way.”

The company’s foundation lies with FarmLogs Standard, a suite of free products that track field conditions, including rainfall, growing degree days and more. It also allows users to scout and collect notes on their fields.

The company’s two newest products are Nitrogen Monitoring and Variable Rate Prescriptions.

Nitrogen Monitoring joins the company’s FarmLogs Advantage package, which costs $2,499 annually. It shows the amount of nitrogen available on a daily basis and gives users an unlimited number of flat-rate application recommendations so they can make smarter fertility decisions. Variable Rate Prescriptions are an $8.50-per-acre add-on for Advantage subscribers. “These are custom-tuned prescriptions that are fine-tuned every day,” Vollmar says.

Nebraska farmer Chad Kuhlman says he was skeptical when he was approached to trial the new products, but he was at a point in his farming career where he knew he needed to step out of his comfort zone more.

“I’m not an office-type farmer, but I knew I was going to have to start thinking more like a CEO and get the pencil sharp if corn was going to be $3.50 again,” he says.

Fortunately, the insights he picked up paid off in 2015. “With a FarmLogs prescription, one of my toughest fields had its best year ever,” he says.

Vollmar says farmers with access to Nitrogen Monitoring and Variable Rate Prescriptions will be able to head back to the drawing board. 

“We’re going to learn from people,” he explains. “Every time we sit down with a farmer, we learn something new and go back and incorporate that into our products.”

For more information, visit www.FarmLogs.com.

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