Garbage in; garbage out. This common saying succinctly captures the importance of dedicating time, money and resources to completely capitalize on your ag tech investment.
“Although technology has brought us many conveniences and much economic value, it also has increased our need for sophistica-
ted processes,” explains Chris Barron, director of operations and president of Carson and Barron Farms in Rowley, Iowa.
Think about all of the tasks you do once or twice a year. How much time do you waste trying to remember how to calibrate your yield monitor or run an end-of-year data report?
Many farmers don’t leverage their technology investments because they haven’t completed the necessary training or implemented proper protocols, says Steve Cubbage, precision ag consultant and owner of Record Harvest.
“We do a lot of planning for crop production, but not a lot of technology planning,” he says.
Wouldn’t it be helpful to have a simple checklist that explains how to do these tasks? That’s where standard operating procedures (SOPs) come in to play. SOPs are written, detailed instructions that describe how to do repetitive key tasks. They create efficiency and consistency, so you won’t be overwhelmed by the process.
“The No. 1 rule is to keep it simple,” says Barron, also a financial consultant for Ag View Solutions and Top Producer columnist. “As you create your first draft, involve people in the operation who work with existing processes. At each step, ask yourself why things are being done that way. It might be possible to eliminate steps.”
After establishing a new process, share it with a younger team member or someone outside the farm. Can they understand it?
Sometimes we don’t do a good job of simplifying processes so others understand them,” Barron explains.
Once you test the SOP, go through the process yourself to ensure it makes sense. Then the team can review it together. After everyone is happy with the process, laminate it and post it where the work will be completed. It’s also helpful to keep a binder in the office with all SOPs.
“Quality SOPs are flexible to change based on feedback,” Barron says. “Ongoing training is critical to ensure SOPs are followed regularly. These days, the old saying ‘If you want it done right, you’ve got to do it yourself’ no longer applies.”