Monthly Archives:: December 2016

Big Data Innovations in Agriculture

drone technology in agriculture


The agriculture industry not only provides food, energy and products that we all use on a daily basis, it is also often a leader in technology. Agricultural companies, professionals and even individual growers are often at the forefront of new technology concepts as they continue to work to make this very busy industry more efficient in costs, production and labor.

The industry continues to grow and evolve – making growers’ lives easier while still allowing them to produce the food that feeds the world. A few of the newest innovations are stemming from the big data trend that’s making a huge impact across most industries. 

What is Big Data?

From advancements in GPS tools that let us know when we’ll run into traffic to social media algorithms that display content designed for an individual’s preferences, data solutions have made their way into our lives in so many ways.

Agriculture companies have also seen the impact that data can provide, and are working to develop big data solutions to help growers make informed decisions about their operation for the upcoming growing season.

Below are a few trends and tools to look for. These advancements and more are expected to change the entire landscape of the ag industry.


Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – otherwise known as drones – are being used within a lot of different industries for a variety of reasons. Many people even own them for recreational purposes, but they can also be a great tool for precision agriculture. UAVs make it more convenient and economical to capture data that was previously only available through manned aircraft imagery or satellite imaging.

One example is aerial imagery. Aerial imagery can help growers in a number of ways, namely spotting irrigation, pest/disease, or soil issues that may not be visible from the ground. Data taken from drones can also show the progression or change in the crops throughout the growing season since UAVs make it more economical to take images more often.

Certain drones can develop orthomosaic images, which can then be synced with programs that create prescription maps. Prescription maps are a streamlined way for a grower to tell what’s needed on his or her farm, and where. These maps can be digitally transferred into some applicators, saving a lot of time and manual effort for growers.


Sensors in agriculture can be used in a variety of ways, including monitoring soil nutrients, analyzing water availability, taking leaf temperature, watching for insects or disease, etc.

Terrain robots are being researched and outfitted with these sensors so that they can autonomously move about between rows, collecting information on soil and crops. This information will allow growers to make maps showing which problems exist in specific areas of their fields.

The aim of these sensors is to help growers cut down on unnecessary applications. If the map shows one area of the field is doing fine on moisture, the grower will know it doesn’t need water at that time. This type of data will help growers save time, money and resources.

Data Analysis

Growers often lament the weather, and how it’s unpredictability can make or break their crops. Unfortunately, nothing can be done about the weather, but there are options for making the most of the hand dealt by Mother Nature.

Companies like Climate Corp. are giving growers access to data analysis that can offer projections and recommendations based on the information collected. Using in-season and historical field imaging, crop health issues can be identified before they impact yield.

The data provided by Climate Corp FieldView™ products can provide insight on topics such as nitrogen availability or how many seeds to plant in various areas of the field.

These analytics help growers make data-driven decisions that can help them increase yield and turn a better profit.

Original Source: Leaders of In-Furrow Technology, West Central

3 Challenges Growers Face in Current Agriculture Landscape


It’s easy to look around and see how agriculture impacts our world. This might be one of the reasons you chose a career in production agriculture. Even though you love your chosen career path, it doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges out there every day. The difference between the successful growers and the ones who aren’t as successful is how they approach the challenges that come their way.

The best way to solve a challenge is by looking at the opportunities behind the challenge and then taking control of your own destiny. The following are three very different challenges, but each with opportunities for you to succeed.

1. Shrinking profit margins

We will start with this one because it is a big one and most likely related either directly or indirectly to all your other challenges. This is a great opportunity to take back as much control as you can. We understand that you can’t control the prices of commodities directly, but you do have an opportunity to manage the price volatility.

The first step is to understand your breakeven cost of production. Do you know what it costs you to produce a bushel of the product you plan to grow next season? If not, today is the day to start figuring it out, as that knowledge will help you with this challenge and many future ones.

If you need help, consult a professional who can help you look at your individual scenario and figure out the numbers. Your lender might be a great place to start, but there are also other farm management resources you can look to such as the USDA Farm Services Agency (FSA). They have offices in every state and in many counties within those states.

Once you know your breakeven, take the appropriate marketing options when pricing hits that level or higher. There is not one correct answer for all growers, so look at a plan that will make you successful. If you need help, there are professionals who will help you or attend a class or meeting on crop marketing in your area. The Cooperative Extension Service has county offices throughout the country. Many offer these types of classes or can provide you with information about how to find them.

2. Determining What Crops to Grow Next Season

As you are looking at your own business situation, you will review the different crops for your area and your breakeven cost of production for each of these crops.

This will be a big step in helping you determine what the best crops will be for you to produce next season.

In addition, consider other variables related to that crop as you make your decision, including equipment needs, crop nutrition and crop protection inputs that will help you achieve your yield goals.

You will also want to look at historical yields for the crop to see what opportunities exist. A best practice is to not always count on higher yields to offset lower prices, but to always strive to get the best yield possible. With that in mind, make sure you keep fertility and crop protection as an important part of your plan.

Plan early so you have a chance to take advantage of any seasonal or pre-pay discounts that your retailer may offer on seed, fertilizer and crop protection products as it may be financially better for your operation if you are able to make commitments earlier and save money on input costs.

3. The New Herbicide and Trait Technologies

Sometimes bigger decisions within our industry create challenges for you as an individual grower. An example of one important challenge currently facing many soybean growers is the new herbicide and trait technologies that have been approved or are in the process of being approved for the 2017-growing season.

As with any changes, there are always a lot of unknowns out there. However, there is also the opportunity to achieve better things with the new opportunities that technology brings. Weed management is very important topic within the ag industry. Information on this topic is available regularly from a variety of resources including university researchers and industry organizations, large manufacturers and the USDA. Make sure you stay informed and use the knowledge from these resources to help you make decisions for your own operation.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or don’t understand all the requirements and procedures related to the new products and technologies, reach out to our team. We can help you use the information to help you achieve your own operational goals.

Original Source: Leaders of In-Furrow Technology, West Central

CHS Annual Meeting delegates approve amendments to articles and bylaws

Delegates to the CHS Annual Meeting have approved amendments to the CHS Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. The amendments created a new membership class structure and criteria.

“We appreciate our owners’ commitment to the governance of the company they own, as evidenced by their strong interest in the proposed changes to the core CHS governing documents” says CHS Board Chairman David Bielenberg. “Having a voice in the governance of the company you own and do business with is an essential point of difference of the cooperative business model.”

The two resolutions – one amending the company’s articles and the other amending the CHS bylaws – each received a “yes” vote of more than 86 percent.

When the CHS Board reconvenes in 2017, it will work to develop procedures regarding implementation and for members to periodically certify their ongoing eligibility for their membership class. “We are committed to keeping members fully informed,” Bielenberg says.

Steve Fritel, chairman of the CHS Board’s Governance Committee, says the board took its commitment to communication seriously by listening to owners, keeping the proposed changes simple and ensuring there was time for learning and conversation.

“Our goal is always to ensure that CHS remains an agricultural-focused and producer-governed cooperative,” Fritel said. “At the same time, we also recognize we must accommodate our current members as they change to stay relevant to their customers. Our articles and bylaws need to line up with the ways our members do business today, while recognizing the strong heritage of the member cooperatives who built today’s CHS.”

View details of the new membership classes on the CHS Governance page.

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