How Precision Ag Tools can Reduce Inefficiencies on your Farm

December 20, 2019

By Zach Gettman

No farmer wants to be inefficient, – but if you are not evaluating whether all aspects of your operations are optimised, then there are likely some areas where you could improve. Small improvements in efficiency add up over time, boosting productivity, yields and your bottom line.

Though there are multiple ways in which a farm can improve efficiency, adopting and using precision technology is at the centre of most of them. In fact, a report published in 2015 by Nesta, calculated that the average mixed farm in England (81ha) could potentially increase annual profits 17.9% by adopting precision technology.

Efficiency Saves Time

The challenge with efficiency is that it can be difficult to quantify. A farmer may not know they’ve been inefficient in an area of their operation until after a change is made.

For example, farmers may not have realised how inefficient their driving was until they adopted autosteer, enabling them to reduce overlaps and skips.

This was because slight skips in the swaths took up more space in between passes when the farmer drove. While autosteer may not have saved the farmer hours and hours of time, he got more efficient use out of his field.

One operation that has seen significant time savings is Leo Dunne Organics, Durrow, County Laois. The carrot farm in Ireland immediately covered more hectares per hour when they eliminated manual steering and headland turning. Farm manager Tim Davies estimated that the technology made them 20% more efficient.

Efficiency Reduces Costs

Being more efficient with your time also reduces wear and tear on equipment and saves fuel. It can also curb input costs and improve yields.

For instance, overlapping is a major inefficiency in pesticide application which costs farmers in chemical wastage and in yield if it burns the crop. Another inefficiency might be missed areas in the field, which would likely lead to greater chemical costs from attempting to control the increased weed pressure and subsequently a loss of yield.

Efficiency Increases Productivity

Farmers who use autosteer often comment on how it lowers their stress levels and fatigue. The technology makes their passes more efficient and allows them to focus their attention on the field task, so that it is accomplished effectively. They can keep their eyes on more critical things in the cab and catch any problems before they turn into big issues and cause downtime.

They can also get more done in a day, which can be crucial when you have a time-critical task like planting.

Technology can also help the workforce to be more efficient. Employees that may not otherwise have the skills and experience to do certain field tasks can be trusted to get them accomplished because the technology is taking care of it — the employee can essentially supervise that everything is operating correctly.

How to Increase Efficiency On Your Farm

One of the best ways to improve efficiency is to be on top of the season. Consider whether you, your employees and your equipment are ready when the window of opportunity arises, whether that’s planting, spraying, harvesting, or another time-critical task.

If you are thinking about investing in new equipment or technology to increase efficiencies, evaluate whether it will fit your system. Are you willing to learn and make changes to become more efficient? If you are not prepared to use technology to its fullest potential, it may not be worth investing in.

In fact, one of the biggest inefficiencies is where farms are not leveraging the technology they already have. For example, they may have a spray controller on their sprayer, but are still making flat-rate applications instead of prescription-based ones. Look at what you are currently using and see if there’s more you can be doing with it.

Don’t Overlook Data

Finally, while it’s important to examine field operations for inefficiencies, you shouldn’t neglect other areas outside of the field, especially data management.

Though the task of moving data can feel like a waste of time, proper data management can eliminate inefficiencies in the field. If you don’t study your data, you may not realise that an employee didn’t do an operation correctly, and will be unable to make sound decisions to improve efficiencies in future.

The cumulative effect of even small inefficiencies from inaccurate data year-to-year can be huge.

Be More Efficient with Trimble

With Trimble’s data management solutions, your data is automatically shared across all devices on your farm in real time, eliminating the inefficiencies of lost data and manual transfers, while our guidance displays will help you complete field applications quickly and efficiently.