Why software strengthens ag businesses

August 18, 2020

At Vantage England & Wales there has been a rise in the number of farmers and businesses looking to get more from their current technology. For many, the quickest return on investment is often through upgrading software.

A high percentage of customers are familiar with steering systems and displays – using them for day-to-day farm operations and bringing efficiency benefits based on physical passes in the field and machine hours, says national sales manager, Mark Griffiths.

“But customers are becoming more aware of the information this technology is recording while completing these duties, information they have not previously had easy access to.”

So why are farmers using data for field record accuracy?

“As we move into an era where the environmental concern over farming is greater, software like the Trimble Ag Software become more important,” says Mr Griffiths. “Being able to accurately record what work has been completed, when and with what materials is crucial and could be linked to financial support in the future.”

Mr Griffiths encourages the use of technology to improve accuracies and control costs. “This removes the human error associated with record keeping, and relating the cost of this technology to the potential losses of support or fines, it is making sense for our customers to invest.”

Access to data is much easier with wireless transfer and synchronisation between devices. “Our software is now much more capable of illustrating the data into a form which is easy to interpret and navigate,” he explains. “Partnered with the speed of its availability, processes like invoicing can be vastly improved, having a big impact on cashflow for the business.”

According to Mr Griffiths, the true value of data is in how it is displayed and interpreted, and that’s where Trimble’s Ag Software comes into its own.

A digital version of the real farm, Trimble Ag Software allows farmers to create their holdings, vehicles, implements and materials to be held as stock in ’virtual stores’.

Digital maps of the fields are created in the office, or wirelessly imported from the displays when in the field. Farmers can include in their maps valuable information like the A-B lines operators have been using or any areas of the field which are not in use, like Nitrate Vulnerable Zones.

Once the Connected Farm has been created, farmers can access it from their office, tablet or mobile phone – being able to see their operation in real time digitally.

So how does it work?

“As machines and operators complete the physical passes, their activity is being collated in the Trimble Ag Software,” explains Mr Griffiths.

“The farm manager can see the machine move to the next field using the displayed telemetry information. All of this can be overlaid with weather information, so decision makers have a true overall view,” he adds.

Take for example an arable operation on the outskirts of a city, going into harvest with some temporary labour and contracted hauliers. “During drilling the farm manager has already generated electronic maps and populated all activity that went on, and using the profitability feature they would also be able to see the exact costs gone into that field including machinery and labour.”

Digital field maps can be issued to the tractor driver, giving them an immediate picture of the holding and its crops. As chemical is applied to the crops ahead of harvest, logging materials used takes them out of the virtual store and applies them to the selected digital fields as a mix.

“The operator can adjust any applied rates before completing the sync back to Trimble Ag software,” says Mr Griffiths. “These records can be used for proof of placement, for the profitability feature and to give an accurate stock inventory.”

After crop walking and deciding the order of harvest, the manager can issue works orders to displays so operators can see the priority of works and field locations on a digital map, reducing the risk of confusion,” he explains.

Contract hauliers can be assigned a telemetry device so all machines involved in harvest are now populating Trimble software. The manager can remotely monitor progress of the combine and make judgments on trailer numbers and capacity. “If the weather feature warns of rain, the manager can make an informed judgement if more trailers will allow that field to be completed, or re-routing trailers to an alternative store would be more cost effective,” highlights Mr Griffiths.

After completing work in the field, data from the combine creates a yield map of each field. “Yield maps can be compared against the satellite imagery in the Trimble Ag Software, showing whether yields could have been improved if decisions had been made earlier.”

This information can also be used to create variable rate application (VRA) maps for future seeding or fertiliser applications.

Another feature of the software is the ability for managers to assign geo fences, to grain silos for example, with the telemetry recording each vehicle that enters and exits the barn.

“The movements are time stamped allowing the manager to assess unloading times and determine if there is enough elevator capacity to store incoming grain,” explains Mr Griffiths.

“The trailer weights can be entered into the virtual farm stocks, giving a true insight into current levels of grain stored, while populating the profitability feature and giving financial interpretations against the recorded costings.

“Geo fencing can also be used to minimise disturbance; by geo fencing sensitive neighbourhoods, the manager can be alerted when a machine is outside any assigned routes, or prove they were not should a complaint be lodged,” he says.