Precision Agriculture

Creating a Yield Map Expert System

May 7, 2013

Posted by Andrey Skotnikov at 4:46pm

Better seed data could drive higher yields

April 8, 2013

After my conversations with farmers I’m convinced that Knowledge Sharing is the right problem to discuss. At the present time farmers use technology that gives obvious effects supported by calculated ROI. Autoguidance, performance monitoring and weather data are among these things. On other hand Variable Rate Technology (VRT), in spite of intuitive benefits, stumbles upon an absence of data to calculate its ROI.

Here’s an example.

If you would take a look at any website of major seed producers, you would find a target corn yield in a range of 127-174 bu/acre. This is an average yield. There are no concrete recommendations on soil preparation or fertilizer rates or their combination in relation to yield.

At the same time, the accepted standard for a bushel of corn is now measured in weight: 56 pounds.

The number of kernels per ear can vary from 500 to about 1,200, but a typical ear would have 800 kernels, according to corn experts.

Planting rate recommendations average 35,000 per acrehttp://www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/PM1885.pdf

If we assume an average 1,800 seeds per pound and 35,000 plants per acre with a typical ear with 800 kernels, our yield per acre should be 277.77 bu/acre.

In 2012, Jeff Laskowski of Plover, Wisconsin, set a new all-time state record corn yield, producing 327 bushels per acre using the corn hybrid Pioneer P0533AM1.

But again, this corn hybrid (http://www.kelseyllc.com/images/E0256401/P0533AM1.pdf) has no data for potential yield.

It is very difficult to create technology and integrate all components if you do not have relevant data. We have a lot of different hardware and platforms capable of integration, but no data.

This time I’m asking such companies as Monsanto, Pioneer, Syngenta to share the data and crop growing technologies to achieve the maximum yield.

From my old experience back in Belarus working with potatoes, a new variety always was coming with detailed technology of crop growing, including all details of soil preparation, fertilizer type, rates and placement . The same was true for new varieties from the Netherlands. Sometimes it even included their equipment for the chosen variety of potato.

So, in order to use VRT farmers need to have more definitive data supporting this technology.

We need to know the following properties for seeds:

  • Potential yield (not only average)
  • Potential/desired output content (protein, starch, fiber, oil, etc.)
  • Rate of planting (spacing in the field, XYZ) as a function of yield
  • Rate of fertilizing for each growth stage (spacing in the field, XYZ) as a function of yield, desired crop properties, soil properties and structure
  • Rate of irrigation for each growth stage (spacing in the field) as a function of irrigation type, yield, desired crop properties, soil
  • Rate of chemical control for each growth stage (spacing in the field) as a function of chemical type (systemic/contact), diseases (type, spread, stage), weeds (type, spread, stage), and insects (type, spread, stage)
  • Potential yield losses as a function of planting speed, harvesting speed, and deviations from the optimum planting rate.

Based on the above data it is possible to develop a technology of crop growing (sequence of operations and supporting equipment) to support the optimal growing conditions and achieve desired yield and crop properties for the chosen criteria (ROI).

Is it possible to provide this data? Equipment industry and farmers are ready. Now we are waiting for answers from seed-producing companies and crop consultants.

I think if farmers would share their data anonymously with their crop consultants and seed dealers, it would be possible to create the described above Site-Specific Crop Management data to increase yield and reduce cost.

It would benefit all parties involved:

For farmers, an increase in yield and reduction in the cost of production.

For equipment manufacturers, a boost in VRT equipment sales.

For seed producers, a new paradigm of competition in crop growing technology and not only seeds.

What do you think? Share your thoughts with me:andrey.v.skotnikov@gmail.com.

Posted by Andrey Skotnikov at 10:52pm

February 21, 2013

Aaron Hutchinson, who attended the first Ideag Interconnectivity conference, told me that my concept of applying LEAN manufacturing processes to improve farming efficiency and profitability “is very innovative and shows a strong grasp of what the agriculture market needs to do better while producing even higher quality and consistent products.”
I was pleased to hear this from Aaron. He’s knows a few things about process management and control as the president of Cogent 3D, whose products include the iCropTrack mobile farm management app for iPads.
LEAN is a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination.
Implementation of LEAN requires Knowledge Sharing Networks. It also can help break the commodity price and input cost cycle.
By commodity price I mean that you can grow more specific crops with desired properties such as specific levels or qualities starch, sugar, protein, oil, fiber, etc. to get higher premiums.
If fertilizer is optimized for delivery, content, and time, rate and placement of applications, the cost per unit of harvested crop could be dramatically reduced.

In my opinion Knowledge Sharing Networks or Shared Knowledge determine the adoption rates of LEAN processes and is a major hurdle point. Low or very local level of Shared Knowledge is a limiting factor not only for in-time inputs delivery, but for the use of precision ag technologies and products in general.

Without Shared Knowledge it’s very difficult to have:
• Nutrient optimization in terms of cost and desired crop properties
• Optimized soil conditions (physical, pH, moisture) for each growth stage
• Crop growing technology optimization (sequence of operations and timing)
• Fleet optimization
• Management optimization
• Equipment maintenance programs

With creation of Knowledge Sharing Networks on the National level it’s possible to develop:
• Self-learning program for crop growing recommendations
• Programs of applications of all nutrients inputs
• National/global demand for agriculture inputs
• National/global logistics programs for inputs and harvested yield delivery
• More efficient equipment service programs
• More efficient equipment/parts planning programs
• National/global ag work and crop growing monitoring
• Independent recommendations for best practices and seeds for participating areas.
• The potential to arrange service franchises.

We know that knowledge creation, technology transfer, experience sharing, national and international cooperation, partnerships lead for the successful business development. So, let’s discuss what should we do for better Knowledge Sharing.

Posted by Andrey Skotnikov at 2:49am

E-based Educational Initiative

October 3, 2012

Due to further progress of agricultural science, biology, information technology, and advanced technical development, the business of farming and ranching has become increasingly sophisticated and challenging in order to remain competitive and profitable. A farmer needs to know not only basic agronomy, but new competitive technologies of raising crops, soil chemistry, advanced agronomy, equipment fleet management, finance management, marketing, channels of distribution, and so forth.
The leading Ag equipment manufacturers have different services intended to provide farmers with efficient, supportive farming systems such as navigation systems, software for field mapping, agronomic management, equipment management, inventory management, and information management. However, due to complexity of these packages market acceptance of these new agricultural technologies remains underutilized.
To facilitate adapting new advanced technologies of crop production by the farming community, and efficiency of farm management, a brand new E-service is proposed below.
The service proposed is for distant education for farmers such as undergraduate and graduate degree programs as well as a certificate degree in Agricultural Business Administration. These can be worldwide on-line education programs for agriculture production managers, for which consulting and proctoring centers will be based at University locations and local extension agents offices. The highest on-line degree will be Master in Agriculture Business Administration (MABA). On-line classes will be supported by laboratory and practical hands-on training at educational facilities located at mentioned above locations. Students may get credits for using certified by UMN software and equipment and passing exams. For some specialty classes, students will use interactive interfaces and programs. The entire educational program will be linked to the local environment of the students.
This will serve well to facilitate the adaptation of the newest agricultural advances, techniques and practices. Integrated Farming Systems, in turn, are a bridge to agricultural business enabling the customers not only to profitably manage a farm, but supply the products with preserved identity.
In order to introduce this product University should:
• In order to increase speed to the market form a Joint Venture with a manufacturer having experience in on-line education.
• Run the customers’ survey to estimate the perceived need for intended service to better estimate the dimensions of the service attributes and its augmentations
• Jointly develop a curriculum for the intended education/get an approval from the relevant educational authorities
• Develop specifications on on-line and supporting practical courses (books, lectures, labs, exams, etc.).
• Prepare instructors’ force, size, training
• Prepare appropriately equipped facilities and make adequate IT arrangements.
• Implement a marketing campaign to build a brand of the intended service
• Develop a package of financial support for qualified students
• Run a US test program in a designated area(s)
• Total organizational commitment and support
The intended customers are farmers – owners, farm managers in the economic class $500,000 and above. According to recent statistics, the number of such farms in the USA is about 65,000. The total tangible assets of these farms including land, equipment, processing and storage facilities ranged from $4,000.000 – $5,000.000.
The average age of the farmer population is 54.3 years. Their basic education is high school. We assume that farmers under 35 years of age will be the group most likely interested in pursuing educational goals. The assumption is that University marketing campaign will be adequately resourced and appropriately managed to reach out to 90% of them, and at least 60% of the farmers will choose to pursue this type of education. This brings us to the final assumption that about 6,000 potential farmer-students will be available to attend on-line school.
Given that historically and culturally agricultural business is a family business, we expect to have a pool of potential prospects of 12,000, growing children, within 5 years of the marketing campaign.
There are no current and/or potential competitors for the intended market. The regulatory environment seems to be supportive.
The distribution channel members are available and cooperative.
After testing this program in the United States, it will be possible to spread it worldwide. The next step can be Europe, especially Germany and France, known for the agricultural component in their economy. Preliminary estimates indicate that each country has a market containing approximately 1,000 potential customers.
The major customer’s need is to get an adequate return on investment in his farm, and having sustained profitability of his business less dependently on external factors such as weather conditions, soil conditions, and others. Second, the farmer needs to make his business easier and clever in both a physical and a business sense, be ready to new standards in identity preservation.
The final project for MABA program would be a Complete Farming System, which is intended to integrate all of the components of farm management that are critical to crop production. These components include Agronomic Management (agronomic and meteorological record keeping, soil analysis and soil monitoring, seed/fertilization record keeping, crop analysis, technologies of raising crops, and so forth); Equipment Management (equipment record keeping, monitoring and remote diagnostics of technical problems, fleet overall monitoring, automated control of the different technical and technological regimes of the equipment); and Information Management (accounting, financial, legal, marketing, inventory, human resources, and payroll record keeping as well as general management). Using the Complete Farming Systems will enable a farmer to improve the operational performance of the farm, and to increase overall cost-effectiveness of the business.
The product under consideration, E-learning, is the tool providing access to a level of increased productivity.

This will be the first fully developed Agriculture Business Administration program on the educational market, covering all aspects of agricultural business. In addition to conventional core courses it would include modules of Geographic Information Systems, GPS Navigation, Fleet Management, and Agriculture Data Acquisition. The service is designed as a combination of on-line education and hands-on fully applicable experience to manage a farming business.

Internet seems to be a unique vehicle to deliver the customized educational service to the stakeholders and other members of the agricultural community to every remote farm thereby serves as a marketing tool of creating new and retaining existing customers as well as managing their behavior.

 

Posted by Andrey Skotnikov at 12:47pm

Почему hightech? часть 2

June 11, 2012

Posted by Andrey Skotnikov at 1:48pm