Collecting Precision Data, Part One

Ten Minute Tech

What are you doing to keep track of your information?

Published on: October 2, 2012

As farming becomes more competitive, accurate decision-making becomes critical to the long term success of any operation.  Any successful business will tell you, accurate decisions come from good data and data is derived from good records. 

So what are the records pertinent to your operation?  There are a couple of basic sources of data that come to mind.  The first to affect your bottom line is cost of inputs, specifically chemicals, fertilizer and seed.  The second that adds to your bottom line is grain sales.

I spend a great deal of time working with clients on keeping track of application data and harvest records.  There are two main steps that must be addressed in any good record keeping system.  The first is to get the data from the field to the office.  The second is to organize and summarize the data in the office. 

Pen-and-paper data tracking still works for some operations, though others have chosen to include a computer in data handling.
Pen-and-paper data tracking still works for some operations, though others have chosen to include a computer in data handling.

The methods used for capturing the data from the field are as varied as the operations themselves.  Some farms are using paper and pen to keep track of the data in the field.  Yes that's right, the old pocket note book is alive and well in some operations.

Some farmers are taking the old pocket notebook to the next level by working with specific input suppliers who provide a bound notebook with a map and preplanned field data such as variety information. The farmer then fills out pertinent information about his field operations in the notebook and turns it back in to the supplier so they can summarize it for them. Although this is a valuable service, I have heard many comments questioning about just where these records go in addition to the cooperating farmer.

Other farms rely on field computers to capture information. Some run specific software built for field record keeping alone; others have record keeping tied to a controlling or monitoring device. Both of these are nice because it reduces the work in the office required to digitize the records. Reduce is the correct term as there is always a need to organize the data in the office no matter the method used to capture data in the field.

Next time we will discuss the pros and cons for these data collection methods and talk about how some farmers are summarizing the information in the office.