Tech tools for field operations

Tech tools for field operations

The use of technology on farms is increasing at an astronomical rate. No farmer uses technology or the data that comes with it the same, it must be tailored to the needs and interests of the farm.

Shane Goplin is a farmer in Pigeon Falls, Wisconsin. He crops 3,200 acres of alfalfa, corn, soybeans and rye on his farm, HV Acres. Shane began using precision and GPS technology on his farm in 2006 and he has incorporated something new onto his farm every year since. When asked what he would advise someone starting to incorporate technology into their farm he said,  “First ask: what is your goal? You can map many things out and collect LOTS of data, however, if you do not have the equipment or means to execute properly, the data is useless. My data goes back five years,” Shane explained,  “this data provides me the potential to write prescriptions for planting based on yield history OR yield potential.”  There are differing philosophies about which method is better to use depending on what your end goal is and the equipment available to you.

HV Acres uses real-time kinematic (RTK) positioning to map fields creating a “shape file” for each one. This highly accurate satellite navigation technique makes incorporating grassed waterways into fields efficient and more accurate. Grassed waterways are a worthwhile conservation practice that mitigate sediment and nutrient loss from the landscape. HV Acres is located in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin that is characterized by steep slopes. Grassed waterways are a good tool to prevent the formation of rills and gullies in a field.

To map waterways, Shane drives his gator, mounted with a RTK globe, directly around areas where he will incorporate a waterway. The waterway is mapped via satellite and saved on a map in a software program. Planters, sprayers and other equipment are hooked into these maps and will automatically shut off spraying or planting in a waterway. The equipment operator does not need to use manual shut offs which simplifies field operations.

Shane also explained telematics, another technology that has been a significant benefit to the farm. “A monitor on the chopper can give me an instant reading miles away in the packing tractor of hay quality including crude protein content, moisture and yield of what is being harvested.” This technology assists in storing and packing decisions and can also benefit the dairy, who purchases the crop as animal feed. Other telematics features are used on the combine, planter and sprayer that can show speed, fuel level and other specifics via an iPad.

A favorite corn hybrid variety at HV Acres will soon be unavailable. A software program that the farm uses has a yield analysis tool that stacks up yield averages for specific hybrids on different soil types. “This for me was the hook line and sinker for this particular program and will help make new hybrid selections.” This planting season, they will incorporate multiple hybrid varieties into the planter to compare performance. To be able to see where certain hybrids perform best in specific soil types on the farm will be an asset.

“There are tradeoffs with different programs, and getting connected with the right people is extremely helpful. No two people use technology the same way, make it work for you farm and establish achievable goals.” -Shane Goplin §