By Jason Tatge | Oct. 9, 2020
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Editors note: Kerry and Angela Knuth are owners of the Knuth Farms, Mead, NE — fourth-generation grain operation farmed with their sons, Gregory and Garrison. As early adopters and advocates of real-time data collection, Angela and Kerry are members of the Farmobile Founding Farmers. They are pioneers in ag tech and understand the true value data can bring to help improve operational decisions and sustainable practices. The Knuth’s care about being good stewards of the land and building an ag-legacy for the next generation.
The Knuths shared what they’ve observed and learned from their own ag tech journey. They shared so many key learnings about their data journey but here are several that stand out.
1- Data has value. The last 10 years in data has been a “world wind” of new precision ag-technology. While that has been exciting, the Knuths say there have been too many companies claiming they can help farmers solve their problems from fleet logistics to planning inputs. The problem is farmers are realizing that those companies are also tracking farm data and using it for their benefit, not for the growers. More companies are switching to outcome-based pricing models to share “risk” through product bundles and incentives if growers can show they’ve followed the prescribed production plan. However, some growers would rather take the risk on their own and get a better price at the front end instead of building that in.
2- The machines you use could be limiting your profitability. Several years ago, during a study with Nebraska University, the Knuths discovered that their larger planter (with more horsepower) cost more to operate on a particular field than their smaller planter (with less horsepower)y Machine efficiency and ROI aren’t always apparent, that’s why machine data matters and the Knuths install Farmobile PUC devices on all farm equipment. By analyzing machine data, the Knuth’s are discovering the equipment that works best on their fields and have made tough decisions to sell some of their equipment to better fit their needs.
3- Data helps when transiting into organic crops – no easy or quick task for growers. Angela and Kerry saw how important the organic food trend was becoming to consumers and decided to take a risk on something new or their operation. The Knuths – now in their fifth growing season of organic farming in some fields – say that data has helped in the transition allowing them to experiment with what works best for their fields and track / analyze new practices. In the first couple of seasons, they planted alfalfa but they had heavy rains and weed control struggles, which produced lower-than-expected yields. This year crop rotation to corn generated “very promising yields.”