Part II: Connecting the dots on ag technology

It would be easy for employees at Silent Shade Planting Company to think that big brother is watching. But that’s not the real purpose of the software that allows Jeremy Jack to track each operation that’s being performed on the 8,500 acres he and his partners farm near Belzoni, Miss.

To be sure, it is beneficial for Jack to be able to look at a computer screen and tell that “Jane,” one of his employees, has sprayed about half of the field that was assigned to her by the farm’s work order system when she reported for work that morning.

But Jack believes that it’s just as important for him to know how much chemical an operator has applied or seed someone has planted or the number of hours on the tractor it took them to accomplish the assigned task.

“I send out a work order from the plan for that particular crop at the beginning of the day,” he said during a presentation at the National Conservation Systems Cotton and Rice Conference. “One employee is going to spray, another employee will be planting and a third might go level ground and so on.

“They get their work orders on their phone, they have priorities about which tasks they need to do first, and they hit start and it begins recording what they’re doing and noting how much product they’re applying. So we know exactly how much product was in that field and how time was spent so we know the exact cost for the field.”

Weather and soil moisture information is also integrated into the software to help with decisionmaking, says Jack, who also described the Granular software system the farm uses in a recent Farm Industry News webinar. (To access the webinar, click on http://event.on24.com/r.htm?e=949556&s=1&k=BC3AA409E7FA2ED94336F36906410864.)

Up-to-the-minute forecasting of rain events helps him plan is operations two and three days out to reduce downtime for his employees and his equipment.

“It communicates with the other technology you have to tell you that you might not need to irrigate today, for example, but in two or three days you will need to irrigate,” he noted. “You can look at your forecast and you can also see how much rain you’ve received on that field.”

Inventory control is another feature. “This is another thing we’ve kept up with with Excel files – how many loads have we taken out of the fields, how many have we put in. Where are we on our contracts. It tracks what your truck drivers are doing so that you know what you have in your bins.”

Jack said one of the things he enjoys in being on the operations side of the farm is a software-generated history that tells him what he and his workers accomplished yesterday, what they did today and what they have remaining to do on their tasks list.

“I can see the weather forecast and how much we’ve done and what we have left to do,” he said. “So I can tell my guys, ‘we need to work another three hours tonight’ or I can tell them ‘y’all can quit and go see your son’s football game tonight' because we have plenty of time to finish.”

The most important feature of the farm’s software programs may be field profitability, he says.

“We all get excited about 250-bushel corn, but the more important question may be ‘how much money did we make on that 250-bushel corn compared to the 200-bushel corn?’” says Jack.

“All the things I’ve shown you are little steps along the way to show you how you’re doing. “You can point at this field here and say, ‘that’s not too bad, we did pretty good on that farm,’” he said. “But this one right here – we need to get rid of that farm. It’s not making any money. We’ve lost money on that farm the last three years.”

For more information about Silent Shade, visit https://www.facebook.com/SilentShadePlantingCompany

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