Connecting the dots on ag technology – Part III

It’s almost like clockwork. Each fall, the partners at Silent Shade Planting Co., near Belzoni, Miss., start making plans for the following season.

“We know we’re going to plant corn, going to plant soybeans, going to plant peanuts and we’re always going to plant some rice,” says Trey Koger, a partner who handles the agronomic side of the operation. “Cotton depends on the year. Sometimes we plant cotton, sometimes we don’t.”

Using the farm’s new Granular software, Koger writes a plan for each crop and for each of the fields those different crops will be planted on across the farm’s 8,500 acres in the south half of the Mississippi Delta.

“It’s all based on plans so it’s very simple for me to go in and create these plans for each individual crop,” says Koger, who operates the farm with his wife, Stacie Jack-Koger, and brother-in-law, Jeremy Jack. “Once I create those plans, I can insert different options, different facets for things I have put out for those crops.”

With soybeans, for example, Koger knows he will put down dry fertilizer in the fall. “Those are some standard inputs that I know I will put out,” he says. “With that said I can go in and manipulate those inputs to be very, very exact with respect to that field.”

Koger isn’t talking about inputting massive amounts of data for each field. With Granular it only takes a few clicks on the computer to bring up the standard input the farms will use and only a few more to target them to the particular conditions for each field.

The software also helps Koger and Jack track what’s been done in each field and the tasks that are remaining.

“Once you create the plans, you can click on a given field, and it will pull up what I’ve already done in that field – it has a green circle with a check mark so that’s done,” says Koger, who spoke at the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show. “Obviously, I haven’t planted that field, but it has that task in there.”

As part of the plan, the software creates those tasks and schedules them when they would be needed. The system creates work orders which Koger relays to Jeremy Jack, who is in charge of the work crew on the farming operation.

“Jeremy can pull this screen up and see what we have going on in every single field,” says Koger. “There’s not several thousand clicks to get to this point. He also has a list of employees that he can start pushing those work orders out to.”

The software also helps the partners track how much product – seed, chemicals, fertilizer – is being used on the farm and how much of any given material remains on hand for use in subsequent tasks.

“How many of you have come in at night and wondered how much of a product you used that day?” he asked. “I have an invoice that shows how much we purchased, but, if you have product going out in three or four different fields, it’s difficult to track how much remains.

“Through these work orders, Granular will keep up with how much seed you planted, or how much lime you put out or Roundup or Touchdown you applied or whatever it may be that you have used. There’s no clicking to create this screen. All of this is automated.”

That doesn’t mean all of the information just magically appears on Granular. Company specialists have worked closely with employees of Silent Shade to determine what kind of data was important and how to feed it into the system. “Several of our employees have spent a lot of time on this, but it has helped us get the system to where it is for us today.”

For more information on the farm operation, visit http://www.silent-shade.com/.

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