2 farmers looking at a tablet in the field gpointstudio/iStock/Thinkstock
MAKING CONNECTIONS: Agronomy companies that serve agriculture are investing in tech to pull together farmer information for improved decision-making.

Tech and the trusted adviser

Farmers may find the best place to engage tech may be with the agronomist they already know.

It’s common in agriculture when talking about technology to note that you are always able to share information with your trusted adviser. But how tech-savvy is your trusted adviser? Turns out the industry that’s grown up to support farmers is making a big investment in technology, too.

The technology discussion at the dealer and consultant level is getting more complicated. Those folks are working with a wide range of information from different customers, and they must pull in other information as well. And for farmers, knowing the capability of that trusted adviser will be important, too.

“What it comes down to is, can that [trusted adviser] handle data coming from the field?” says Jeff Dearborn, chief agronomist and strategy officer at Agrian, a firm that provides extensive tech for dealers and agronomists serving agriculture.

Dearborn explains that the key for farmers is to know if the agronomist or consultant they work with has the ability to bring in data he or she collects on the farm, and help make decisions. “They have to be able to handle data coming in from the field without a lot of manual intervention, and be able to collect and process that data,” he says. “And they have to be able to take in data from John Deere, Slingshot [Raven] and other major partners.”

Under the radar
Agrian may be the biggest tech player you’ve heard little about. What started in California as a tech firm, helping producers of almonds and other products collect and manage data for improved crop production, has since grown significantly. The firm’s software systems are also privately branded, so you may have an adviser using the tools and not know it. For example, customers of Crop Production Services are working with advisers who use Agrian systems, but they’re branded as the Echelon platform.

And bringing in machine data from farms is just the start. Dearborn says that agronomists at the retail level also have to be able to pull in other farm information, like soil test data, that can be applied easily to a farmer’s data. The final aim is to provide worthwhile management decisions on the farm.

“This is an area you don’t hear about, the soil fertility space,” Dearborn says. “You have to be able to handle large volumes of information from soil labs, and do it in a way that doesn’t hurt workflow. Very few firms are collecting the soil information, tissue samples, nematode tests and water data for farmer-customers.”

Nish Majarian, founder and CEO, Agrian, had had other experience in tech startups, but went on to build Agrian — which is not a startup. “We’re supporting our business with customers,” he says. “We’ve built extensive systems that support the retailer in the market, and we can interface with most systems, too. We’ve also been involved in compliance from the beginning, and we’re talking about ways to help farmers manage safety and compatibility of crop protection products.”

And the world of crop protection and farm management isn’t getting less complicated. More traits, regulations and management insights are becoming available every year. Add in new technology, and complexity won’t fall.

Linkages important
Agrian works to connect with all data players — even in the retail space where the AgLogic system from John Deere is part of sprayer system management. Dearborn says his company is connected. “We allow a retailer using AgLogic to operate more efficiently and effectively,” he says. “Our system isn’t about cutting out the consultant, it’s about doing more with fewer people.” And with a tighter ag labor market, maximizing the time and expertise of those trusted advisers is becoming more important.

Adds Majarian: “With the massive investments that growers have made in the last decade, and the equipment they have in the yard, they have the capability to push and pull data into many platforms. We work with them all, and we add in all the other data sources for decision-making.”

Majarian explains that while growers may feel inundated with all the tech developments swamping agriculture, retailers are feeling that way as well. “It’s just as hard for an agronomist as for a grower; we’re helping pull that together into a single space.”

For farmers considering working with farm data and a trusted adviser, the first step may be understanding what tech that adviser has available to help you succeed.

TAGS: Technology
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