It’s a low-margin environment out there: rising production costs are not keeping up with markets and what farmers get paid.
“Farmers around the world are dealing with the here and now of how they manage for efficiency and get the most of every dollar they spend, and how do they put themselves in a position to be prepared for the uncertainties of the markets,” said Pat Christie, one Conservis founder. “At the end of the day, it’s about efficiency and margin at the field level.”
One way to promote profitability in your operation is to improve your efficiency. Google says the definition of efficiency is “achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.” We like to think of it as working smarter, not harder.
Farmers are increasingly tapping into tools that lead to more efficient, profitable farming. Neither growers nor those of us working to develop the technology can believe the rate at which things are changing and the possibilities we’re seeing to do things better. From cell phones to GPS to farm management software, technology tools are empowering farmers, rapidly improving the efficiency of farming and keeping farm operations profitable.
Technology helping growers do more with less
Tools for improving efficiency and productivity have come to the farm scene rapidly in the last few decades. It can be easy to forget about some of them and how revolutionary they were at first.
Cell phones gave farmers a huge boost. Being able to communicate from out in the field instead of returning to the house was a game-changer. Then smartphones and tablets—and internet access—came along, revolutionizing access to information and resources.
At the same time, farm inputs and equipment has seen significant change, too. GMO technology has helped growers use fewer resources to grow better crops. GPS has allowed for innovations like autosteer and variable-rate equipment, helping growers to farm with optimal efficiently on every part of their fields. UAVs like drones save growers time and energy while helping them farm with more precision.
All of these innovations and more have been saving farmers time and money, and it’s been exciting to watch smart farmers farm even smarter as they adopt these types of technologies on their operations.
Improving overall efficiency
It’s true that you can’t improve what you don’t measure. But it’s also true that you need to be measuring the right things to improve your efficiency across your operation.
Farmers for so long measured a successful year by their yields: a good year was when yields were high; a bad year was yields were low. A profitable farming year has always been more complicated than measuring yields, but the industry is just now tapping into the power of technology to help farmers understand that complexity and make changes accordingly.
Technology on the farm can be thought of as a way to document the growing of a crop. Growers now have the tools to consider all possible management combinations and their outcomes. What is and isn’t working in this field? What is driving yield, and what are the costs associated there? Essentially—where is the profitability?
With farm management software, instead of tracking yield alone, you track everything—agronomic and financial—and you have it in one system.
“We are working to continue to make it easy for the farm to get data in one place, so they can actually have really good insight into their business,” says Christie. With increased visibility into your whole operation, you’re that much more able to increase your efficiency—and therefore your profitability.
Now is the time
Farmers continue to operate under increasing financial pressure as costs increase and trade wars wage. Adopting technology is a path toward more profitability, and growers are starting to see that. Technology like Zone Economics allows you to analyze activity costs against yield performance, enabling accurate cost per unit of production comparisons across your fields. Tools like this function as a data lens and help you understand how in-field decisions affect your bottom line.
“We’ve had more clients come on board the last 8 months than the last 4 years, and a lot of it is around financial stress,” says Pat Christie, a Conservis founder. “If we had $8 corn, I’m not sure that would happen.”
Our goal as a company from the beginning has been sustainability, and a big part of that is helping farms make sure they can stick around for the long haul. And that means efficiency. It’s in our name: we help growers conserve time and resources, so that they’re able to continue farming well into the future.
Life’s not about getting rich, but farmers more than anyone deserve to be profitable in their businesses. They’re doing arguably the most important work on this planet (and let’s be honest—they work harder than most). And when growers grow more efficiently, it’s great for their operations, but really, it’s great all around. As Pat Christie says, “Everybody wins when the farmer has a good business.”
Our farmer-inspired, farmer-informed tools are helping growers all over the world do more with less. We’d love to talk with you and see how we could help improve efficiency and profitability on your farm.