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The Culture of Agriculture Episode 3 Part 2

Jake

Welcome to the culture of agriculture brought to you by Spudnik Equipment. You look at what tractors were 30 years ago, versus what they are now. It’s quick, you look at what the technology was five years ago or 10 years ago, it’s even faster. What would you say the biggest advantages to using the operation center are versus maybe a competitor’s?

Layne

I would say that one, the operations center, when you have the John Deere tractor, and the JD link, it’s all seamlessly integrated. There is no charge for that. So, Operation Center, there is no additional charge. I mean, I hesitate to say free because you bought a tractor.

Jake

So, you get a free hat when you buy a tractor, right? Yeah!

Layne

But you’re… paying for that with the tractor, or the purchase of that, right? But all the telematics are all right there. So, it’s all automatically feeding into that. And in the past, there was a charge for the telematics. But there’s not a charge for the telematics anymore either. So, that data is flowing into the operation center, with at no additional cost to the grower. And, like the things that John Deere is really good at is the machine side, right? Like figuring out what… can we do to try to help this operation make it… more efficient. And what we’ve done is we’ve even built some of our own tools to actually pull that information out, and then try to really start digging into that information with the grower to really understand. Because growers can always see like, I’ve got an idle time, this is what my… combine or my potato harvester, my planter, my average speed was X, we’re covering so many acres per hour, right? And we feel like we want to improve that. But I might think that I’m at the top, or I might think I’m at the bottom. And so what we’ve done is we’ve taken a lot of all that data, and then combined that to try to figure out okay, here’s where the averages get a bell curve, here’s where the average is, here’s where our top guys are. And here’s where you are, you know, whether that’s below or high, maybe use the top performing person, and really trying to help each one grow. And okay, there are top guys doing this. Let’s try to start figuring out okay, let’s… make sure that your combine settings or this or your planner settings or that you don’t guess Can

Jake

You break that down into region by

Layne

Oh, yeah. Yeah, for sure. Yeah, by region. And then as we get better, and the operation centers getting better, too. But as we get better with that information, trying to gather, you know, like when we’re talking about like a planter, you know, there’s a lot of differences, right? You got a six row, you got to eight row, you got the 12 row, you know, I mean, there’s lots of differences in planters, and that’s going to change the acres per hour, drastically. Right? So understanding what planter is actually on there. Yeah, it really makes a big hit. Right, that efficiency number, because you have to be able to compare apples to apples. Yeah, you know, if I say, you know, you’ve got a six row planter in your production, your productivity is way down. Well, that’s because you have a 6 row planter.

Jake

Well, it’s like, I… the number I heard most recently was a 12 row planter did like 150 acres in like an eight or 10 hour day. And I… remember at the time, it was one of our customer service reps. He’s like, Yeah, 12 are funded 150 acres in a day is like, Good for him. I used to do that with an 8 row. He’s like, Well, yeah, but you did that. And like 18 or 19 hours, he did it. And they like, all right. Like, yeah, it was a little humbling. But at the same time, you know, being able to know how long it takes what you’re pulling on, because I mean, anybody can hit a certain number, if you’re gonna throw enough hours at it. Yeah. But if you drive that efficiency, higher and higher, it’s going to help the entire way across the board, right? It’s like, everybody gets a little nervous putting all their eggs in one basket, because remember, I can’t remember who it was exactly. But they switched from running like three, six row planters to running 12 Row planter, right. So theoretically, they were going down, and what they could plant because they were losing six rows. But they were able to throw one really good operator and a tractor instead of three kind of mediocre operators because they had to run three tractors before. Whereas, now the guy they had kind of overseeing three could just run the tractor. And they actually kept the production exactly the same. But the cost was down because they only had one tractor running instead of three. That’s pretty big. You know, you don’t answer your run hours on one machine versus hours on three machines. And then not only that, you only have maintenance on one, one planter or one tractor, you know smaller crews applying everything, it makes a huge difference.

Layne

And I think that’s been that’s some of the funnest things is like figuring out, like putting those dollar amounts to that kind of an improvement and understanding like this, you made this decision, or you’ve done this, if we can actually change this practice, it could save you a significant amount of money, right? Or maybe it’s, you’ve got way too many horsepower. Let’s get a smaller tractor. Or maybe you’re you don’t have a big enough tractor, whatever that case may be. But trying to figure out like, what is it? Where can we save some money? Yeah, because there’s always going to be a place to save some money?

Jake

Well, that’s where it’s always going to drive to in the future, right? How do you save the most money on anything, so you can use your… yield data, you know, you can use your… operation center to see how much power you’re using to get through everything. And you might not need it all planting, but maybe you need it all at harvest, which is going to drive the size of your machine, or maybe it’s the other way around. Or, maybe, you need a big enough machine to pull a certain size of tillage equipment to be able to make sure you can make it through all your ground after or before you, you know, planning or harvest or whatever it might be. But at least you have the data to drive those decisions going in the future.

Layne

Yeah. And I think that trying to figure out what’s causing that drag, right? Is it? Is it a process? Is it training? Is it you know, like a support type thing? You know, like figuring those pieces out? If it’s a support thing? Well, maybe then we need to get another tender or, you know, get another supply of water for the sprayer or you know, whatever process is happening. But knowing that data and being able to see it and quantify it really helps you understand how I could go get a trailer and fit it up with another tank to tend my sprayer, get something out some other truck to bring more potatoes to the field or get them out of the field or, like figuring that stuff out. Like that’s a lot of times especially in… tight markets. That’s what’s gonna make profitable decisions.

Jake

How do you efficiently support your operations? Yeah, because you want to make sure your machines are moving all the time. But you also don’t want to oversupply them. Right. And that’s the tricky part. Right? It always is that. So, knowing that, and then looking at where it’s going, like I saw something on social media, I can’t remember what platform was about John Deere starting to go a little heavier into automation on equipment. How do you think the data that you’re gathering now is going to help drive that automation?

Layne

I think the cool part is where we’re at in John Deere, we’ve actually got a lot of exciting stuff coming. Like one of the things that we’re doing this year, that’s been out for like a year and a half is what John Deere calls auto path. So, we take that planted data. So we are tillage, our first pass, right? Throwing potatoes…

Jake

Yes, this needs to be done every year, or is it? Once that feels done, it’s good forever?

Layne

No, it will be every year, because what we’re doing is we’re taking that from that first pass, right? whether, you know, in the Midwest, you spent some time there, the first pass, there’s the planter, right? But when we’re talking about potatoes, or many of the other crops that were growing around here, our first pass is going to be a Atilla Jersey until age or, or a mark out bar, you know, that’s, that’s our most important operation. So we can actually, we’ll log that, and then we’ll send that to the operation center, and then we’re going to send down guidance lines based off of where that row is. So then we’re going to automatically know where to drive the tractor. So we can get rid of those guess rows. So then when the tractor comes in, and he’s different with or the sprayers a different width than the the planter, then it automatically knows where I need to put that sprayer. So we don’t have that little guess row in the middle. And when it comes to harvest, same kind of a deal, right? You know that my six row harvester, if I pull it in here, then it’s going to be six rows the rest of the way.

Jake

So, one question there is on that, if, and, or when it gets to this point, because it’s not there yet. But hopefully it gets to where it’s there. So you take your your field, whatever you’re planting, say you’re planting 20 foot widths, but then you go through, you know, and you have your pivot, obviously. So it’s a circle or any irregular shaped field, you’re planting and 20 foot widths your… perimeter is going to look a lot smoother than your sprayer would at 120 foot wide. So, how does that automation play in when you’re going to have such an irregular misshaped border? That makes sense. So like if you’ve got half of your sprayer would be not in the field yet. But it’s easy enough to shut off one side of it and have it come on as it comes on. But what do you do when you’re overlapping? scanner make it so you need to start. So, only the outer 20 feet of your left or right hand boom needs to be on so that you can get your full pass in. That makes sense.

Layne

Yeah. And I think that’s where this automation will actually come and help pick that row. And then you’ve got, you know, individual nozzle controls. So you’ve got exact apply, that’s actually going to put it on at the exact time that needs to be on. So we don’t over apply anywhere.

Jake

So, how does the automation now? Or how, what’s the idea behind making sure that all those nozzles are always working? If nobody’s in that cab to always watch? Is there a way that that computer system?

Layne

I think that’s where, you see what I mean? I think that’s where the technology is getting. I mean, everybody’s seen that the autonomous tractor, no, John Deere just released that January.

Jake

Yeah, that thing makes me it gives me the creeps, man. I think its really cool, don’t we? I think it’s awesome. But like, I have this like, fear, right? Because right now, I think it’s only for tillage. Like, we’ve all run a tractor, you know, be it a chisel plow, or a disk or whatever, you know, this in your say you’re doing behind wheat or barley fields. So, you have some stubble there. Everybody who’s run one has had a game or a couple of points plug up with that residue. What happens when the tractor has that problem? And there’s nobody in the cab to say, Hey, don’t keep going because you’re just plowing a giant hole in the field?

Layne

That’s part. That’s one of the reasons in my opinion, why? Why agriculture is having a hard time is taking time to try to get to automation, right? Like we’ve had cars that drive themselves from point A to point B. But that’s easy. I don’t have to worry about what happened behind me. I only got to worry about what’s in front of me, right?

Jake

That’s true

Layne

In agriculture, I’ve got to worry about what’s happening in front of me. And I got to worry about what’s happening behind me. Most importantly, what’s happening behind

Jake

Yeah, not in front. Like you don’t want to run something over that’s in front of you. But it’s easy. It’s either manually input an obstacle, or have it detect an obstacle ahead of you. But the easy part, yeah, that the getting it to solve what’s wrong behind you.

Layne

That is what’s… very critical. And that’s why it’s only in tillage right now, is because that’s part of the audit automation, is it’s actually understanding that job quality. So, there’s going to be sensors or cameras that are pointing back there to understand like, what is a good job? And what is a bad job? What, when is this? Does this look right? Or does it look wrong? Like the cameras have to be trained to understand the job looks like

Jake

it’s gonna be so cool. When that works. It really will be because I mean, I know anybody who’s been in farming for probably the last 50 years is that… someday we’re gonna have self driving tractors and just thought it was gonna be awesome, but like, kinda nervous at the same time. But when it actually works, it’s gonna be huge, not far away now.

Layne

It’s pretty crazy. It’s not far away. And I think that the other thing that I always think about when I think about the… autonomy and like, you know, having that technology on your farm, one, that tractor is a tractor, you know, so if you… need to feed your cows, or, you know, do another job on the farm, that still tractor, you can go drive it around and go do all the other jobs. But then you could also send it to go do some tillage on its own.

Jake

But it sure would be nice to take a nap instead of having to go out, try not to fall asleep in the cab of a tractor, especially when it steering itself, because I’d like anybody who’s running tractor that has auto steer in it. Sometimes, especially towards the end of a long day or a long weekend, it’s real hard to make it to the other end awake, which like…

Layne

Well, that’s why y’all we always see tractors coming into the shop, I hit a pivot.

Jake

It happens all the time, which is really unfortunate. But like, you know, John Deere, and probably every other implement steering system out there has the warnings that will warn you when you get close to where you’ve been turning around, right? Yeah, oh, he’s loud enough. But they’re there, right? So like, you take the possibility of where this automation is going in the equipment and all of the operation center stuff, all of the variable rate stuff that can be done now the yield mapping and everything. How do you think that’s going to drive practices going forward to not only have to use less chemical, which is huge for like multiple reasons. One chemical is really expensive. So, using less of it is good by a farmer standard to customers don’t appreciate chemical use. So using less of it keeps our customers generally happier, keeps us happier because we’re spending less money on it. Fertilizers the exact same way everybody wants clean crops, at least not everybody cares about organic, but everybody wants well grown potatoes without you know, having overly fertilized and overly chemical against Yeah. So how do you see the automation and all this stuff driving that forward?

Layne

I think mean, I think moving forward, I think that we’re just seeing pieces, right that have just been released. There’s a lot of stuff working on the backside, we’ve seen the mean, you’ve seen the sprayer that can spray only the weed, you know, as it’s driving, what is it 15 miles an hour across 132 foot boom, it’s watching and only spraying a weed in corn, cotton and soybeans. Like, what, what’s next for that?

Jake

That’s a good question!

Layne

You know, so that cameras there, they are very, very smart, the processors on they’re very smart. And now we’re starting to collect this massive amount of data. So, now we’re collecting more and more data, that’s going to create more and more opportunities for artificial intelligence, whether that is like pest detection, you know, in potatoes, like, obviously, first, it’s gonna come out and corn and soybeans, right? Well, let’s come okay, because

Jake

There’s a huge like, it’s the most popular crop in the United States before it, right? Like you got corn and soybeans. It’s okay for that. Because there’s so many people to spread that cost across versus like potatoes. Like, everybody likes to eat them. But in reality, there’s not many acres of potatoes. One, it doesn’t take that many to supply it. But like, there’s just not a lot of potatoes. It’s kind of a specialty crop. So, if we can use other industries to help cover that giant cost, by all means, let’s do it.

Layne

But I think you think about like, what, what’s coming, like, all that stuff, to me is what’s really exciting. Like that thing, that’s when you’re talking about that sustainability, and like really understanding all that the more data we can collect, and understand and start to learn, then, obviously, nobody’s mean the farmers are there, the original environmentalists, right? They’re out there every day trying to make sure that they can raise a crop out of that soil. Nobody cares more about that soil and the farmer does.

Jake

That’s when because always tickled me, I guess, is when people think that farmers just mind the soil until it’s dead, like, doesn’t work. It’s not a sustainable business practice, that soil is what gives you your money. So, you it’s in your mind, by far your best interest to make sure that… soil is healthy.

Layne

That’s why I said like, they’re the original environmentalists, right? They can’t nobody cares more about that soil health. Do we understand that? All the way? No, we don’t. But that’s where it’s all about, like collecting this data. And like taking all that information. If you were to give that information to a farmer that cares about the soil, he’s obviously going to want to improve that. Because that’s gonna make him more money, that’s gonna make him a better steward. Like, all those things. Nobody’s Yeah, drives me crazy when people think that farmers are just out there, just mining the dirt, and like just pillaging the soil. Like, that’s just terrible. Like they, nobody cares more than they do.

Jake

Every farmer I’ve ever met, has cared deeply about their soil, like all of it from organic content and the actual fertilizer profile content of the soil, and how well it retains moisture or doesn’t, you know, if they’re growing in sand and how they like, don’t over irrigate, because that’s bad for dirt or, you know, under irrigate, because that’s not great either, like, all of it matters.

Layne

And every one of those guys has their, like what they know, right? We can only do what we know. So they’ve they’ve learned that from what experience, years and years of experience, and anything that they can get from data or colleges or any of that stuff, like they’ve got to try to figure out all these different pieces and try to figure out how to put that on this piece of soil.

Jake

The next question might be “How do you collect data you don’t even know you need?” Because that’s all just because you have it doesn’t mean you can use it, or that you would know how to use it. But capturing what you might not know you need is that’d be an interesting challenge to tackle.

Layne

So my… advice is, collect as much data as possible.

Jake

Whether or not have it, at least.

Layne

I think it’s one of the things that we like to try to do is we like to try to figure out what data is going to matter. You collect, you make sure that we’re collecting data on everything that’s happening on the farm, if we’re collecting all that information, and then we have people on our team, we have people on our team that are just data guys, and that’s all they do is just try to figure out, try to find that, that missing piece missing piece or find that nugget, right or find that opportunity from that data to try to help improve our operation. And because why not know what that is when we start and a lot of times when we start working with a grower, like we don’t know what you know, they might have an idea of I want to improve whatever my fertilizer, my seed utilization, whatever. But then we start into it, hey, here’s an opportunity. We’re saying this could save you X amount of dollars. Like that’s the fun stuff.

Jake

And you probably won’t be upset you gathered something, especially if it’s free or… very, very… cheap, right?

Layne

Well, you’re utilizing the technology that’s there like that tractor. It’s not a 4020. We all know the 4020. But it didn’t collect much data. No, it didn’t. But the tractors that are out there today, they’re collecting massive amounts of data, you know, and there’s points. I can’t even remember, like, a lot of software’s can have a hard time with the Gen four data, because the Gen fours collected so many different points, so much.

Jake

As our time just handling all the stuff that’s in there. Yeah. It’s like I said, when we switch to using the rate controller stuff on the Trimble system, and it paid back in a year, and how much more sustainable is that a practice going forward? Right? Because, like, if you cut your fertilizer bill, if you come within 1% of what you actually think your fertilizer bill needs to be, you know, based on all your projections and what you want to use, and all this, I mean, that 1% is massive, because you know, if in the past it was, say you were within 5%, what’s 4% Extra fertilizer you were putting on the dirt, right? Is that everything that it needs? Is it too much is it creating unhealthy profiles in certain spots, if you can dial that if you are too low, or too low, and you know, you can use your… yield mapping, and do your prescription rates to make sure that you’re getting the extra on like in your, you know, here in eastern Idaho, we have some really light soils on certain ridges. So, if you can put on the extra there and make that soil healthier overall. Or if you can put on a little less than the low spots where things tend to run if it rains a little bit, or if it runs because of you know how center pivots work, you can try and make sure you’re pulling that excess fertilizer that gets moved there via watering, you pull it out of the soil instead of you know, leaching into the ground or whatever it is. There’s all sorts of stuff that we can do to help drive that. Like the better agronomic practices for the industry.

Layne

Well, and I think nobody really likes, I think one of the hard parts in agriculture is like everybody comes out with the college recommendations or whatever. But that doesn’t necessarily, like you’re talking in the one field, there could be that light dirt, and there could be that heavy dirt. And now we’re we’ve got this recommendation from wherever, that that’s what we should do. Well, maybe it won’t work.

Jake

Yeah. But they don’t know why farm, right.

Layne

Yeah, that’s, I think that’s the best part about really collecting all the data you can on your farm, because now it’s your information. Yeah, it’s actually then combine that with the know how that’s already in there.

Jake

And that’s where the real value is, yeah, can take experience and actually quantify it. So, it’s not just well, this is what grandpa did. And this is what dad did. And this is how we just do it, because this has been working. And now you can actually say, Well, this is what they did. And this is why it worked. And this is how we can improve that. Because like you said the data was just knowledge before it was just experienced before, but now it’s actually hard numbers that you can take and use going forward.

Layne

So, when I think, you know, in this day, especially this year, right fertilizer, all those chemicals are just getting there crazy.

Jake

Yeah, I saw a T-shirt on Facebook for sale the other day that said make fertilizer affordable again. Yeah!

Layne

Man. It’s crazy. So, I don’t know how you can’t. I don’t know how you can’t have some type of, you know, whether, you know, you use the Trimble stuff, we obviously use the John Deere and, and we have the SurePoint. That’s the name of

Jake

The company, your point makes a great system. Yeah, I really do that.

Layne

We’ve been partners with them for a long time. And they’ve done a lot of good stuff with them too. And again, like some of that is going back to that sprayer that I was talking about earlier. You know, like they feel that that niche, we can take that information from the machine understanding our sprayer utilization and understanding how much time he’s sitting there waiting to get loaded. Well, maybe we take this SurePoint quickdraw put it into the system and get a payback in less than a year. You know, those kinds of things and understanding all that SurePoint’s been really good to work with on our side to just help us build the systems and the reliability just of those systems has just been phenomenal.

Jake

Well and like we said earlier when you have operators that don’t need to be your great at operators if you if you can get by with having sounds rough or having a lower quality operator in your machines because you have superior equipment on those gene that makes a big difference can lower your overhead costs for sure.

Layne

Because back then, right, you might have a fertilizer system that you had to watch that pressure and you had to be going 3.6 miles an hour at 40 psi. And if you were faster or slower you were under or over applying. So, a good operator could… do that. And pretty close. And when I understand like, that good operator is really hard to find.

Jake

Cat. Yeah, yeah, there’s a bit of a labor shortage in the Ag industry. It’s like, it’s probably understating it. And people don’t understand what drives it, I think by and large, but it’s something that we can use equipment to try and fix. So, if that automation on the entire system will get there, that would be massive.

Layne

Well, I think, like I said, I think it’s… common, it’s just a matter of a matter of time, like the first thing right now, with automation, we got tillage, you know, but the rest of its coming.

Jake

And even if you have to keep an operator for harvest, if you can automate your tillage and automate your spraying, those are two time intensive things. Like, you can’t have an operator on 24/7 when you’re spraying, but if you have systems that can monitor every nozzle, and you can automate that, you can make it across a few 1000 acres a lot quicker than you can if somebody’s got to be awake and actually make it home to sleep and all sorts of stuff. So like you go from needing to be able to cover your entire farm in a week to while you can run a smaller machine, because you can just have this computer more or less running for 24/7. And you’ll throw a couple of chips.

Layne

The other cool part about that, like the whole, all the technology in that autonomous tractor, other than the cameras is available today, you control that autonomous tractor with the my operation center app that you can have on your phone today.

Jake

Sitting at home, eat dinner with your family and just check on a wall without going

Layne

Yeah, that’s insane. So it’s cool. It’s out there now. So like, that’s, that’s my biggest thing is like, you got to get fully integrated with the technology that we have today. Because that’s what’s in the tractor, that’s what’s going to be running that autonomous tractor, we’re just going to add some cameras to it. But if we focus on here, now, let’s get my operation center set up, let’s get my farm digitized. Let’s get all that information flowing, collecting all that amount of data today. So when that tractor comes out, and it’s available for you to purchase or to add to your tractor, then you’re ready to plug it in, and you’re ready to go today,

Jake

Gather all that info today. So, we can use it tomorrow with the autonomous stuff.

Layne

Yeah. Where if we just sit around and wait, you know, the autonomous tractor is gonna come out, but you’re not gonna be ready for it, you’re gonna have to spend two years trying to collect data and you know, digitize your farm creating your boundaries. You know, all that stuff? Well, now, you got to do all that. So you can’t use that tractor. Until next year.

Jake

Yeah. Yeah. Well, that’s a … I think that’s a great note to actually end on, be honest with you. It’s a… very optimistic outlook for agriculture, which I think, by and large, is where it’s going. Because, you know, labor’s getting, it’s getting harder to find, I don’t think that’s going to change much. So, we’re gonna get easier now. We’re… already seeing more and more automation in industries outside of agriculture, right? Like, no matter what it is, you look at any type of manufacturing, there’s more automation, you look at even customer service, there’s been automation. So, when we figure out how to automate the systems that we can automate in farming, that’s going to make a massive difference. So

Layne

Yeah, like I said, I think… you got to start somewhere and start using the technology that you have. I mean, we don’t have 4020s. We still have a few of them around. But that’s not what is going to pull your Spudnik’s. No, it’s not. So, let’s utilize all the technology that we have today. And focusing on that and collecting massive amounts of data.

Jake

Let’s gather it and use it. Yeah. Thanks for coming in, man. Yeah, appreciate you taking the time.

Layne

No problem.

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