Global Food Forum

Big Data. Big Difference.

HOW TO TURN FARM DATA INTO MORE SUSTAINABLE SOYBEANS.

You’re already collecting lots of data about your farm. Now, it’s time to put it to good use. End-use customers are asking for products made with sustainable ingredients, and they want evidence to back up those claims. Meeting customer expectations means analyzing your data to be more sustainable, which in turn can increase your profitability.

In Frankfort, Indiana, David Beard and his family are doing just that. Investments in drone technology, nutrient mapping and many other data-capturing tools allow the Beard family to better serve end-use customers. And David says it’s worth the effort.

“It’s all about finding a balance between maximizing your farmland’s potential and being environmentally responsible,” Beard says. “Collecting and analyzing data on our farm allows us to be more efficient, which means we’re saving money while reducing our impact.”

A new approach to data

Climb into any cab on the farm and you’ll find monitors measuring anything from manure application to varieties harvested. Beard analyzes the data to determine how to make the most of their acres.

“We set yield goals for each section, and we compare those to our results,” he says. “To evaluate our success, we set goals based on historical performance and factor in data from the variables we control.”

The Beards consult with an agronomist and monitor their progress all season. “Traditional thinking would be to make sure you put at least enough nutrients out to meet yield goals, but we take a different approach,” Beard says. “We apply manure for a base level of nutrients, then fill in the gaps. In fact, we only apply nutrients needed for a specific percentage of our yield goal for a field. After that, our scouting program helps us get our crops the right amount of nutrients at the right time.”

The family takes a similar approach to weed and pest management, scouting fields for weed breakouts and pest issues. Sprayers don’t hit the fields unless an economic threshold has been met.

Says Beard, “Our customers expect us to be sustainable, and it makes financial sense to be responsible with the tools we have, too.”

Laura Wolf
Laura Wolf

Ag Communicator