As the agriculture industry gets more complex, so do the technologies farmers use to make decisions about their crops. Real-time data from tractor sensors feed into farm software programs that crunch the numbers and guide farmers to more economical and sustainable decisions.

Embracing technology is reaping rewards across the soybean value chain – from farmers who use precision agriculture tools to processors and end users who determine soybean value based on protein and oil content. Although, there’s more to capture as the industry continues to move toward consistently measuring component value.

Right now, elevators are using different metrics than processors and end-use customers to determine the value of soybeans. End users demand specific fatty acid profiles and product performance qualities. Processors manage customer expectations by measuring protein and oil content and by separating premium products. However, many elevators, are not measuring the valuable components of soybeans.

When farmers deliver their product to the local elevator, they see the same process at their local elevator that they have for decades; no matter how well the soybeans meet customers’ needs, farmers are paid based on weight and discounted if moisture is too high.

Farm decision-making is getting more sophisticated, and the value chain must keep pace. Making expectations clear with your farmer-suppliers allows you to better serve your customers, who are looking for precision and quality. One way to do that is through NIR technology.

NIR, or near-infrared, technology is a tool for measuring soybean moisture, protein and oil content. Processors use similar tools to evaluate the loads they bring in from satellite elevators, so it’s beneficial for elevator managers and farmers alike to understand the measurements and know how their loads stack up.

David Wansley, an elevator manager in Valley Park, Mississippi, is encouraging the members of his farmers’ cooperative to test for protein and oil content.

“Many of our farmers are tracking their quality by sending samples to university labs,” Wansley says. “I think in the future, we’ll see those measurements adding value to the soybean.”

Wansley, who is also a director on the United Soybean Board, is consulting with other elevator leadership in his region to determine what’s best for his farmer’s cooperative. Recently, he’s worked with other members to evaluate the cooperative’s options to report protein and oil back to their members.

“First, we’ll need reliable instruments to measure oil and protein,” he says. “Then the process to start reporting shouldn’t be difficult, so it will come down to deciding as a group that it’s worth the investment.”

Investing in NIR technology now could put you ahead of the curve as the industry begins to track and reward component quality. Adopting the same measurement strategy as your customers paves the way for capturing more value from U.S. soy in protein and oil content. At the same time, farmers will continue to innovate and become more efficient. Reports from their local elevators can help ensure that your suppliers consistently meet customer expectations, which means more profit for you.