PADDOCK PRECISION

December 17, 2018

 

Delta Ag’s precision ag platform is based on a price per layer of information so the grower is not locked in for a number of seasons or years and there is no contract.

 

Growers are reaping the rewards of Delta’s specialised precision agriculture program which allows them more flexibility and advisors more control and capability in tailoring packages to meet their requirements, even when the seasons are tough.

Delta Ag’s precision ag offering teams up with the knowledge and experience of precision ag specialists and advisors, deploys leading software and powerful core processing of data which provides an extensive platform, that not only delivers results, but is simple for all growers to use.

Despite what has been a challenging broadacre cropping season for farmers, Delta’s Precision Ag Agronomy Specialists, Lachlan Caldwell and Dan Rigney still report seeing remarkable benefits using these farming systems.

“Since Delta introduced precision ag services five years ago, we’ve been constantly researching and trialling more efficient software systems that enable us to focus more on consulting with growers to ensure they are assisted as much as possible with their agronomic decisions,” Lachlan Caldwell says.

“We’ve got more growers looking at dipping their toes in the water and now with our new offering, they can experience the systems to a level they feel comfortable with before just diving in.

“If a grower wants to do some zoning over summer for next season, they can use these systems, if they are interested in imagery throughout the growing season, we can support them with that, if they are interested in yield data, that’s available too.

“We aren’t charging based on season, it’s based on a price per layer of information so the grower is not locked in for a number of seasons or years and there is no contract.

“This year in the northern areas is a perfect example of the flexibility we’ve got now and the potential it has when we again return to more productive and profitable cropping seasons. The growers are only paying for what they are doing and because of the dry season this structure is really suiting them. It would be really difficult to charge those growers when they aren’t getting a value or service.

“We’ve got growers who might only have imagery but they don’t want the yield or variable rate maps made, and we’ve got other growers who want variable rate maps, but they don’t need the imagery.

“We have a thorough understanding of this system and 100 per cent control, including additional tools such as using imagery for biomass reports which have also proven critical in growers’ decision making in whether to cut parts of the paddock for hay or graze out.”

Mitch Pollock, who runs a 2,600-hectare family farming enterprise at Caragabal with his wife Karen and parents, says whilst he has been keeping yield data for 12 years, this is the first year he has worked with agronomists David Crowley and Dan Rigney to zone some of his paddocks for variable rate lime, gypsum and phosphorus application.
 

“I could always see a lot of variation and I felt we could have been better utilising some of the products and if I can spread them more efficiently it’s going to give a better return, especially when the margins are getting tighter,” Mitch, who has also completed two precision agriculture courses, says.

The Pollock family grows wheat, barley, canola, faba beans, field peas and oats for hay, and also run 1,000 cross bred ewes as well. Mitch is passionate about agricultural advancements and he also has a contract spreading and windrowing with spray option business.

“We started off with (precision ag systems) around half the property this year, applying gypsum and lime in front of the canola and pulses… we would have done more in a better season…

“I was surprised at the large variations we were getting. Some of our paddocks can range from 4.8 to 6.3 acidity, so for those paddocks we can put more lime on the acidic parts. While it’s hard to tell if we’ve had that great a result this year, I’m confident what we’ve done will help us in the long run. We have a lot of different heavier soils through the paddocks as well as loamier ones so we’ve zoned them off and tested them and those are right up to an 11 and down to 4’s in sodicity, so we’re putting more gypsum on the higher areas and less where it’s not needed.

“Using the yield data we can really see where the lower areas are so we can set up zones and ground truth them to see where we are at.”

According to Lachlan and Dan, five years ago the market for precision ag was still quite small with only 15 to 30 per cent of growers really valuing from the systems. Now, they see benefit for farming businesses of any expanse and location.

“With this new system we’ve got a much more powerful ability to do analytics. We can do multiple trial analysis in one paddock and run yield analysis, economic returns and understand what is driving value on a canola trial or fertilizer trial. It’s not about variable rate, but overall blanket decisions, and conducting our own trials and forming our own analysis is
 

a key part of this, that way the grower can understand where the value proposition is.” Dan says it’s important that growers and advisors obtain information simply and that the process is flexible to alleviate the fears that some farmers have had in adopting new technologies and precision ag systems in their enterprises in the past.

“We really know where the growers will get value… We’ve learnt over the past five years that it’s key for their agronomists to be still sitting at the table helping them make core decisions and that’s what’s most important. Having an app to do 500 innovative things wasn’t important, getting the basics right and the timing right is important. Growers need to also tick all the management boxes as well for everything to work, such as spraying weeds and sowing crops on time…” Dan says.

Mitch adds, “It was a little bit daunting to get my head around to start with, but it really is a simple process. The way things work, such as getting some maps off Dan (Rigney), putting them on a USB and plugging them into the GPS, it all works seamlessly, it’s been good. I’m passionate about it, I think if you can stay ahead of the game a little bit you can definitely save yourself a lot of money.”

Lachlan and Dan say that as a result of the success growers are having with the precision ag systems, graziers are exploring how they can incorporate these practices into their livestock businesses as well, such as using satellite imagery to understand pasture growth.

“That’s an exciting area we see value in moving forward, and moving into variable rate phosphorus applications for pastures, helping advisors make better agronomic decisions. A lot of farmers have the soil moisture probes now and it ties in well knowing soil types and yield rates to decide on rates of fertilizer application,” Dan says.

Lachlan and Dan say precision ag will remain a core component of Delta’s advisory business in the future.

“It won’t be long and not having any precision ag systems will be the exception rather than the rule. We’re there for the long haul.”

 

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