Path to Precision

Action Plan Step 5: Identify Software to Use

15 Dec 2021

Identifying software is a step on its own in our Action Plan because it requires thought and a little bit of forward planning. Your FMIS ​is a core pillar on your Path the Precision but there is other ag-tech software that can complement or supplement your chosen FMIS, so it helps to consider your options. 

With so many data solutions out there in agriculture, the main consideration will be compatibility with your current fleet and precision solutions. Your FMIS will be your dashboard for all digitised operations on your farm. Whatever you’re measuring, that data should be flowing into singular platform.

There are two main things to consider when it comes to FMIS compatibility:

1. What machines do you have in your fleet?

Are you running a mixed fleet or are you loyal to one brand? Today, most of the top agricultural machinery manufacturers offer their own FMIS platforms with their own data formats, and this becomes more important in buying decisions. Just using Case IH machines? Easy... use AFS Connect! It gets a little trickier when you have a mixed fleet because that usually means more than one type of data format to support. In this case, assess what data formats your equipment uses and add this into your FMIS considerations.

This includes any sprayers, spreaders, drills, or other tools and attachments that leverage their own display terminals. Many equipment manufacturers now offer ISOBUS solutions, using industry standard ISOXML format, which is supported by most FMIS platforms.

2. Are you using any telematics or connectivity solutions? 

This matters for several reasons. Firstly, agricultural machinery manufacturers generally don't support cross-platform data sharing. For example, John Deere's data cannot be sent directly to AFS Connect via telematics, and vice versa, but the data can be manually loaded through USB. So, if wireless data transfer is important to you, factor this in.

Secondly, telematics solutions can capture and send machine data (engine/ transmission related data) and agronomic data (such as yield, as-applied, boundaries and guidance line data). Some of telematics solutions can do both, while some only do one or the other. If you have connectivity, work out what your solution is sending and what you would like to visualise in your FMIS in accordance with your precision strategy.

The third important consideration is available data sharing and partnerships. Because the world of ag data is growing quickly, many manufacturers have partnered-up to enable sharing of some data (but not all of it!). For instance, the Data Connect initiative is an agreement between Claas, John Deere, New Holland, and Case IH to allow five parameters to be shared between their platforms (machine current location, historical location, fuel level, speed, and work status). Also, companies like Trimble, Climate, FarmersEdge and Cropscan have partnered with Case IH to allow cross-platform sharing of data for customers using their solutions.

Finally, there are APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), which allow two applications to talk to each other and are used to openly share data between a manufacturer’s FMIS and your choice of software. An example of this would AFS Connect’s machine and agronomic APIs which customers use to collect data from their connected Case IH fleets and send to their own third party software for financial or logistic tracking.

So do some investigations into what your chosen connectivity option offers. What data do you want? How open is that platform to sharing data? What partnerships do they have for flexibility?

​This is a lot to take in, especially if you haven't started your Path to Precision yet but we’d like to take this opportunity to alleviate some concern: whatever software decision you make is not necessarily permanent—you can always change your mind later! In fact, it’s quite common for people to change software throughout their precision farming journey. The more you learn, the more you may need to adapt. The important point is that you make a start. 

One final point to remember: you don't have to change everything at once! Start with one area to improve in your operation and focus on the marginal improvements in that area only. 

For example, you don’t need to go to full fleet machine connectivity, if you are just looking to improve yield variability—machine APIs and reporting will probably be enough!  

What do you need to better measure and control? Talk to your local authorised Case IH dealer to find out more. 
Once you’ve made a decision on software, it’s time to simplify and standardise.