Path to Precision
Action Plan Step 6: Simplify and Standardise
16 Dec 2021
By this step, you should be well along your Path to Precision—and have learned a lot more about precision agriculture in the process. You have someone dedicated to implementing your precision strategy
, the right hardware
to support your goals with all stakeholders involved in the process, machine operator to farm manager, adequately informed and trained.
The foundations are ready and now it's time to put rubber to the road and set all you've learned into practice: it’s time to embed your new precision practices into your everyday farm operation—to simplify and standardise your strategy.
This step ensures that things don't snowball out of control. To stay present and not get carried away with too many changes which could oppose our goal to do more with less. A strategy needs to be scalable and simple. In other words, when things get too hard or complex, motivation to change behaviours can drop.
So take what you have right now, simplify it where you can and standardise it into habit.
Here are some hints and tips where you can simplify and standardise:
• Implement SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) for all stakeholders involved:
o Operator – put an instruction card in the cab detailing the actions to take to ensure correct auto guidance function or data management EVERY time they operate the machine. (Remember, your machine operator is the start and end point to your improvements—getting it wrong here can result in negative returns.)
o Foreperson/Farm Manager – data quality is key, so ensure whoever is leading the farm site or fleet is regularly retrieving the data from and observing the machines/operators in-field. This could be a daily or weekly procedure, but it should be habit—a regular process. This ensures problems are identified swiftly before months pass with poor operation or bad data. The foreperson or farm manager should know enough to identify problems in data and equipment to alarm the dedicated precision staff members.
o Dedicated Precision Team/Member – this person (or team) is responsible for the overall precision strategy implementation so accountability ends here. This person or team needs to have an active involvement in the day-to-day running of farm operations, overseeing every aspect from machine operation to data input. Daily or weekly data checks should become standardised and habitual. Where problems are identified, these people are responsible for the resolution. Operator Training? Sensor calibration? Faulty hardware? It's down to them to resolve, or even better, have a process to resolve.
From our experience, failure and complications are most commonly down to stakeholders in the precision strategy not understanding the part they have to play. Don't make the same mistake.
• Simplify your digital footprint:
o With a precision strategy, your whole farm is transformed into a digital entity. Your farm, fields, fleet, commodities (including operators) all become data. It's how we're able to measure and better control everything. However, this also means that you need to ensure a clean data management process, and preferably one that is as simple as possible. Data will be flowing in to your FMIS from multiple sources and flowing out to multiple sources which means data can get complicated quickly.
o Best practices here are to:
1. Ensure a single source of truth for your digital operation, i.e. your FMIS should be the originating data source. You can create your digital farm in your FMIS and then send it as the 'master template' to ALL vehicles, ensuring everyone is 'reading from the same page'
2. Use simple/memorable naming structures. Use nicknames, numbers or a mixture of both. If everyone knows that field as 'Stubble Hill' then name it that! If your machines are referenced by their nickname or a number, use that! Remember, it's the operators that need to select the right option on the machine, and things may get messy if they get confused.
Before moving onto the last step, your precision strategy and all its stakeholders and processes should be running like a well-oiled machine. It should be habitual, second nature. There will no doubt be some issues as you try to simplify and standardise, but that’s part of this step. Iron your issues out and get everything running smooth. Only then can we proceed to the last step of our 7-Step Precision Farming Action Plan. Then, it will be time to optimise.