Path to Precision

Action Plan Step 7: Optimise

17 Dec 2021

​You’ve reached Step 7 on our Precision Farming Action Plan: a feat in itself. This signals that a considerable amount of change has occurred in your practices, a leap towards life-changing productivity improvements. So, before we set you on your way with this final step, we wanted to take this opportunity to congratulate you on what you have achieved up to this point. It certainly won’t have been easy, but overcoming challenges is how we improve.

Step 7 closes the continual improvement loop. You may have heard of the Japanese term ‘kaizen’ which means ‘change for the better’ or ‘continuous improvement’. Now you’ve implemented precision agriculture on your farm, it’s time to take the kaizen approach and optimise your strategy. 

Hopefully we've made it clear that a precision agriculture strategy is not a race—it's a step-by-step process, it's about learning and growing. Like with anything new we learn, we can get comfortable with it, and if we don't apply more resistance, we can plateau. This optimising step applies that resistance to keep growing.

Don't panic though, we're not about to make you run marathon when you've only just mastered 5km. We're still talking about small, consistent, marginal improvements. By now you will have collected a considerable amount of knowledge and data about your farm. And most certainly this will start to show you under-performing areas, either in your field, in your processes or somewhere amongst your resources. So, identify them, and get to work improving them!

We advise selecting two to three areas to improve at a time. Don't get carried away trying to improve it all at once as this can actually have a negative impact (and not to mention may make it hard to identify what specifically improved the under-performing area). Let’s dive into some examples of areas of improvements.

In-field:

Lower yielding areas – precision farming is like staring into a magnifying mirror—it shows everything you may not want to see. Lower yielding areas may need a specific treatment to ensure your overall yield returns reach their full potential
Underperforming varieties – an FMIS will easily show you performance of the different crop varieties you may be using. Perhaps one is far superior to another
Over application/under application – over applying nitrogen or under sowing seed? Again, monitor the implication and returns of the rates you are using and adjust if necessary
​Processes:

Poor data management – data not flowing in correctly? What’s the weak link in this process? Connectivity? Human error? Improve it!
Poor machine operation – having everything flowing into one central location makes it easy to spot potential problems in machine operation. Operators not inputting the correct data? Maybe it’s time for a training session!
Inconsistent measurements – this can be caused by sensors that haven’t been correctly calibrated or that are potentially faulty. These kinds of issues should be fixed as soon as possible. Ensure regular checks are being made

Resources:

Inefficient machines – one machine burning more fuel than the other? Maybe one machine has auto guidance and the other hasn’t, clearly showing the value of using this control technology [link]. Draw comparisons between your equipment and build a case for upgrades as necessary
Poor measurements/no measurements – maybe you've decided that you now want to measure your seeding application rate? Or fuel usage? Or perhaps identified a weakness in your yield accuracy. Make a change!
Logistic issues/time management – why is one operator spending more time in idle than the other? Or why is one machine travelling longer distances than the rest of the fleet? Data enables productivity improvements, right down to the daily use of machines. It could be time for operator training if expectations aren’t matching reality

These are just a few examples of potential areas to optimise. The great thing about agriculture is that there’s variability everywhere you look! Things are changing all the time—there's never a shortage of areas to optimised, no matter how small. So, remember, choose two to three areas at a time, improve them, measure the improvement....and repeat. Kaizen!

This was the final step in Case IH’s 7-Step Precision Farming Action Plan. Your local, authorised Case IH dealer is happy to support you as you continue on your Path to Precision.