Path to Precision

Alleviate common sugarcane farming pain points using FMIS

07 Dec 2021

You may have heard about the power of ‘big data’ in today’s technology-obsessed climate. Companies such as Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple are the kingpins when it comes to data, and they are fully integrated into our everyday lives.

How does this all translate to agriculture? Well as we've discussed already, through various ag-based sensors and the addition of GNSS, you too have the potential to harvest (pun intended) the power of big data. Data in farming today is responsible for highest yield improvements since the invention of genetic modification in crops (GMOs). GMOs changed the landscape of agriculture as we knew it in the 1990s—and data will be responsible for next paradigm shift in farming.

The thought of this, however, can be understandably overwhelming to the average farming community. There’s a lot to take in—where do you start? How does it work? Why? It sounds like a risky investment in an already highly variable and unpredictable climate—but that’s the whole point; that’s the WHY!

Data fights against instability and unpredictability, working to give farmers back the control needed to prosper; to stop guessing and hoping. Smartphones have increased the level of control we have in our everyday lives—everything you need is now available with a few swift swipes. What would you do without your banking app? Or WhatsApp and WeChat? Or any of the millions of retail apps? A Farm Management Information System, or FMIS [link], works much the same way, putting everything you need in one handy, easy-to-use interface.

Let’s take a closer look at how an FMIS, such as Case IH’s AFS Connect, can improve success in sugarcane production. 

Use data and an FMIS to alleviate sugarcane farming pain points such as:

1. Water management 
Poor water management can lead to low or variable yielding crops. An FMIS, such as AFS Connect, allows you to visualise not only your low yielding areas but also the potential causes. Perhaps your low yield areas are struggling to obtain water due to high elevation and water run-off? Do you have sandy soils that struggle to hold water? In this instance you can directly compare your yield data over your field elevation and soil data attributes and look for correlations.

2. Machine operation 
Poor operators and imperfect machine operation can lead to expensive breakdowns, costing time and money. From the moment your operators turn on the vehicle, data is being collected—in AFS Connect this is a snapshot collected every minute. This data snapshot includes all the key operational parameters of a sugarcane harvester, allowing you to generate reports on machine operation and utilisation. How is your operator performing? What is the machine performance? In addition, error codes can be captured for any faults and used for remote diagnostics with your dealer, minimising downtime.

3. Cut-to-crush times
Long cut-to-crush times result in reduced sucrose content and lower crop returns. Once cane is harvested, the logistics of it reaching the mill are key—but this is a battle many sugarcane farmers struggle with. An FMIS can even report on your logistics. Parameters such as travel time, idle time, location and even machine historical location mapping can all help indicate where there is room for improvement. Once you start measuring the factors around cut-to-crush time, you can begin to improve it.

4. Crop trampling 
This is another issue that can reduce yield. It can all start with when you plant your cane. Get this wrong, and crop trampling can be inevitable. With today’s technology it’s wild that crop trampling is just accepted as a loss factor—why? You can lose on average around 3% of yield per year as result of a harvester trampling planted rows. Can you afford to keep making those losses? Through remote sensing data, an FMIS can show you just how much you could lose from cane trampling—yes it can actually calculate that! The FMIS can then output the correct guidance lines for you, so you can use Auto Guidance 9or autosteering) and avoid trampling. This is a very common practice in Brazil today.

An FMIS, such as AFS Connect, is your decision support tool. It provides the proof you need to make changes and it tells you where they are needed. It simplifies your data and decisions, offering insights into your operation at a level of detail you have to see to believe.

To quote the inventor of AFS Connect Farm, Paul Turner, this is ‘giving you answers to questions before you know to ask them’.

Talk to the experts at your local, authorised Case IH dealer for more information about how technology such as an FMIS can help your operations.