How financial visibility creates a clear pathway to the future
Nathan Soulsby needed to provide integrated agronomy service to BettaCrop clients, which includes their planning, budgeting, scouting and record keeping. Rolf Malmo was new to cropping and needed visibility into his financial performance that he could also take to his bank and other service providers.
Nathan and Rolf decided to both use Agworld to collaborate on daily tasks such as planning, budgeting, scouting, making recommendations, recording actuals and performance reviews.
By collaborating on the same platform, record keeping has been simplified. Nathan, Rolf and other service providers now have full visibility into what has been done on the farm and what is planned for the future.
Henty, the birthplace of Australian ag-tech
It seems an unlikely claim to fame for a town of just over one thousand people in Southern New South Wales, but Henty is where the modern header, or combine harvester, was invented by Headlie Taylor in 1914. Over the last 100 years, much has changed, but ag-tech is still just as important to the agricultural sector around Henty now as it was then. Local AGnVET agronomist Nathan Soulsby is part of the BettaCrop program, which offers AGnVET’s growers a suite of integrated agronomy services to help them improve their overall results. Nathan, a veteran agronomist with his roots in Australia’s cotton industry, explains: “BettaCrop is a detailed agronomy package, with Agworld at the heart of it, that can be tailored to a grower. The premise of the program is that it encompasses the whole season, so from planning and budgeting to growing the crop and analyzing the season afterwards; we make sure to guide our growers along the way.”
Local grower Rolf Malmo is one of Nathan’s clients who uses Agworld daily to manage his operation. Rolf explains his reason to adopt Agworld: “I was a dairy farmer for 25 years until I switched to cropping 8 years ago. In dairy farming it is normal to work with very tight margins and having accurate budgets & plans are therefore a must; if you produce 4 million liters of milk for example and you manage to get your cost down by one cent per liter, you’ve just saved yourself $40,000! When I changed from dairying to cropping, I wanted to be able to analyze my farming program similar to how I used to analyze my dairy. And let’s face it, with fairly long seasons for crops such as wheat and canola, just looking at your bank account doesn’t give you a good snapshot of where you are, you need to do better than that if you want to have confidence.”
Farming with data
Within AGnVET Henty, Agworld is positioned right in the center of the daily activities that take place. Nathan: “We have our growers’ maps in Agworld, so if we have a new agronomist starting, they just open Agworld on their iPhone or iPad and drive straight to the field and know where they are going. When one of the agronomists makes a recommendation in the field, it’s in Agworld and instantly gets sent to the grower and to our store, so they both know what is going on. This allows the grower to plan spraying activities early and allows us to get the products needed on farm in time I also send maps to helicopters and planes that help us spray certain fields; having all fields and boundaries in the same place certainly makes my life a lot easier!”
Rolf, who crops around 800 hectares, divided between oats, lucerne, pasture, lupins, wheat, canola and barley, uses Agworld in a lot of facets of his business. Rolf: “Two years ago I thought I didn’t do too well with my barley crop, but when I looked at the actual numbers in Agworld at the end of the season, I found out I actually made a decent profit – which is nice to know! I love dissecting the numbers on my iPad and play around with them; like comparing different, fields, crops etc. It’s interesting to me and I always learn something new."
Where most growers can work on standard crop rotations, the soil around Henty tends to have a low pH, which forces growers like Rolf to be a bit more creative: “We put lime on our fields, but we still get an acid choke around 10/20 cm depth – we know we need to put on more lime to get the pH to move from 4.5. to 5.5, but it’s hard to move down the profile; my pH is still 4.2 at 15 cm depth for example. Legumes tend to grow smoothly until they hit that band and then they struggle; because I have previous’ years actuals in Agworld, it’s easy for me to see what we’ve done before to pull the crop through, which makes it easy to replicate these kinds of strategies.”
Although low pH can be a big problem, it’s not the only problem in the Henty area. Nathan: “We have a big ryegrass problem in this area. Mixed cropping and livestock operations tend to manage this quite well, Rolf, for example, has sheep too, and rotating a paddock to pasture just increases the range of options available. When you are able to cut a paddock for hay and use less chemicals for a few years, that is really valuable. We always had a good idea of which profitable strategies we had available, but with Agworld we can really see the numbers per field and how these strategies work out in the long term. We can now retrospectively see: was it worth applying this extra spray? And that, to me, is what agronomy is all about: trialling new things, learning from them, seeing how they stack up against other practices and using best practice moving forward.”
The Elders agronomy team aims to provide a high-quality service to their clients that helps these growers be as profitable as possible. Elders were looking for a digital platform that enables their agronomists to provide a consistent service where agronomists can collaborate with their growers. Elders also wanted to make sure that any software they implemented would be useful for their clients to adopt as well.
Generating value by using data instead of shiny tools
McGregor Gourlay as an organisation used a legacy digital ag solution for their recommendations but was unable to turn this into an integrated approach across the company. They were at the same time looking for a way to provide more ability to forecast to their merchandise managers through increase visibility.