Brendan and Claire Booth started farming as first-generation farmers in 2012. They soon realised that as they didn’t have generations of experience and knowledge to fall back on, they needed to work as smart and hard as possible. In order to achieve this, they knew they had to collect and use all important farm data to their advantage.
Through their agronomist, David Strahorn with Delta Agribusiness, Brendan and Claire found out about Agworld and decided to start utilising the Agworld platform to capture and store all in-field data. In order to be able to visualise Agworld data in combination with other critical farm data, they also decided to engage Pairtree to design a customised dashboard solution for their operation.
By collecting, storing, utilising and visualising all critical farm data, Brendan, Claire and all staff members now have 24/7 access to this data. This data and knowledge sharing system forms the basis on which all work is planned, provides autonomy for the right employees, provides peace of mind for the management team and creates a knowledge-sharing culture that fosters a strong team spirit.
Although Brendan and Claire both hail from a farming family originally, they did not get involved in either operation and decided to shape their own future instead. At only 22 years of age, Brendan moved to Western Australia, and started a mechanical contracting business during the height of the mining boom. Having been able to save their deposit, they decided to exit the mining industry and move back to New South Wales in 2011. “The reason we moved back was that Brendan wanted to work as a farmer; in hindsight though, we were very lucky to leave when we did.,” Claire says.
Claire continues: “By that time we were 28 and, in the 8 years prior, had been able to save enough money to put down a deposit on our first farm at Geurie in New South Wales. The first years weren’t easy though and I still worked full-time as a lawyer and Brendan kept working on a drive-in, drive-out schedule, next to running our farm. After a few years, we were able to put in two centre pivots and boost our annual revenue to generate a sustainable income.”
“When you are as focused on growth as we are, metrics become very important; both for running the business as profitably as possible and to create confidence with our farming partners, such as banks, to support us. It was for this reason that we knew we needed a data platform to capture all our in-field information and translate that back to budgets and other reports. Our agronomist, David Strahorn with Delta Agribusiness, was already using Agworld at the time and showed us how it works. The fact that David does the planning for us on Agworld and creates recommendations on the same platform that we can easily turn into work orders and actual records, made it clear that Agworld is the way to go for us.”
Working together as a team
Although Brendan and Claire only started farming relatively recently, the fact that they have expanded rapidly and now manage 12 centre pivots spread over two separate farms, means that they already have a team of two employees / contractors. With a team of this size spread across the farms in different locations, the importance of data visualisation quickly became clear to Brendan and Claire. “We collect a lot of data ranging from soil moisture probes and weather stations to pivot behaviour, soil data and in-field data; we quickly recognised that we needed a better way of sharing this with our team so we can all benefit from the data.,” says Brendan.
With this reason in mind, Claire contacted Hamish Munro with Pairtree, who specialises in creating customised dashboards for data sets that are related in operation, but not connected. Hamish: “We see a lot of farmers that have a large amount of data available but only very few ways to make use of it, as there is just too much data to easily gain an overview of. What we then do for these farmers is create one dashboard that provides an overview of all critical data at the same time. So anyone can look at that dashboard and immediately see all information that is important to them, without having to use different apps, programs or devices.”
Brendan adds to this: “Data forms the basis of how we work as a team. Everything starts with the recommendations we get through Agworld from David, which get converted to a ‘to do list’ and, combined with a weekly staff meeting, creates a central place for jobs to be monitored and completed. The dashboard that Pairtree has created for us is displayed in each farmhouse, which means that the whole team has easy access to this information, 24/7. Especially when you’re irrigating around the clock, it’s critical that information is available at all times, which prevents people from having to call at various times during the day and evening. The data also helps provide a level of autonomy for the right employees and it provides peace of mind for Claire and myself, that we haven’t ‘forgotten’ to tell anyone something.”
Brendan and Claire have set themselves the goal of achieving higher revenue within the next couple of years, so keeping track of costs and maximising revenue remains very important for them. Brendan: “Because we collect all our in-field operations in Agworld, we have good visibility into the direct costs of our business. Agworld also allows us to easily share these costs during our half-yearly staff meetings, where we discuss overall crop profitability, whilst allowing us to retain information about overheads and general business profit as management-only information. Being able to share this information from Agworld with our team helps to keep everyone on the same page, so they can contribute as much as possible to achieving our goals. At the same time, sharing information also helps us create a good culture and it means that the team knows what we know, which is very important for retaining staff who are obviously curious when it comes to these details.”
Claire concludes with: “It is still possible to be a first-generation farmer in Australia, but you do need to work smarter and harder, because you don’t have generations of equity to fall back on. Agworld helps us work ‘smarter’ and allows us to structure the work for our team while also providing us with the corresponding financial data that we utilise in a number of different ways. Data plays a central role in our farming business and, by being able to constantly visualise the most important data on our dashboards, we are able to maximise the benefits we derive from our data.”
Yenda Producers Co-operative used to record their agronomic data by writing it down first and then later entering it in a computer. This way of handling data caused a lot of extra work due to double handling and did not offer an easy way to go back into historic data and find information when they needed it. Also, as a wide variety of both summer and winter crops get grown by Yenda Prods’ growers in overlapping seasons, there is no ‘slow time’ and thus the agronomists had a need to plan accurately and rapidly.
When Ben VanDyke started to grow food crops next to his existing grass seed operation, he found that he needed a better way to track his input applications for certification purposes. VanDyke Farms is also surrounded in the immediate area by sensitive crops, which necessitates a high degree of caution when spraying and accurate input application tracking to prevent spray drift from occurring.
The Toscan family grows a variety of crops and needed a simple way to create records of the spraying operations that take place in each individual crop and field. Prunes form part of their operation and they therefore need to be able to supply accurate records of exactly what inputs have been applied at any given time during the season for food certification purposes.
Warwick and Di Holding were searching for a system they could use to keep accurate records for their farming operation without creating a large additional burden of work. They also wanted to be able to see accurate financial cropping results for their operation, Pontara Grain, in order to guide them in making more profitable decisions in the future.