Kim Ellington wanted to use his legacy software package for record keeping, financial planning and budgeting, but found it was too difficult to use to be worthwhile.
After searching online, Kim found a number of different software providers and, after looking at the features of each individual platform, Kim decided to adopt Agworld.
Kim now uses Agworld to know exactly what his input costs are. He can factor in what price he needs to fetch for his crops, based on historic yields. Kim is also able to create fertilizer prescriptions through Agworld's integration with PCT Agcloud, allowing him to get a better ROI on the amount of money spent on fertilizer.
Over 25 years of variable rate fertilizer applications
Every grower uses technology to a certain extent, but the technology adoption curve for growers covers a very wide spectrum. Where some growers are only just starting to adopt technology such as GPS, variable rate and yield monitoring, others have done so since the 1990s. Arkadelphia, AR, based Kim Ellington, Ellington Farm, is one such early adopter. He explains: “We have variable rate-applied our fertilizer since 1994, the same year that we also bought our first yield monitor. Although both technologies were in their early stages of development and very expensive, we implemented them knowing that they would help us to maximize every acre that we were farming by optimizing our cropping program and ultimately increasing our returns.”
Kim continues: “What started off with having a mini computer and separate GPS in the cab that told me when to manually change the fertilizer rate, since then this process has progressed a whole lot. What hasn't changed at all is the basic principle: putting the fertilizer where it is needed most. We don't actually apply less to create savings, but instead apply the fertilizer where our data tells us it's needed. Our fertilizer costs actually went up once we started putting the right amount of fertilizer where it was needed, but our ROI also went up as every bit of fertilizer now gets utilized instead of wasted.”
Ellington Farm now comprises 4,200 acres between Jerome and Arkadelphia, AR, growing a rotation of rice and soybeans, with occasionally a few acres of corn in the mix as well. Kim and his wife live in Arkadelphia, the town where they started leasing their second farm two years ago, while they have a farm manager living at their Jerome operation. Because of the geographical spread between the two locations, Kim realized soon after starting to farm the two separate properties, that having accurate field records to keep track of his costs is key to remaining profitable: “We can make quite a few field passes throughout the season, which adds up quickly from a financial perspective. Trying to keep track of this in my head or scribbled in a notebook isn't feasible for me, which is why I knew I needed a solid farm management platform to help me, and so I adopted Agworld.”
Creating accurate records
Kim had used Farm Works by Trimble for a number of years to create his maps and variable rate fertilizer prescriptions but, when he tried to use the record keeping and budgeting functionality, found it to be too cumbersome and difficult to be worthwhile. In 2021, after vetting the available options, Kim found Agworld to be the best fit for Ellington Farm, explains Kim: “The Agworld team showed me all their features and how easy they are to use. Agworld doesn't have the ability to create VR prescriptions for me, but their integration with PCT Agcloud works very well for what we're trying to achieve. I don't mind using two separate programs that are both excellent at what they do, and that are connected to each other; it's better than using one program that tries to do it all but is really only good at one part of the equation.”
Kim adds: “At the beginning of the season I create a plan in Agworld that shows us the crop rotation for that year. Then, as the season progresses, I create work orders for chemical application and other field passes, which I then send to our aerial applicator or our own team in either Jerome or Arkadelphia who perform the job. Once they're through with the job, I convert the work order to an actual. All actuals show the cost involved with that application, next to the details of which products we applied of course.”
At the end of each season, Kim is able to see exactly what he spent on each field, and what the profitability is: “I use the data from Agworld's reports for next year's crop loan, as it gives me a good idea of how much we'll need. This also provides a baseline on what to sell the crop for. Rather than picking a random number and thinking 'Oh that looks like a good price, let me sell..' I know exactly how much I've invested in the crop and how much I need to sell each bushel for in order to achieve our desired level of profitability. Agworld also shows me which inputs I can afford, which is very important right now in 2022. For example, I ran a lot of numbers and decided to apply more chicken litter instead of synthetic fertilizer this year in order to keep the costs down. If I didn't have an accurate overview of my costs in Agworld, I wouldn't know exactly what I'm able to spend on fertilizer, and that could have jeopardized our profitability in a big way this year.”
Keeping visibility on Ellington Farm's operations from a financial perspective is key for Kim, but that doesn't mean that visibility on the actual fields isn't important anymore, says Kim. “Equipment's getting bigger and bigger. Back in the old days you saw every inch of your field, and now the equipment's gotten so big, you see things differently. But, with technology such as Agworld and PCT Agcloud, you can come back down and see every inch of your field again, without actually having to walk behind the mule to see it.”
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