Ashton Hood used to receive his pre-season cropping plan from agronomist James Bee, Elders Albany, as PDF or paper copy, just like his observations and recommendations during the season. This system however had a number of limitations for Ashton as he wasn’t able to utilize the data to run a variety planning scenarios or use the recommendations as foundations for his farm records.
When Ashton found out about the benefits of using Agworld to create plans and work orders, and the ability to have his staff involved in the record keeping process, the decision was made to adopt Agworld into the farming operation.
Through using Agworld, Ashton is now able to run planning scenarios whenever it’s required and utilise the resulting data to place early forward orders for seed, fertiliser and chemical, or make other crop rotation decisions. Because the staff at AT Hood and Co utilise Agworld on a daily basis, they now have access to detailed and up-to-date work orders, which they turn into accurate field records as soon as a job has been completed so that both Ashton and agronomist James get instant visibility of job details too.
Ashton Hood grew up on the family farm at Kojaneerup in the Great Southern region of Western Australia, and developed a passion for farming early on in his life. As soon as he finished school, Ashton joined the family farming business and he has since taken over as principal and manager of all day to day operations. AT Hood and Co farm a total of 9,800 acres, with 7,900 of that cropped each year and the rest used to graze a 3,500 head self-replacing sheep flock. Half of the cropping area is made up of canola with the rest divided between barley and wheat.
Agronomist James Bee, Elders Albany, supplies agronomic services to AT Hood and Co and also introduced Ashton to the Agworld platform: “James has been using Agworld for as long as we have been clients of Elders, and creates our plans, recommendations and observations on the platform. Previously, James used to print a booklet with the Agworld field plans for us every year, but I came to realize that there is more that I can do with Agworld than just using James’ printed information. So, when I took over as principal of the farm from my parents in 2020, one of the decisions I made was to adopt Agworld into our farming operation so that we can start utilising the data supplied by James as much as possible.”
Using Agworld as a team
When AT Hood and Co started to use Agworld, they bought an iPad for their two full time employees so that they have access to Agworld as well. Ashton: “I now create work orders for them on Agworld so they know exactly which fields they have to spread for example, and how much product per hectare each field needs to get. Our sprayer operator just loves Agworld because he always has access to all the details, which comes in especially handy when I create a new tank mix for him. Our employees can really see the benefit of adding data in an app where it is available for everyone to see instead of just writing things in a notebook and seeing it get lost.”
Ashton: “When the operators have completed a job, they turn the original work order into an actual field record in Agworld while also adding any additional details for that particular job such as weather conditions. The advantage of having the machinery operators involved in this process is that the details quite often change; we might put a different seed variety in than was planned for example, so they can just reflect this in the Agworld records as soon as they change the work order into an actual. Even when we use multiple varieties in one field because we ran out of the original variety for example, it’s easy to just draw the area with the new variety on the map in Agworld and turn that into an observation or record for everyone to see.”
Ashton continues: “For me it’s great to distribute the responsibility of record keeping across the team and, because we do it on the spot, it tends to be quick and easy for everyone to keep Agworld updated. The big benefit I see in having our records available digitally on Agworld is that both James and I now have instant access to this data, including the dates of every application and exactly what was applied, whenever we need it and without having to call someone first or having to look through an old notebook.”
One of the areas where Ashton sees a lot of value in Agworld and the data contained on the platform is Agworld’s planning functionality: “An increasing number of inputs have to be ordered quite far ahead of time, which can become quite complicated if you’re not planning accurately. Hybrid canola seed for example needs to be ordered in August but we only start planting in April; looking 8 months ahead into the next cropping program while the current crop is still growing isn’t always easy if you aren’t using a good system. Agworld allows me to simply create a new season on the platform and roughly work out what we want to plant in each field, which then gives us a pretty accurate number of how much canola seed we think we’re going to need.”
Ashton continues: “The same goes for fertilizer and chemical; a lot of that we like to lock in early if we can get a good discount so we can mitigate our input cost risks. It’s years like these (2021) when fertilizer prices all of a sudden spiral out of control around planting time due to a number of external factors, that really validate this strategy for us and show us the amount of money we save by doing so. These forward orders do need to be for the right quantity however as there is no point putting in an early order only to still be short or to have a lot of product sit in our shed for 12 months and deteriorate.”
"Agworld’s planning capability, and the ‘shopping lists’ that are automatically derived from the plans we create, help us calculate our expected quantities as accurately as possible, which allows us to optimize our forward-ordering strategy. Being able to send our exact list of requirements from Agworld to a couple of different retailers who can then quote on those items helps us achieve the best possible price while placing these forward orders, ensuring that we buy as competitively as possible. With commodity prices out of our realm of influence and not always as high as we’d like them to be, I think it’s important to use tools like Agworld to influence what we can, in this case our input costs, and optimize our profitability as much as possible.”
Kieran Allison previously used manual spray sheets to keep a record of every application on his fields throughout the season. With more than 13 passes performed each season, this was a difficult and labour intensive task with a very messy ‘mountain of paper’ as result at the end of the year. Kieran also got audited for the Canola ISCC program while still using manual spray sheets, which resulted in a lot of extra work for both the auditors and Kieran.
Running a large mixed farming operation with two full-time staff, Jay Robertson has always been focused on simplifying and automating as many tasks as possible. With one of his staff taking care of the majority of the spray applications, Jay needed a better way to keep spray records than just writing them in a book in order to be sure that accurate records are kept and that they’re easily traceable when needed.
Frankland Rural Agronomist Tim Trezise used to utilise a legacy software solution to create cropping plans for his agronomy clients, but wanted to be able to do more with his software. Tim needed a platform that is accessible in the field and that also allows growers to create farm records on their end at the same time.