The team at Pretty Prairie Farms were utilizing a legacy farm management system, but it did not provide any visibility to the team involved in creating the data. Because of this, individual team members in the field were struggling to see value in the data they entered when completing the job, resulting in sub-optimal data quality. The lack of visibility also prevented team members from utilizing the data they created to help answer questions while working in the field.
After finding out about Agworld’s collaborative capabilities and the visibility it offers to all those involved in the farming operation, Pretty Prairie Farms decided to switch to using the Agworld Platform.
Through the utilization of Agworld, the whole team at Pretty Prairie Farms are now able to access all field-level information available including the financial details of each job. This visibility and transparency allows the whole team, from management down to equipment operators, to make better and more informed decisions that lead to more profitable results. This visibility also fosters a culture of experimentation with different farming methods and timing in order to discover the optimal farming practice for each individual field.
Bob Fanning was born into a family farming operation, but as the youngest of four children did not get involved with the family farm. After graduating high school Bob went off to the city to work in an investment business, only to return back to farming in 1975 after buying his first 60 acres and starting a custom farming business. Bob continued to purchase land as it became available, and the expansion gained velocity after nephew Don joined the business in the early 90s. Fast forward to today and Pretty Prairie Farms now encompasses 5,500 acres of sandy loam soil on a glacial outwash plain, of which 90% is irrigated under a total of 80 center-pivot irrigation systems, growing a rotation of corn and soybeans, with a combination of both seed and commercial varieties planted each year.
The Pretty Prairie Farms team counts 3 full-time in-field staff led by Operations Manager Eric Knepp, Office Manager Carrie Schrock, and owners Bob and Don Fanning. With a team of this size, making sure that everyone is on the same page and that accurate field records are created is key according to Eric: “Record keeping is crucial for what we do, and especially for our seed corn production. We have to keep track of dates and times and other factors in the field during application such as the weather for example. We need to provide these records to the seed companies and it also helps us realize and understand what the repercussions are of us making certain changes in the way we manage our fields. Agworld makes it easy for us to fulfill this requirement and enables equipment operators to supply this information through the Agworld app without it costing a lot of time.”
For Carrie it’s the financial aspects of Agworld to help her a lot with her daily duties: “We put a budget together in Agworld at the beginning of the season but often have to make changes to this throughout the season as we end up using different chemicals or other inputs for a variety of reasons, which is inevitable in farming. Agworld makes this process very simple for us and helps us keep a good overview of the costs we incur throughout the season. This overview helps us in making better decisions during the season and when creating plans for the season ahead.”
Getting the whole team involved
The challenge that the Pretty Prairie Farms team experienced with their legacy farm management software provider was the lack of buy-in from the in-field team according to Eric: “The equipment operators used to record all details in the app when starting or finishing a job, but it was labor-intensive and they didn’t see the benefit. This system didn’t provide anyone except for Carrie in the office with visibility of the data entered in the field, so it was only Carrie who was really able to see the benefit of this data. I think this system just aggravated the issues we were facing, with a drop in data quality and less buy-in across the team as a result.”
This is something that Carrie has noticed as well: “We’re a small enough team that we need to be transparent with our information and we want everyone to know exactly what something costs and why a specific operation is performed. Agworld helps us create this transparency across the team and I feel that it makes them smarter in the field, resulting in us making better decisions. The guys in the field like seeing what the estimated cost of a spray is for example, it makes them question what they’re doing and helps us think of ways that we can improve our crop management instead of just ‘doing what we’ve always done.’”
Eric adds: “With Agworld our team in the field can now see the exact same data as anyone else, something they weren’t able to do before, which helps them see the benefits of using farm management software and motivates them to enter their data as accurately as possible. Now, when anyone has a question about what we’re doing in the field, they can access the answer themselves on their phone or tablet and they get to see the whole picture of what’s going on. As a farming business we’re trying to build more leaders, and giving staff access to pertinent information is a very important step in allowing someone to step up into this type of role.”
Building for the future
Although Bob and Don have been farming for a long time, they know the importance of collecting data today to form a repository of historical information that adds value to the operation for many years to come. Eric explains: “Bob and Don know that you need years and years of history to be available, and not just in someone’s head, in order to make the best crop management decisions possible. And it’s not just Bob and Don who have a vested interest in the future of Pretty Prairie Farms, because both Carrie and myself have started to become part owners of the farming operation as well as part of the succession planning by Bob and Don.”
Carrie continues: “This is obviously a great opportunity for us and we are working hard to learn as much as we can to help with this transition. I believe that we need all the data we can get our hands on to help us make informed decisions in years to come, and having all field-level data visible in Agworld for the whole team creates the cohesion needed to get the team as a whole to step up to the next level.”
Eric concludes with: “Because of Agworld we now have team members coming to us suggesting we try different planting dates, less tillage passes, different cover crops or alternate in-crop sprays, which really shows you the power of having widespread access to important information. We are always interested in trialing these suggestions and learning from the experience. It’s very clear to us that everyone enjoys having this powerful data in Agworld at their fingertips and it’s beneficial to us as everyone can now help us refine our decision-making processes on a field-by-field basis.”
Kagome produces a range of food crops that either get sold directly to consumers via the food retail channel, or that get processed in the Kagome factory in Echuca. Because of this, Kagome needs to accurately capture all input data in order to mitigate potential risks to the food supply chain. Up until 2016, Kagome relied on a paper-based system for record keeping.
The Perks family used to only have the input recommendations from their agronomist written down on paper and would have to take this along to the job. The information on paper lacked supporting data such as chemical labels or SDSs and would easily get lost or misinterpreted, potentially resulting in costly errors.