Who couldn’t use a little advantage?
Plainview, MN—What started as a handshake in 2002 between the former Progressive Ag Center, LLC and the former Central Co-op of Hayfield, has evolved into a joint venture in the precision agriculture department at All American Co-op today. GrowMor has partnered with Central Advantage GS, a division of CFS and a grandchild of Central Co-op, to construct GrowMor Advantage, an innovative precision platform now available to our patrons.
The initial agreement between the former organizations was a simple grid sampling operation termed “Cooperative Concepts.” Both teams knew they wanted to get into precision agriculture in the early 2000s but were not exactly sure how. Together, their office explored new technologies, strategies, and concepts in precision ag. Although the two entities did not formally part ways, eventually, each unit shifted their focus and started separate organizations. 18 years later, the original endeavor into unfamiliar territory has paid off. Much like today’s GrowMor Advantage venture, Cooperative Concepts was a valuable tool for our growers to maximize the productivity of every acre. However, a lot has changed in precision ag since 2002.
GrowMor Advantage will allow agronomists and precision agriculture specialists to give more insight to growers, through the power of improved technologies and a massive quantity of data from sampled soil. The program, which not only involves grid sampling, can make variable rate recommendations, give insight on multiple fields, multiple years, and multiple crops, and will help growers make financial and agronomical decisions about their assets.
GrowMor Advantage aims to gather information from critical acres with the incentive of understanding more about their producer’s soil. Because different soil types need different management, a basic principle emerges: the more acres enrolled in the program, the more accurate, predictable, and advantageous the program becomes for an All American Co-op grower.
“It is simply having another person on your side that wants you to win and wants you to see those yields,” Wingert said.
“You have a selection of acres in Stewartville and a selection of acres in Plainview—the two areas don’t really talk. A guy in Plainview doesn’t care what is working for a producer in Racine because it really doesn’t matter,” All American Co-op’s precision ag specialist Gary Suess said. “Our soils are totally different. By working with [Central Advantage], we can tie into their data bank—we can then very quickly tie into their world.”
Central Advantage started with a humble 10,000 acres and consisted of basic data analysis and variety selection through grid sampling. Since its introduction, Central Advantage has grown to over 250,000 acres, which represent 150 different farming operations. By partnering with All American Co-op once again, and creating GrowMor Advantage, the venture has set a goal to diversify and expand their data set.
“There are still a lot of growers that, even though they are equipped with certain monitors, they don’t do anything other than look at it while they are harvesting their crop,” Ashley Schmeling of Central Advantage said. “Even the thought of putting that data on a map and printing it out would not be something they would think to do.”
Today, most machines are equipped with the technology to enroll in GrowMor Advantage. However, human interaction is necessary to administer the program. “It is the people—data is data and data is great—but data doesn’t always just give you an easy answer. Sometimes you have to push away the trash to get to the answer,” Suess said.
A strength of the program is that it changes the dynamic between the precision team and the farmer; the program is designed to work closely with the goals of each individual producer. The newest member of the precision agriculture team at All American Co-op, McKayla Wingert, summarized the program by saying, “it is simply having another person on your side that wants you to win and wants you to see those yields.”
Although nothing has drastically changed with the original GrowMor program, Suess and Wingert anticipate more direct contact with the farmer in the new GrowMor Advantage platform. Suess said he believes GrowMor Advantage is for all types of farmers.
“I think a lot of the time, the smaller growers think—that is not for me. We are here to tell you that it is for you,” Suess said. “Everyone thinks what we do is for the big, big-time operator. No—it is not just tailored to the big guy—the program is all inclusive. If a grower wants to do it, we will make it work.”
Schmeling, who has worked with Central Advantage for almost a decade, pointed out that in most cases, the smaller operations have the most to gain from a precision agriculture program. Smaller-scale growers are more likely to own their land, personally invest in it, and seek out a precision program that maximizes the efficiency of each acre. In addition, the program aims to remove a certain degree of emotion from a grower’s operation.
“This is something that can be very useful to farmers because we keep records of all the input, as well as the outcomes. We compile the information and then the farmer is able to take it to their banker and say, ‘this is how I spent my money this year,’” Wingert said. “It is a good way to keep track of the finances you are throwing into every acre.”
As well as financial decisions, GrowMor Advantage helps the farmer make agronomic decisions more obvious. Growers that are enrolled in the program will be more likely to follow farm plans. Because GrowMor Advantage has the capability to supply collective data from a specific area, it is able to predict how many bushels will be affected by making a decision outside of the established plan. For example, if a grower is wrestling with a decision of whether or not to remove an application from their plan, the program has the ability to remove the application virtually. This function gives the producer an accurate prediction of the yield using data instead of actual crops.
Since the early days of All American Co-op and Central Advantage’s explorations in grid sampling at the turn of the century, the role of precision agriculture has come a long way. GrowMor Advantage will become the next invaluable tool for the modern farmer.
“This was a long time coming. Despite opinions and setbacks, the GrowMor team persevered,” Schmeling said. “They knew with a little convincing, they could create a program that would add value to the grower. The end game is to benefit the farmer.”