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Program offers farmers field snapshots

By Staff | May 25, 2015

-Contributed graphic THE FARM BUSINESS NETWORK gathers a multitude of layers of information from each field including soil types, tillage practices, planting dates, populations and speeds; fertilizer applications; pest history; yield and weather impacts. This information is accumulated to provide a benchmark for the farmer to compare how hybrids and practices worked compared to other fields, as well as an analysis of how fine-tune field management for the next crop.


A new software program, designed to provide farmers with information for managing crops throughout the growing season, was introduced this year.

Charles Baron, co-founder and vice president of Farm Business Network, based in San Carlos, California, said FBN has a series of new tools and local services to give farmers access to insights like they’ve never had before through sharing information.

Basically, farmers upload or send their data as paper records or can send a thumb drive to FBN on the crops, acres and hybrids planted, management decisions and harvest production.

Once the data is in the system, it goes into a pool and what a farmer actually sees is how his fields and crops performed compared to other fields with similar practices and hybrids, rotations and weather conditions.

“And then we provide analysis down to the seed level,” Baron said. “Farmers can see how their hybrids fared across the network or by state, based on the best performances compared to plant population and planter speed.

“It makes it easy for a farmer to access the analysis” that is generated by compiling the network’s information, he said.

Baron said the detailed analysis is based on multiple sets of data to see how plant population, fertilization rates and application methods, weather conditions and soil types affected the yield.

By networking the fields together – there are currently more than 10,000 fields in the system – FBN conducts the analysis on performance.

“There is strength in numbers,” he said. “The more farmers in the system sending us their data, the smarter the program gets.”

Iowa is a big member state for FBN, Baron said.

Curt Lang, a Grinnell farmer, joined the program for the 2014 growing season.

“We’re trying to use the whole program,” Lang said. “It’s a good, analytical tool.”

Lang said the most useful for him is the analysis of hybrid performances on soil types.

“For a producer,” Lang said, “it’s unbiased data and farmer-friendly input.”

He said he’s confident the data is reliable.

“I’m sold on that fact,” he said, “plus the farmer still owns his own data.”

The program’s cost is an annual flat fee of $500.

For any farm

“The goal of FBN is to be totally accessible for farms of any size,” Baron said. “It doesn’t matter how many acres you have or how much data you provide.

“Those who provide data get access insights into other farmers’ data.

“We have farmers with a couple hundred to 40,000 acres. We have all kinds of farms in 15 states. We’ve analyzed more than 5 million acres of data in the last year, and most of that since November 2014.”

FBN is a private company, he said. Representatives have met all member growers directly and during 2015 started marketing the program. Many farmers join because they know other growers who are in the network.

The end result of the software program, Baron said, is to show farmers what impacts yields most.

A tool called FBN intelligence compares other farms in a member’s area.

Beyond weather as the predominant influence on yields, Baron said, FBN is finding the prime producer-influence on yield is picking the right seed for specific fields or multiple hybrids within a field; followed by fertilization rates and application dates and rotations.

Even seed performance comparisons can be made based on soil types.

“We want to integrate and simplify the data analysis in a seamless fashion,” he said. “Right now, a farmer would have to work through several formats, software packages and a third party to integrate the data.”

He said FBN is designed to streamline all of a farm’s crop information, compared to others farmers with similar operations and practices, in order to see how they compare and where they can customize their applications.

“Any piece of information is important and interesting,” Baron said. As an independent third party, FBN can provide objective analysis of practices and inputs.

“FBN is a grower-to-grower network,” Baron said, “bringing growers together online, to get better information and stronger in the market by sharing information in a safe, secure, anonymous way.

“As an independent third party, we are a farmers’ advocate. We don’t have any other business. It allows us to give completely objective analyses of practices, equipment, the land and inputs.”

Other uses include sharing comparative performance information with landlords and performance results compared to corn suitability ratings.

Baron said future program developments will include comparisons within counties and performances based on tiled and untiled fields.

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