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One of the key conversations we’ve had throughout the year – from InfoAg, to Farm Progress and our own office – is about sustainability and the role of agriculture in helping to care for the earth. Often these days Andrew Gladden, the CIO of Luckey Farmers, finds himself at the center of this discussion — most recently during a visit to Farmobile, where he had the opportunity to dig into the role Farmobile data has played in Luckey Farmers’ journey to exhibit land stewardship for the coop and its farmer members.
One of the tangible benefits of the process for Lucky Farmers Co-op, Woodville, OH, was achieving the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification, a proactive, responsible commitment aimed at the long-term improvement of Lake Erie’s (northern Ohio’s) water quality.
Gladden told Farmobile’s staff that Luckey Farmers, Woodville, OH, started seriously considering the 4Rs— right rate, right place, right time and right source of fertilizer application — immediately after the Toledo water crisis and huge algae bloom of 2014. Today, over 50 facilities in the greater Ohio area are 4R-certified, and the number continues to grow. Ag professionals are interested in 4R certification because it proves their commitment to operating as good land stewards, and formally validates things farmers already care about: accountability, sustainability and traceability.
However, 4R certification is not easy to achieve. It’s a three-year process that has over 45 different criteria that ag businesses have to complete before they meet the requirements of the certification. Still, many farmers are choosing to consider the 4Rs in their farming and field management practices because it’s so important and technology like Farmobile’s real-time agronomic data collection can provide a visual system of record to ease the path to certification.
During his presentation, Gladden discussed how Luckey Farmers, in partnership with Farmobile, is able to trace land applications (rate, geography and usage) to ensure that they are abiding by the 4Rs, avoiding runoff and ensuring plant and soil health.
According to Gladden, “the value to the grower… is knowing that they’re being good stewards of the land, doing the right things. They’re not just mining the ground, they’re doing soil samples, and putting the fertilizer on in the right place so we can avoid run-off and the plant will stay healthy throughout the year.”
While the piece of paper at the end of the journey is an incredible testament to the hard work of Gladden and Luckey Farms, Gladden said the new access to data and its benefits go far beyond just the certification.
By recording real-time field activities, storing a historic look-back and generating field activity maps, Farmobile helps farmers and their trusted advisors, like Luckey Farmers, trace their work and measure what is happening in the field throughout the season. Until now, the challenge with the yield data has resulted in part simply from collecting it from the machines. While the default often falls to satellite imagery, the consequence is a dramatic loss in resolution.
Farmobile combines spreading, planting, spray and harvest layers into something growers can actually reference and use to inform their farming and as-applied management practices and strategies.
This allows trusted advisors like Luckey Farms to better help farmers make decisions on when to apply fertilizer, for example, both for efficiency-sake as well as for soil health. It also allows farmers to understand and uncover hidden costs, like fuel for the tractor, that have outsized impact on the bottom line.
“No farmer wants to go out there and spend $400 per ton to spread fertilizer across a field that doesn’t need it,” said Gladden. “So let us utilize that data, let us utilize some of our software, and tell you where your best wins are, your best gains are, and help you grow that crop.”
More than that, however, it helps build an on-going collaboration and conversation between ag retailers, growers, and other trusted advisors, all based on ground-truthed data, something that Gladden referenced as a key value for Luckey Farms.
We’re proud to have partners like Luckey Farms who show that the roadmap to more sustainable field management is good both for our Earth and for the bottom line of the industry as a whole. With Farmobile, validating the right way to do things has never been easier.