5 Things to Consider Before Investing in Mapping Technology
Mapping software can provide a blueprint of how the field is going to respond to certain
inputs by overlaying yield data with other layers of data, then analyzing the data. Analyzing field data year after year can provide you with information to improve management practices. Here are some things to consider before purchasing mapping software:
1. What are you going to integrate?
Mapping software can be the piece to link together all the data you are collecting. The data may include planting, application and harvest data all collected from different makes and models of hardware. Most of today’s software packages will process file types from most precision ag displays. Aside from simply storing a user’s data, the software provides a platform to begin to analyze data and make informed decisions from that data.
Mapping software can provide the framework for many operations across the farm, including soil testing, nutrient management, hybrid selection and rates, and crop management products. It can be an important tool in a successful farming operation.
2. How tech-savvy are you?
If you think you will have trouble managing the data on your own, hire someone who can manage it for you. Thumb drives are easily lost, tossed in a drawer and forgotten about, run through the washing machine, or even run over—if this happens, the data is gone forever and you have to start from scratch. However, utilizing cloud data storage is seamless because the data can bounce straight from the Cloud to the desktop, laptop, iPad, phone, or whatever device you have without having to worry about losing the data.
3. How will you organize data?
You have to get organized. Most of these software programs are set up with a tree hierarchy of farm and then field name. If a farm is called ‘home north’ this year and ‘home 40’ next year and ‘back 40’ the following year, now the software looks at it as three different data points. In order to be able to make decisions from the data, it has to be organized correctly.
4. What return on investment are you evaluating?
Literature and a salespeople tell you that mapping software will make you money, but only mapping software analysis can prove whether or not it does.
I have seen many times where a farmer thinks the result will be one way, but the data shows it is the complete opposite. It takes mapping and analysis to prove that point.
The digital record-keeping aspect makes it easier to prove what you did - or did not do - from year to year. Should regulations come into play, you have records that are time-stamped that can even include weather data.
5. What support do you need?
Look at what training is included and what format it comes in. Does it match your learning style? Know what support and upgrades are included with your software license and what support is additional. Where will the support come from? What does the manufacturer help with and when should you call the retailer you purchased it from?
Mapping software is part of a continual cycle. The applications are made, you harvest, then you evaluate, and you do that year after year. I don’t think we’ll get to a point where there is an exact recipe to grow 300-bushel corn. However,the software allows you to use the data available, evaluate it, analyze it, and finally, make decisions based on it.
Looking to invest in mapping software? See how fellow farmers rated their software.
By: Clint Nester, Nester Ag
Clint has over 15 years of experience in the agricultural field. Prior to joining Nester Ag 10 years ago, Clint worked for an environmental engineering and consulting firm in Columbus, OH and for the Allen County Soil and Water Conservation District in Fort Wayne, IN. Clint works with growers on nutrient management, computerized mapping and VRT control files, and data analysis. Clint also plays an active role in several research projects with Brookside Labs, NutrientStar and The Ohio State University. Clint is the current Vice Chair for the Ohio Certified Crop Advisor Board. Clint holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science from The Ohio State University.