Ep. 39: Precision Technology in the Real World with Kevin Harrod
In Episode 39 of Precision Points, Morgan sits down with Kevin Harrod, a grain and hog farmer from west-central Ohio, to get his honest feedback about the technology he uses on his operation.
First, Kevin shares the value he and his team sees in the “simple” things like GPS – something that provides a 10/10 value in his opinion. The ability to operate with GPS on the equipment they use greatly improves their quality of work and increases the ease of operating with precision.
Kevin also talks about using FieldView on his planter and harvest equipment. Even with a self-proclaimed “not technologically savvy father,” they run the tool and gain insights from it primarily without need for significant support. He credits the tool for being insightful and very easy to use, and generally a good value.
“[FieldView is] really neat. It gives you a lot of information you don't usually have,” Kevin says. “The in-season progress reports with satellites give you areas you can go out and scout and see what the problems are. In the fall, it's nice to have in the combine because it tracks your yields and you can see it as you're going across the field.”
Additionally, Kevin’s family’s operation uses variable rate (VR) technology. Because they have hog manure available, they focus primarily on variable rate seeding at planting time. They lean on their local ag retail cooperative for insights on building maps used for VR prescriptions.
“We base it off of previous years’ yield, organic matter and elevation,” Kevin says. “But I would say 75% of it is just off of knowledge; knowing that, okay, this is a good spot in the field so we can push the population. This is a little rougher so maybe not as much, and then it would be vice versa for beans.”
When it comes to evaluating new technology, Kevin and his team prefer to get hands-on experience. They were able to try a new planter with new technology on it this spring and are planning on experimenting with a high-speed disc this fall. But there is more to it than just trying the new equipment. They will follow the data, from planting this spring and from next year’s harvest after using the high-speed disc, to determine if the changes had a yield impact large enough to justify the cost of the new piece of equipment.
To hear more from our conversation with Kevin, check out the full episode. A lot of growers we talk with are like Kevin, constantly experimenting with new precision ag ideas and testing them until they prove to be beneficial for their farm. We hope we can aid in the decision-making process by sharing grower-sourced reviews on all things ag tech. What have you been using? Leave a review here!
Host: Morgan Seger
Morgan Seger grew up on a small farm in northwest Ohio before studying agriculture at The Ohio State University. She spent 10 years working with ag retail – specifically in ag tech – prior to hosting the Precision Points Podcast. She lives and farms in western Ohio with her husband Ben and their four children. Morgan has her own blog, Heart and Soil, where she talks about her experience farming, gardening, and raising her family.
Guest: Kevin Harrod
Kevin is a 3rd generation farmer raising corn and soybeans on 1,100 acres while also raising 12,000 head of wean to finish pigs each year with his father and brother. Kevin graduated from The Ohio State University with a major in animal science in 2009 and has been married to his wife Brittany for 6 years. Together they have a son, Ryker (5) and daughter, Kinsley (3) and reside and farm in Darke County, Ohio.
Host: Morgan Seger
Guests: Kevin Harrod
Welcome to Precision Points an Ag Tech podcast, where we plant seeds of innovation to inspire informed decisions about precision technology and its impact for growers like you, we explore precision ag tools and technology from the soil to the sky with your host Morgan Seger.
Morgan Seger (00:22):
Welcome back to Precision Points an Ag Tech podcast from precisionagreviews.com. I'm your host Morgan Seger and in each episode, we strive to bring you unbiased ag tech information and ideas. Now at the heart of our business, we are here to collect reviews on precision ag services and products. So that way we can share this information with our community of growers to help inform decisions for their operations. We are so grateful for all of you who have contributed to those reviews on precisionagreviews.com. Now on today's episode, I'm joined by a grower from Darke County, Ohio, who's going to share some of his operation, the technology they use, and some general honest feedback on what they think. Kevin is a grain and hog farmer in Western Ohio, and he's actually part of the operation that was doing drag line hog manure on their fields in season.
Morgan Seger (01:15):
Now this was several years ago, but it was the first farmer I saw doing this and we ended up spending a lot of time last year on this podcast, talking about how growers can use in season application of manure to extend and enhance the way they're operating. While we don't talk about that today, if you are interested in learning more, back in episode six, we talk about these manure sensors with John Fulton. And in episode seven, we do a deep dive into in season application of manure with Glen Arnold. I'm so grateful that Kevin took the time to do this interview with me today, and I hope you enjoy our conversation as he shares what they're using on their farm. Today on the show I'm joined by Kevin Harrod, a farmer in Darke County, Ohio. Welcome to the show, Kevin.
Kevin Harrod (01:59):
Hi, pleasure to be here.
Morgan Seger (02:00):
So, I'm excited a lot of what we do on precisionagreviews.com is work with growers to collect reviews of just honest opinions of how they feel about their equipment and services and things like that they're using on their farm in regards to precision ag. So what I was hoping we could do today is just kind of walk through your experiences, what you guys use on your farm and get some honest opinions.
Kevin Harrod (02:22):
Okay. That sounds good.
Morgan Seger (02:24):
So, could you start us off by just describing your fleet? Like what type of equipment do you guys primarily use and what do you rely on, on the farm?
Kevin Harrod (02:31):
Okay. Primarily we use all Case equipment. We have 250 Case tractor and a 340 tractor. Combine's a 7140, and then we have a 40 foot Kinze planter. It's a 4900 series planter.
Morgan Seger (02:48):
Okay. And I thought you guys were mostly red. Is there a particular reason?
Kevin Harrod (02:53):
Overall, not really. I guess when people ask, we might say probably it's a little cheaper than the green, but my dad, when he was growing up, they had all green. But then they've just over time, we've switched to red and we really we get along well, we don't have too many issues and every time we'd go to price to see about maybe going back to John Deere, it was just always a little cheaper to go to the Case. So we've always just stuck with the Case.
Morgan Seger (03:18):
I got you. Yep, that makes a lot of sense. So, when you think about precision tools specifically, what all are you guys using on the farm?
Kevin Harrod (03:27):
We use a GPS, our planter tractor, and then we also can switch it to our combine runs off the RTK GPS. And then we also use the Field View and the Cab View app for that Winfield has, so we can kind of monitor in season and progress through that. And then it kind of tracks when you plant and then when you harvest you have your yield data and all that stuff. So it's pretty neat.
Morgan Seger (03:55):
So could you give us some, I guess, specific feedback on how you would rate these things, if you're thinking of ease of use or return on your investment, is there anything that comes to mind?
Kevin Harrod (04:08):
For GPS, I would, that's a 10 out of 10. I would say it's amazing how much easier it makes things. Especially when you're planting, you can set your GPS and have it on auto steer, so you can kind of make sure you're able to look back and make sure all the planters and stuff are working/planters working, 28's going on and all that stuff. Combining, it's really nice when you run beans, you don't have to worry about trying to make sure you're not missing beans or you're leaving too much of the head that's not cutting beans. And you can worry about checking for rocks or this or that. So, the GPS is really nice.
Kevin Harrod (04:46):
As far as the Field View app, this is our third or fourth year with it and we really like it. At first, we just used it as a trial, they gave us a free year and we didn't know if. At that time, it was $1000.00 A year to get it. And then we did the trial and then the next year it was, you could, if you buy so many bags, you get it for free or you pay $99.00. So it really dropped. And we're like, well, that's a no brainer.
Kevin Harrod (05:16):
So we got that. And it's really neat. It gives you a lot of information that you don't have if you don't have it. Like, the in season progress reports that they take with satellites, you can look at those and it kind of gives you where you might have problem areas and you can go out and on your own and look through the field and scout and see what the issues may be. As far as in the fall harvesting, it's really neat to have in the combine cause it tracks your yields and you can kind of see it as you're going through the field. And then in the end you can overlay, you can go back and look at your in season reports and then your final reports and, see, well, what happened here? Maybe that's why the yield's low, or what are we doing here where the yield's high to try to make the other parts of the field better.
Morgan Seger (06:07):
So as you're working through this and using it to what sounds like help you make decisions or detect things in the field, are you doing that primarily yourself or do you, is it easy to use or you have someone who's kind of guiding you through that?
Kevin Harrod (06:19):
We primarily use it ourself. I mean, it's really simple. There's not much to it to navigate. I mean, once you get the hang of it after a few times, it's really simple. I mean, my dad's not a technologically savvy guy, but he understands it and knows how to use it. So, I would say it's user-friendly, really easy. We had some trouble with our planter this year or the tractor and we weren't able to finish. So we got a neighbor and he, his planter had, he could furrow temperature and organic matter and all this stuff. So that was kind of neat to see. But, our planter, we don't have. I mean, we have row shut offs and all that, but other than that, we don't have the technology on it. So as far as technology on that, we might be lacking compared to some, but then at the same spectrum, we have a little more than others. I mean, it's not like we don't have the top of the line where it's the fancy, fancy stuff that you can see all of that.
Morgan Seger (07:19):
Yeah. So, when you guys are thinking about that kind of technology, especially now that you've seen it in the cab while you're planting, how do you decide what's right for your operation or something that you'll wait to try later?
Kevin Harrod (07:33):
Yeah, that's a good point. We are anxious to see this fall here when we get in to the harvest if those fields, if there's any difference. I mean, we have to kind of take it with a grain of salt too, because those fields are a little farther away than the rest of our fields, where we have a majority of it. So the weather can change from five miles down the road. But we are anxious to see, we've been out and this population was maybe a little bit better in those fields. Now, was it the planter? Or was it just the timing of year? Cause it was the last stuff we planted. So the rain wasn't as much as the first stuff. So maybe it was a little dry or coming up, I don't know, but we're anxious to see. And, it's crossed our mind, well, if the yields are way better, do we maybe look into adding some of that stuff or not, but we'll see. It's also at the same time, it's like, well, we'd have to do more research of what does that, if you can see your furrow temperature, the moisture and the row and all this stuff. Well, how does that actually help you while you're planting? I don't know the answer.
Morgan Seger (08:40):
Sure. So when you guys are planting, are you doing anything with variable rate or with your fertility? Are you doing variable rate or do you guys flat rate everything?
Kevin Harrod (08:48):
We variable rate our corn and beans. So yeah, we do that. Fertility wise, when we apply nitrogen for side dress, we don't variable rate. We just kind of do a straight rate. We do have some fields that we actually don't put any 28 on as side dress. Cause we have hog barns that we put the manure on before we plant and then wait until it dries out, work it and plant it. And that's enough fertilize to last through the year. So we don't have those fields. We don't put any 28 on other than 10 gap, 10 to 15 gallon at planting.
Morgan Seger (09:23):
So how do you make those decisions? What's the right population for your corn or where you're putting the fertility?
Kevin Harrod (09:29):
We base that off of past yield data and then kind of, we work with a co-alliance. We work with them and they build our variable rate maps. So we base it off of previous year's yield, a little bit of maybe organic matter and elevation, but I would say 75% of it is just off of knowledge of knowing, okay, this is a good spot in the field so we can push the population. This is a little rougher, so maybe not as much and then would be vice versa for beans. You know, this is a good spot so we don't need as many. Rough spot add some population. The beans are mostly off of organic matter right now, until we get a few more years of data and history, then maybe they'll go off of yield history. But for the most part it's been organic matter.
Morgan Seger (10:22):
Gotcha. That makes a lot of sense. So one question that we like to ask all of our guests is if there's one technology that you're most excited about?
Kevin Harrod (10:30):
I really don't know. I don't know what I mean, it's always advancing. I don't, we're looking into, it's not, I don't know if you would say technology, but equipment we're looking at one of the high-speed disc to see how that. We've been told, it increases your bean yields. So we've done some tests this year, so we're anxious to see the results of those and go from there on maybe looking into getting one of those. As far as technology, I don't know. I mean, we're pretty good where we're at as far as GPS, I don't know if there's any advances in GPS past RTK. I'm sure there is, but I don't know what that would be. Maybe down the road when it's time to get a new planter, we'll look into some of that newer technology that you can put on a planter. But maybe, I don't know what the app, the Winfield app we know what they're going to do in the future. If there's anything they're going to add to it or not, but that would be interesting to see what they could do.
Morgan Seger (11:27):
So the high-speed disc, is that something you would run in the fall or the spring?
Kevin Harrod (11:32):
You can do either, but if we would have it, we would run it in the fall over our cornstalks and then be able to plant straight into that in the spring. We noticed this spring where we did it last fall test strips, the beans came up a lot sooner with it being worked, the ground was able to warm up faster than a no-till. And we could tell all throughout the year that they look nicer and they were a little taller. So we're anxious to get in there and see what there, the difference is if it's worth the money to invest in one of them, because they're not cheap.
Morgan Seger (12:06):
Awesome. Well, thank you so much for sharing all of that on the show today.
Kevin Harrod (12:09):
Thank you. It was a good time.
Morgan Seger (12:12):
Thanks for tuning into another episode of Precision Points. I want to give a quick shout out to say thank you so much to Kevin for sharing what they're working on on their operations. And to let you know that we are looking for more growers to come on the show and give us some honest feedback about the tools and services they're using on their operation today. If you or someone you know would be interested, go to precisionagreviews.com/contact. We really value your feedback and the community that we've been able to build here at Precision Ag Reviews. Today's show notes can be found at precisionagreviews.com and while you're there, feel free to leave a review of your own or check out our network of grower source reviews. Let's grow together.
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