• Precision Ag Reviews

Ep. #48: Growing Together - The Ambassador Program



Ep. #48: Growing Together - The Ambassador Program


Here’s a glance at this episode:

  • [01:40] Meet Joshlin

  • [15:26] Meet Austin

The team at Precision Ag Reviews is excited to announce its Ambassador Program. Since day one at Precision Ag Reviews, the mission has been to make precision ag information more accessible and impactful for growers looking to incorporate precision ag on their farms. Trial and error and sharing those personal experiences are among the most significant advantages we have when predicting the success of new technology on our farms. Our ambassador team will be working to share their personal experiences with various precision ag technologies and give our audience a peek behind the curtain at how they run and manage their operations. In episode 48, we introduce two members of our ambassador team.


Joshlin Yoder


The Farm:

Joshlin, his wife Addie, and their four kids farm in Northeast Missouri, alongside his dad and brother. They primarily run a row crop operation, mainly raising corn and soybeans, and have a beef backgrounding business. In addition, they focus on conservation agriculture to ensure they are being as productive as possible with their soils so their children can have the same opportunities to come back to the farm if they wish.


Determining ROI on the Farm:

“I'm a numbers guy. I like to be able to put things on paper and try to see what's going to work, what's going to make the most sense, as long as it fits within the general flow of our operation, because yeah, any given year, you might put pencil to paper and say this crop would be better than the other crop, but there's more to it than just the short term on a lot of those decisions,” shared Joshlin. “So when it comes to looking at the return on investment, the ultimate idea is, does this make sense, one, within the flow of our operation, and two, is this going to help us be more successful? Maybe not even in the short term, but in the long term, will this help us be more successful by incorporating that into what we're doing?”


Why Join the Ambassador Team?

“The precision part of it, to me, is really important. The technological advances that have happened in the last 20 years within agriculture have unlocked some potential, not only on the efficiency side of things but in the labor-management side of things as well,” Joshin said. “Farming the size and the scope that a lot of the farms do today, there's a lot of hours you spend in the seat of a tractor, in the seat of the combine. Even something as simple as auto steer, a person may not realize that, wow, you're driving a straight line. Boy, that's really important.”


What is one technology you are most excited about?

“I don't know if it's the most excited about, the most intrigued about would be the autonomous equipment. We actually had an opportunity to have a guy demonstrate a spray drone out on the farm last spring. And while at this time, we didn't feel like it was right for our operation, the idea that we could send something out to spray a pattern for applying fungicides or whatever products we were needing to apply, and the guy didn't have to sit in the seat of the tractor, the cab of the sprayer the entire time to do it was very, very intriguing. So I'm really interested to see what comes down the pipe with autonomous equipment.”


How to Follow Joshlin:

Joshlin’s insights will be shared on the Precision Ag Reviews’ Facebook and Twitter.

You can also follow him, FarmerYoder, and his wife, Addie Yoder, on Instagram.


Austin Heil

The Farm

Austin farms with his father on their 280-acre row crop farm homesteaded in 1839. Austin founded Homestead Precision Farming to help growers manage their field variability.


Determining ROI on the Farm:

“I have three things, and those are, can you control it? Is it something you cannot control? And then if it is something that you cannot control, can you influence it?” shared Austin.


He sets aside a portion of their farm income each year as “funny money” that is used just for trying new things. Austin learns by hands-on research and delegates time to ground-truthing new practices by spending time in the field.


Why Join the Ambassador Team?

“What I'm excited about is just the networking with other ambassadors that we're all trying to bring to light some of the things we're doing on our farm, trying to coach and share with others,” stated Austin. “And so that networking is definitely something that I'm looking forward to.”


What technologies are you most excited about?

“The expansion of rural broadband, smart farming, data integration, and artificial intelligence,” stated Austin.


How to Follow Austin:

Austin’s insights will be shared on the Precision Ag Reviews’ Facebook and Twitter.

You can also follow him, TriTechFarmer on Instagram and Homestead Precision Farming on Facebook.


We are so excited to share ideas and inspiration from the ambassador team. If you take a minute to listen to our full episode, you’ll hear how passionate they are about not only learning for the sake of their operations but also you’ll hear of their passion for sharing and learning alongside others. Let’s grow together.


Are you interested in applying for our next round of ambassadors? Send us a message.


Transcription

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: (00:23)

Welcome 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. Today on the show, we're going to be introducing two of our new ambassadors to the Precision Ag Reviews team. As an effort to get more feedback from growers on how they are using precision ag tools and how they're impacting their operations, we decided to create a program where growers can become an ambassador to share and give us some of that feedback.


Morgan Seger: (00:56)

So today on the show, we'll be welcoming first Joshlin Yoder, a grower from Northeast Missouri, and he shares not only how they use precision ag and some of the background of his operation, but also his take on conservation agronomy and the implications that has had for their farm. So I hope you enjoy this first segment with Joshlin Yoder of our ambassador program.


Morgan Seger: (01:19)

Welcome back to Precision Points. Today on the show, I am joined by Joshlin Yoder. Joshlin, welcome to the show.


Joshlin Yoder: (01:25)

It's nice to be here.


Morgan Seger: (01:28)

You are our first brand ambassador for Precision Ag Reviews, and we're going to get into what all that actually means here in a few minutes. I was hoping you could kick us off by first sharing your background. What's your story?


Joshlin Yoder: (01:40)

Yeah. I farm here in Northeast Missouri. My wife and our four kids live here on the farm, and I farm alongside my dad and my brother. We're a row crop operation. We grow mostly corn and soybeans, and then there's also a beef backgrounding operation that's part of the farm where we buy four or 500-pound feeder steers, and we will background them out to about 850 to 900 pounds before we sell them off to someone else who wants to finish the process, getting ready to take them to market. I grew up on a farm, was on the farm all through my childhood days, big in FFA growing up, but took a little bit different approach.


Joshlin Yoder: (02:20)

When I graduated from college, I went to the University of Missouri and got a degree in agricultural education. I realized very quickly that teaching was not what I wanted to do. I'd gotten a part-time job in college working in a fashion retail store while I was in Columbia, Missouri, and they recruited me to go into their management program. So knowing I didn't want to teach and not sure I wanted to be back on the farm, I took them up on it, and I worked in fashion retail as a manager for five years. I actually moved to Alabama, where we lived in Tuscaloosa for a while, but ultimately we'd had our first child and realized how much I missed being a part of agriculture, being on the farm, being outside working outdoors, out in nature.


Joshlin Yoder: (03:07)

An opportunity just kind of cropped up with what my dad had going on where we had the chance to move back. That was in 2008. In 2009, a neighboring farm was up for sale next to the home bit place where I grew up, and things worked out where Addie and I were able to buy that, and we've just kind of expanded and grown ever since.


Morgan Seger: (03:30)

Wow. That's a really interesting background. What I actually really like about that is I feel like there's a lot of kids that grow up kind of wanting to work in ag or they'll go to school for ag, but they don't know what they want to do. But it's interesting that you kind of full circle then were able to come back and kind of get back into farming. One question I have around farming specifically is as we think about Precision Ag Reviews, a lot of the things that we try to tackle are return on investment. So people want to know, what we're trying to provide basically is, is this product or service going to be worth it? On your operation, how do you guys kind of work through that?


Joshlin Yoder: (04:09)

So I'm a numbers guy. My dad maybe a little bit less so. My brother would lean more towards what I do. I guess maybe a little more background on that. We each, the three of us, have our own enterprises. I have my farm. My dad has his farms. My brother has his. But we work together. We pool labor, we pool resources, we pool equipment, and we all help each other on everybody's farm, but we all make our own individual management decisions. But there's a lot of group effort involved with that too.


Joshlin Yoder: (04:43)

So kind of coming back around, I'm a numbers guy. I like to be able to put things on paper and try to see what's going to work, what's going to make the most sense, as long as it fits within the general flow of our operation, because yeah, any given year, you might put pencil to paper and say this crop would be better than the other crop, but there's more to it than just the short term on a lot of those decisions as well. So when it comes to looking at the return on investment, the ultimate idea is, does this make sense, one, within the flow of our operation, and two, is this going to help us be more successful? Maybe not even in the short term, but in the long term, will this help us be more successful by incorporating that into what we're doing?


Morgan Seger: (05:26)

Okay. Sure. Well, as part of this ambassador team, we're excited to have you kind of share how you make those decisions and work through those things. I saw in 2020; you won a conservation award. How does conservation fit into your operation?


Joshlin Yoder: (05:43)

When we moved back to the farm, one of the driving forces behind what Addie and I want to do is making sure that the next generation has the same opportunity to live this lifestyle that she and I have, just like my parents created that opportunity for us to come back. And in today's world, we know that there's a lot of detrimental things that can happen to make farms, farmland operations just less successful over time.


Joshlin Yoder: (06:14)

And conservation to us is a huge part of that because if I want my son or my daughters to be able to come back to the farm and have the same opportunity, they need the farm to be as productive as possible. So conservation really plays into that when it comes to things like soil conservation and soil health and nutrient management. All of those aspects, it all lays that foundation to continue to have really productive farmland and maybe even more productive farmland if we can figure out some of the keys to unlocking future potential, not just using it up and watching it blow away or wash away or those kinds of things.


Morgan Seger: (06:52)

Yeah, for sure. Do you see precision ag playing a role in that?


Joshlin Yoder: (06:56)

I think it's made a huge difference in my operation because it's allowed us to be a lot more efficient with some of those inputs that we use on the farm that we haven't always utilized the best. Fertilizer would be a great example. In the past, we would go out, and you just would blanket spread a certain amount of fertilizer. And you'd want to make sure you had enough. You didn't want to leave a crop short. But what that would lead to is when you put the same thing everywhere, maybe you put too much in some places and not enough in some others, and those places where you over-apply, that's where it's most likely that some of those nutrients end up washing down the streams and the creeks and end up down the Mississippi river.


Joshlin Yoder: (07:37)

So incorporating precision allowed us to gather data across the entire farm about what yields we were getting, what the fertility was and in smaller locations within a field, and then being able to write prescriptions to we're applying the right amount of fertilizer at the right place, the right time, really plays a big part into the conservation piece because we make sure we're getting what we need, where we need it, when we need it, not putting too much out there, and ultimately that helps on the conservation side as well.


Morgan Seger: (08:10)

Yeah. For sure, that makes a lot of sense. I think sometimes we, or at least I personally, overthink what it means to really work on conservation agriculture. But it's just doing those little things right. When you think about the ambassador program, what was it that made you want to be a part of this?


Joshlin Yoder: (08:27)

I say I'm on the younger side. I'm 42. I guess when you start talking about farmers, that is on the younger end of things. But the precision part of it to me is really important. One, because the technological advances that have happened in the last 20 years within agriculture have unlocked some potential, not only on the efficiency side of things but in the labor-management side of things as well. Farming the size and the scope that a lot of the farms do today, there's a lot of hours you spend in the seat of a tractor, in the seat of the combine. Even something as simple as auto steer, a person may not realize that, wow, you're driving a straight line. Boy, that's really important.


Joshlin Yoder: (09:09)

Well, that's one thing that I don't have to spend as much mental power on through the course of the day about am I driving in a straighter row as I'm planting corn. Allowing the tractor does that actually eases it a little bit for me and allows me to sit in that seat longer without getting so tired and so worn down. That may seem like a really simple thing, but when you're trying to work from sun up to sun down or from sun up well past sundown, any extra energy you can conserve is pretty important.


Morgan Seger: (09:39)

Yeah. Well, and I think that, to your point, there are also some ripple effects. Like you said, you can work a little bit longer. But you're thinking about things that are going to impact your operation. Every crooked road takes up a little bit more space somewhere down the road.


Joshlin Yoder: (09:54)

It does.


Morgan Seger: (09:55)

I think it's interesting when you think about the implications that every single little decision makes on your overall operation.


Joshlin Yoder: (10:02)

Yep. And then beyond that, too, I guess to me, the precision really does help with the efficiency of what we're doing. For instance, on our planter, we have row shutoffs on every single row on our corn planter. So we cut back on the amount of overlap. That saves us not a lot but a little bit in seed, but maybe more importantly for me is, all of a sudden, you're not duplicating how many plants you have where you've got that overlap. And we've discovered on our farm, anywhere where we have overlap on corn, and it's more likely to go down. It actually yields less because we're getting the population too high in those little areas where we overlap. So it kind of works both ways. We've saved just a little bit of money on seed. But the biggest part is that we know that in all the areas of the farm, we're getting the same population, the same spacing, the same yield potential, and we're not hindering that by overplanting in some of those places.


Morgan Seger: (10:58)

Yep. That makes a lot of sense. So one question we always ask on the podcast is if there is one technology that you are most excited about.


Joshlin Yoder: (11:07)

I don't know if it's the most excited about the most intrigued about would be the autonomous equipment. We actually had an opportunity to have a guy demonstrate a spray drone out on the farm last spring. And while at this time, we didn't feel like it was right for our operation, the idea that we could send something out to spray a pattern for applying fungicides or whatever products we were needing to apply, and the guy didn't have to sit in the seat of the tractor, the cab of the sprayer the entire time to do it was very, very intriguing. So I'm really interested to see what comes down the pipe with autonomous equipment, whether it's tractors or sprayers or drones or weed control. I mean, there are so many possibilities that, again, might make it possible for us to do a lot of things without having to be right there in the seat making it happen. I'm interested in that stuff.


Morgan Seger: (12:02)

That's awesome. I am, too because, on top of that, you don't have to be there, but also the ground doesn't have to be 100% fit if you're flying over it, which is kind of interesting.


Joshlin Yoder: (12:11)

Well, that was what was really intriguing about the drone is because, with some of the fungicides products that we use, there's a pretty small window when the ideal time to apply those can be. And if the ground's too wet, you can't get over it with the regular ground rig. Sure, you can hire a helicopter or a plane, but you still beholden to their schedule in making sure that they can make it work in that small window. So if you have something just like that drone, if you had something like that that you can go out and do it when you want no matter the ground conditions and you're able to apply it, it's very, very intriguing and interesting and exciting.


Joshlin Yoder: (12:50)

But again, it still has to work within your operation. And like I said, at the time, we just felt like they didn't carry quite enough water, and they were fairly expensive, and we just couldn't quite justify it then, but who knows what it will look like in two years or four years or six years. The technology just continually improves, so it's definitely something to pay attention to.


Morgan Seger: (13:11)

Yeah, for sure. Is there anything else you think our listeners should know about you or your operation as you start sharing information as an ambassador for Precision Ag Reviews?


Joshlin Yoder: (13:23)

I think the only other thing I would want people to know is that we're very passionate about what we do here on the farm. Not just because it's our lifestyle and it's our living, but again, we want to pass this on to the next generation. We want to make sure that the things we're doing today can help make our farm profitable, successful, and a great business to be in for our sons and our daughters that are coming up and growing older as we speak.


Morgan Seger: (13:49)

Awesome. Well, if people are listening and they want to follow along with the information you have to share, where would you suggest they go?


Joshlin Yoder: (13:58)

I'm on most of the socials, Joshlin Yoder on Facebook. I have an Instagram, which I cannot think of, might be FarmerYoder. I'm pretty sure it is FarmerYoder on Instagram. So you can look me up, but actually, maybe a better spot to see some of the things we're doing on a daily basis would be to follow my wife, Addie Yoder. She does a really good job of trying to tell our farm story through different social media. She is really big on Instagram. She has her own podcast, some things like that. But those two, you can follow me, or you can follow my wife, and you'd see a lot about what we have going on here.


Morgan Seger: (14:33)

Awesome. Well, I can't wait to learn more, and I'm excited to see what all you have to share.


Joshlin Yoder: (14:38)

All right. Thank you.


Morgan Seger: (14:39)

Thanks.


Morgan Seger: (14:41)

Well, I am really looking forward to the content that Joshlin and his wife Addie can provide and kind of share with us so we can add value to our listeners and followers. We want to make sure that we're giving you real-world, hands-on experience so you know what to expect out of these tools. Our next guest is Austin Heil. Austin is a grower out of Ohio with a very extensive background in agronomy ranging from the equipment side to soil science. I think he's going to bring a really unique perspective to our podcast. He's farming around 280 acres. So really understanding how to capture and measure ROI is going to be of high importance for him. So here's my conversation with Austin Heil.


Morgan Seger: (15:26)

Welcome back to Precision Points. Today on the show, I'm joined by Austin Heil, a new member of our ambassador team. Austin, welcome to the show.


Austin Heil: (15:34)

Welcome. Thank you. I'm enjoying it, and I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do in the precision ag world and with the team.


Morgan Seger: (15:41)

Yeah. Austin and I went to Ohio State together for a short amount of time. So I'm excited to catch up today. For the sake of our listeners, could you kick us off by just kind of sharing your story?


Austin Heil: (15:52)

Yeah. So growing up on a small family farm of 280 acres, I kind of knew at the time that there was never going to be an opportunity to move back to the family farm to farm full time. So you had all those things. And I knew there was a passion that I had for ag. And so, by graduating from Ohio State, in order to be able to be in the ag industry, my roadmap was trying to be like a product specialist. And so eventually coming back to the Ohio, Ohio Valley area, and just working with farmers, working with farmers' new technology, new machines. And so that roadmap, what that looked like was going to Ohio State, working for an OEM, and then working for a dealer or just staying with the OEM.


Austin Heil: (16:47)

So that was kind of my roadmap and college in order to try to achieve that dream. And through all of that, I did. I went to Ohio State. I ended up working for... I had an internship, and a job with CNH in North American combined field testing. Traveled all over the US, and Canada. And if you guys did not know, there is actually a CNH combine facility down in Soa, Curitiba, Brazil. And so, I was part of the team that helped start that combine plant up. And so that was really, really interesting. And so, through all of that, working with combines, it allowed me to move back home.


Austin Heil: (17:36)

And so, through that is where I started cutting my teeth on technology. But that isn't where the story stopped; that is where the story really started taking off because it was one of those evenings. I was sitting on the tailgate with my father down at one of our other farms. I looked at dad, and I said, "Why does the neighbor's corn always look better than ours?" And my father said to me, "Well, I don't know." I asked him, I said, "If this is your farm, why don't you know? What's holding you back? What are you trying to learn?" And my dad says, "Well, Austin," he goes, "I've worked in a factory. It's just what I had to do." He worked at Honda for 32 years. He had us as a family. He farmed the 280 acres. So he didn't have a whole lot of time to investigate.


Austin Heil: (18:45)

And so once he started sharing with me that he did not know, I am a problem solver. And so I want to know. And so, working with other farmers when I moved back and started working for a dealership, I started asking them. And so that's kind of what got the ball rolling. Well, eventually, careers changed and whatnot. And finally, I said to dad, "How are we going to start? How are we going to start trying to figure out? Like what steps are we going to take? Like how are we going to know what we don't know?"


Austin Heil: (19:28)

And so when I started pitching the idea of precision ag and GPS and monitors, the thing that I hear consistently, and he came back, and he said, "I can't afford it. It costs way too much money." And that right there was like, well, as we all know with most farm families or people like us, like when someone says I can't, I won't, to me that's a challenge. Like we're going to do it. Like we're going to figure a way, and we're going to find a way. And so that ended up leading to I found a used Precision Planting 20/20 monitor.


Austin Heil: (20:18)

We put that on the planter that dad had been planting with for 31 years, that would've been the 32nd year with it. And we put that monitor on. There is a lot of learning curve to it. However, my father did not really speak to me for three days after we installed it. And it wasn't the fact that he was mad at me. He was mad and upset with himself that he had been farming for 30-something years and not knowing. Not knowing what he was doing wasn't good enough. And so once I started learning the information that we received from 2014 planting year, that drastically completely changed my whole career roadmap, and that's kind of what has led us to today was that one question of asking my dad why.


Morgan Seger: (21:21)

Yeah. Well, that's really interesting. I know before we started recording, you shared that you really like to learn by doing the research and being hands-on with things. Do you remember, I know this was several years ago, what were some of those key things that he learned that were really game-changers for your operation?


Austin Heil: (21:38)

So through that discussion, sitting with dad is when dad would ground truth fields, which means we would walk fields, I remember it was very common for us to walk through the rows, not with the roses but against the rows, perpendicular to the rose. It was very easy for us to snake and walk. And so through that, I started putting a value on things. I have a slide that, yes, I know all of our listeners are going to have. Some are going to pay a higher dollar for a bag of seed, some are going to pay less for a bag of seed.


Austin Heil: (22:26)

But when we look at it, just kind of if we average those bags together, one corn seed is roughly a third of a penny, a third of a cent. And now the ear of corn is worth a lot more today than what I'm going to tell you, but the figure that I've been using for several years, because prices haven't really changed until recently, was that an ear of corn is roughly valued at like two and a half cents. And so when I started sharing with dad that we are investing, even if we move a corn seed to half of a cent, when you're planting 34,000, you're looking at all of those seeds that you're planting. So that is a lot of money, a lot of pennies.


Austin Heil: (23:22)

And so I started to share with dad the value of one corn seed in the value of one ear of corn. And when we started breaking that down to all the missed opportunities, I mean, when we rent ground or we own ground, it doesn't matter if you own it or you rent it, you are still paying for that land either through a payment, taxes or something. So you still are paying for that piece of land, and every square foot is valuable. And they're not making any more land. And so when I started sharing with dad the value of every kernel, every potential that we're planting, and it was roughly like a 600%, not ROI, but like if you take the kernel of corn, and then you get the two and a half cents, I could be doing it wrong, but in my mind, it was somewhere around 600% kind of return on that investment.


Austin Heil: (24:27)

And so if you look at anything that we do in life, we plant that seed, here in Ohio, we're looking at somewhere in May to plant that corn seed, and then we're going to harvest that thing somewhere September, October, and November. So, where can you invest your money and get a 600% return on that investment? There's not many things that we do. We can't go up to the bank. Maybe you can do it with a stock market if you're lucky, but you can't just go up to the bank and get a 600% return on your investment.


Austin Heil: (25:04)

And so that is where I started sharing with dad the value. And so where that led is no matter what piece of machinery we have on the farm, you can have the best paint, whatever color of tractor that is. You can have the latest and greatest GPS technology. You can have the best combine. You can have the best grain system. You can have the best grain marketer or just whatever you want to add into that best. But if your planter is not 100%, then it doesn't matter what else you have down the line. The planter is where it starts. And if the planter is not 100%, then you're losing all kinds of potential for opportunity down the road because that's where it starts, and that's kind of what we found.


Morgan Seger: (26:04)

Gotcha. I've never thought about it like that, looking at the cost of the kernel versus the value of the ear, but I appreciate your approach. I think a lot of what we try to do on Precision Ag Reviews and on the Precision Points Podcast is help listeners understand what that ROI is because making that first step into a new technology or a new service, you have so much to think about, but you have so many unknowns because lots of times they're still kind of getting figured out themselves. And we all know that every operation is different, so the implications of that product or service are going to be different. Is there anything else that you're looking at where you're trying to basically understand, like is it worth it, or how do you understand if something's worth the investment for your operation?


Austin Heil: (26:48)

Some of my life, through it, I have figured out there's kind of three things. There's three things that I look at. And if anyone's ever seen any of my presentations, they will know that I have three things and it doesn't matter what the presentation is, it doesn't matter if it is with the business, if it's with triathlons, if it's with any organizations I'm in, if it's in church, I have three things and those are, can you control it? Is it something you cannot control? And then if it is something that you cannot control, can you influence it? And so when we start looking at our operation, we start looking at those three things, because we could spend every dollar on this earth trying to control something that we can't control or we can't influence.


Austin Heil: (27:46)

I like to use the example with people. If I wanted to turn our whole homestead farm here into one controlled environment, let's put a dome over it, let's control the sunlight, let's control the water, let's bring in the best dirt, I mean, we can do that. But it is not going to ROI. And so it's them breaking things down and understanding what is feasible. Is it something I can't control? If I can't control it, what's the cost? What's the ROI? Is it something that helps us with efficiencies on the farm? Is it something that helps with better yield? Is it something that helps us be more sustainable in agriculture, lowering our carbon footprint? Is it those things?


Austin Heil: (28:46)

So those are kind of where things start when we start looking at ROI, because obviously if it doesn't pay, then on a small farm like ours of 280 acres, it's not like... There was a gentleman, Jay Hill, that spoke at the Young Ag Professionals conference a couple years ago. He said a number, I believe it was like 9%. He's like, "Take 9% and set it aside and kind of call it kind of your funny money." And with that 9% of money that you want to invest, so you take this whole pot of money that you would like to invest, then you take 9% of it and you turn it and you put it into your funny money. And so that is basically if something happens to that 9%, like if you lose it, if whatever you invested in doesn't work, you have to be okay with that funny money leaving because if you are not trying something, then how are you ever going to learn?


Austin Heil: (29:58)

And so that's something I've always done, I just never put it in that way. And so that's what we started doing was getting dad okay with taking that 9%. And then like with my business, there's different things that I've invested in that are part of that funny money and it didn't work, but it then opened a door for something else. And so it hasn't always been a lost cause, but whenever something doesn't work, you start understanding why it did not work. And then you start figuring out how it works or can we actually apply it in a different way. And so that funny money is when we're looking at ROI and trying something new, that's kind of the method that we take on our farm and that's what I take with my business.


Morgan Seger: (30:51)

Interesting. Thanks for sharing that. Are there any trends in ag right now that you are dabbling in or excited about?


Austin Heil: (31:02)

So with the trends, like we were talking before we got on air, with the whole supply chain, that has kind of been way too much fun. The past for me and the current is working on planters because I'm very passionate about planters. But when we start looking at trends, some of the notes that I had beforehand, I have four things here. One is the expansion of rural broadband, smart farming, data integration and artificial intelligence. And so with those four things, the things that I'm excited about is they have started laying fiber optic lines down my county road. If this video cuts out, you guys will know that it has to do with having poor internet service to our rural communities. And for a small farm business, it does make that a challenge trying to conduct business, meet new people. And so that's something I'm interested in.


Austin Heil: (32:20)

But when we look at precision ag and we start looking at smart farming, the notes that I made here is no longer do we have to fly by the seat of our pants and go off of that internal, that gut feeling. We now have technologies today, and this kind of moves into my next point with data integration. We can't manage anything that we don't map. If we can't measure it, then how do we know what our next step is? And so being able to map and understand those variables, whether it's currently in the field, whether it's a map history, a field history and trying to know what we need to do next, it's just really exciting to see some of our senior farmers that are adopting some of these technologies. When you see them at a meeting or a farm show, they just start pouring out to you because they're just amazed at what they do not know and they're amazed at what they can do with what they do know.


Austin Heil: (33:33)

And then the last part is the artificial intelligence trend. We know a lot on software to aid in our management decisions, whether that data is collected from the ground like ground rovers, whether that is a robot, whether that is a person walking or remote sensing, whether that is an unmanned ag vehicle, UAV, whether that's airplane or satellite. It's just amazing how many people are now in the ag software sector that are all trying to come out with the newest and latest software. We have different tools and we'll use UAVs, for instance. There's been one maker, DJI. However, there are so many companies that are writing code in order to run the UAV. One of the startups I work with, AgMaps, we're one of those companies that's working in that sector as well.


Austin Heil: (34:41)

So those are kind of the things that I'm really interested to see where they go in how we adopt that. But at the same time, I wish I could show you, I've got a map somewhere. But I have a map of a plant cell. And in that plant cell, it shows exactly where all the nutrients are being utilized within that plant cell. And you might be like, or the listers might be like, why are you talking about precision ag and now all of a sudden you just bring up a plant cell? Well, to me, it's everything. I mean, when we go back to what we're talking about, that half a cent or that third of a cent for that kernel, those cells mean everything. And so we can have the best data, we can have the best farming practices, the best data integration, the best AI, but at the end of the day we still need to go back to the roots, to the cell structure of the plant and understand why we're doing what we're doing.


Morgan Seger: (35:50)

Yeah. For sure. At a cellular level, I mean, that's where it all kind of starts. Was there anything specific that kind of drew you to the ambassador program? I mean, I know you're very passionate about sharing what you're learning. Is there anything specific that you're excited about?


Austin Heil: (36:09)

I just got on... So my county has a county leadership program that I did not know is actually I think 30 years old. And so I did not know that this leadership program had been going on for all of these years. Our first meeting was last Thursday, well, when I got in there. We range from 25 years old all the way up to 75 years old. We're at different stages of life, different walks of life, different backgrounds, different knowledge levels. And so what I'm excited about is just the networking with other ambassadors that we're all trying to bring to light some of the things that we're doing on our farm, trying to coach and share with others. And so that networking is definitely something that I'm really, really looking forward to.


Morgan Seger: (37:14)

Awesome. Well, thank you for sharing that. Is there anything else you think our listeners should know about you or your operation or the work that you're doing?


Austin Heil: (37:23)

Yeah. A couple other notes that I have here. We talked about trends. With that, I want to get a little bit more down in the trench. Some of the tech that I'm excited about, even though some of the planter technology that we now utilize like electric drives, hydraulic downforce, they're actually starting to get close to that 10 years old. But what I'm excited is to continue to see farmers adopt that technology because for our farm, it's absolutely revolutionized the way because we went from that simple six row White planter to now a fully built precision, fully digital planter now that's given us 200 readings a second, making adjustments five times a second, and it has just really changed us. And so I'm excited to continue to see farmers adopt that technology.


Austin Heil: (38:30)

Remote sensing. Again, I've been near remote sensing now for, again, probably eight, nine years. So again, getting close to that 10 years of being in remote sensing. And I mean, when we first started, there were all kinds of hiccups. You had to have a 333 exemption, you had to have a pilot's license, and we have got it now down to a Part 107 that really it's not really challenging to get. And I think either Henry or Fulton county is actually putting on a Part 107 class here in Ohio to help people try to pass that test. When we look at UAVs, which started out taking hours, I remember flying some of my first fields and it would take hours to process the images. Now we're having programs like AgMaps that we can do it all from the edge of the field.


Austin Heil: (39:33)

And then to take that the next step further, we've designed the program now that we can then pin what we call areas of interest or pin points. And now we can actually have the drone, and I've actually put up to 40 points in the field of interest and the drone will take off, fly to that point and descend to just a few feet above the canopy, take that picture and continue to do that for the rest of the field. And so when it comes back after several minutes, I now have a map, an ortho of the field, and the health of the field. And now I have several points of the field of high resolution pictures that now I can start picking a handful of those spots to go to ground truth. And so now we have that ability to pinpoint exactly where we walk. Instead of walking aimlessly through the field for hours, now we can know exactly where we want to walk. And so it's just a lot of fun seeing that technology happen as well.


Morgan Seger: (40:43)

Yeah. It's a lot different than sneaking through the field with your dad, that you mentioned.


Austin Heil: (40:48)

Yes. Yes. And then the one that I'm very... This is the last piece of tech that I'm really interested in. Dad and I, we got to go out last summer, and we got to meet with Gregg and Tim Sauder and their team at 360 Yield Center. If people have not seen it yet, look into it, and it's called their 360 Rain. I know here in Ohio, one of the problems that we have is rain, not getting adequate amounts when we actually need it, like in July and August. And so I really look to see how this technology develops and the adoption of it as well. So as far as that goes, that's the tech.


Austin Heil: (41:47)

But anything with the farm. Three different platforms that I kind of use to kind of, I guess four, to share what I do. We all could spend hours. I don't know how, like Millennial Farmer or some of them, or Brian's Farm Videos, I don't know how they put so much content out in a day. For me, it would take me like three days just to try to put together one of the days that they do. So I'm not a big poster, but I'm always up for answering any questions. So I do have a very limited website. That is hpfarming.com. Or you can follow me at Homestead Precision on Facebook. So it'll be Homestead Precision Farming on Facebook. And then I do have Snapchat but I don't really use that much, I mean because whatever I do share, I want people to be able to reference.


Austin Heil: (43:02)

And then the other platform that I also use is Instagram, and it is Tritechfarmer. And so where Tritechfarmer comes up is I like to say I'm a high tech farmer, but when I was doing triathlons, we just moved tri instead of the high. And so it was a Tritech farmer. And so that was when I was doing half Ironman triathlons and all of that. That was a lot of fun, but I do use those platforms. Even in the triathlon community, when you're getting ready to start to swim and everybody's nervous, including me, and people start asking you, what do you do, and all that. They find that I'm a farmer. It's amazing their reactions. It's like they are just seen either like a ghost or a celebrity. They just stop. They look at you, and they're like, "A farmer?" It just kind of opens the door for several interesting conversations when you work with the triathlon community.


Austin Heil: (44:12)

I think someone posted that the average salary of a triathlete was like high 90s, if not in the six figures. That is kind of what that average salary was because the equipment isn't cheap. Luckily for me, I found that all my used ones are on eBay or something like that. But with that, wherever we are in life, wherever we're at, whether if you're at Cracker Barrel or at the County Fair, it just doesn't matter. If you have the opportunity to share your story, whether it's another farmer or if it's someone that has absolutely nothing to do with agriculture, it's amazing to see where that conversation goes. You'll find that there's a lot of things that the communities, our communities, our world, that other what, 99, 98% of the population that don't farm that they don't know. And so you have that conversation with them and they find out what you're doing or how we're doing it. What they have as a farmer in their mind is far from what we are today.


Morgan Seger: (45:25)

Yeah, for sure. I think there's a lot of value to that kind of cross community collaboration. Well, thank you so much for sharing all of that. We will link out to your website and your socials. So if anyone listening wants to follow along with Austin, you can find that in our show notes at precisionagreviews.com. A lot of the content that our ambassador team is going to be putting together will be showing up on the Precision Ag Reviews social sites as well. So we'll be able to see that. And if they want to dive a little deeper into your day-to-day life, definitely check out Tritechfarmer. That's very cool.


Morgan Seger: (45:59)

Well, Austin, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it, and I'm so excited to see the content that you help us put together to really share what's working and what you're trying when it comes to precision ag.


Austin Heil: (46:12)

Yep. I look forward to building off the team and just being part of the team and going from there. So thank you so much.


Morgan Seger: (46:20)

Well, there you have it, my conversation with two of our ambassadors from the Precision Ag Reviews ambassador team. If you are listening and you are interested in becoming one of our ambassadors, or you'd like to learn more about our program, go to precisionagreviews.com and reach out to us, and we will get you connected with the team that is coordinating this project. As always, the show notes from this episode will be available at precisionagreviews.com, and we will link out to both Joshlin and Austin's social presence. And like I had kind of mentioned in Austin's conversation, we will be sharing this content directly through our different channels. So you'll see it on Facebook and Twitter and on our website.


Morgan Seger: (47:01)

But if you want to connect with them directly, we highly encourage that. So we'll link out to their different social channels and help you get connected. We appreciate you tuning in to this episode and giving us this time. We are so grateful that you're here. If you like what you're hearing, please go wherever you found this podcast and leave us a review. We really appreciate your feedback. Until next time, this has been the Precision Points Podcast. Let's grow together.



Thanks for tuning in to today's episode. To hear more podcasts like this, please rate, review, and subscribe to Precision Points. Visit precisionagreviews.com for show notes from this episode, and read expert advice on the blog, share your experience with the precision ag products you use, and check out our network of farmer reviews. Let's grow together.


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