Why more farmers are going digital

Darcy Herauf of Odessa, Sask., has a good memory for inputs. But he was glad to have electronic production records backing him up over the past year, when he sold some canola and flax to buyers who wanted very specific crop protection details. 

“It was easy because I had electronic records," Herauf says. "I had everything on my app and I wasn’t concerned whatsoever about being able to provide the information the buyers wanted.”

The exercise had an additional twist for Herauf. In addition to farming, he’s also FCC’s director of management software. Data from production on his farm - which also includes wheat, barley, oats and lentils - is stored within FCC’s Field Manager Pro program.

Today, he’s using FCC’s latest electronic record-keeping software, AgExpert Field, which was released in January. It’s a cloud-based program, meaning it’s available to producers anywhere - in the office or in the field.

Expect reporting requirements to increase

Herauf forecasts more digital record keeping by Canadian farmers.

“The reporting requirements will only increase,” he says. “Having all your records available digitally will help producers.”

A new independent study suggests he’s right.

In its second annual survey of field data management software on Canadian farms, Stratus Ag Research found uptake has risen. Overall figures of 700 farms surveyed show slightly more than 34 per cent of producers are using one or more of the 20 field data management software solutions available in Canada.

Strong uptake in eastern Canada

Uptake was particularly strong in eastern Canada, where new software such as Climate FieldView was introduced in 2017.

Stratus found about 35 per cent of the 200 farmers surveyed in Ontario and Quebec used field data management software. That was a leap from 25 per cent the year before,and puts eastern Canada farmers slightly ahead of their western Canadian counterparts, many of whom had already adopted field data management software technology.

But there’s still room to grow. Although the research shows producers are increasingly moving towards using field data management technology, about 45 per cent of all respondents have yet to make the leap.

Nearly one-third of them say it’s too costly, or they don’t feel it is worth the investment. Another third say their current system of gathering field data is adequate.

Still, 23 per cent of all non-users said they are planning to adopt new field data management software in the next three years.

Make software pertinent and easy

Krista MacLean, survey co-ordinator with Stratus, says software developers should consider that farmers say the two most important attributes a software solution must have is ease of use, and that farm data is easily accessible all in one place.

Herauf agrees.

“Overall, producers are interested in modernizing farm management technologies and digitalizing their records, but any new program must be created with today’s farmer in mind,” Herauf says. “If the technology is too hard to use or not designed for the farmer, it turns people off.”

Respondents for the survey were screened for growers with a minimum of 2,000 acres in western Canada and 400 acres in Ontario and Quebec.

The survey also showed significantly more farmers – 38 per cent in 2017, versus 26 per cent in 2016 -- said productivity increase and margin squeezes are the main external factors driving their interest in adopting field data management software.

Bottom line

Farmers are looking to modernize farm management technologies and digitalize their records, and will do so if programs are easy to use and designed for agriculture. 

Article by: Owen Roberts