Making digital farm data work for you

  • 2 min read

With the days of financial bookkeeping, livestock record keeping and writing crop input data on paper quickly disappearing, it's essential to keep up with the digital times.

Evan Shout, CEO and cofounder of Maverick Ag, a risk management and consulting business based in Saskatchewan, says there are usually three factors that keep farmers from adopting technology and data: thinking it’s too hard, not believing in the cost-effectiveness and not seeing any tangible value.

Keep it simple

The switch to digital can be daunting after decades of working by hand. However, as Shout points out, farmers don’t have to move every element of the farm to digital all at the same time.

Shout recommends farmers look at one or two elements of their business to move to digital, such as using a software program for doing bookkeeping and accounting.

He adds that keeping it simple is as easy as asking for help from someone who understands that platform, a thought echoed by Emmett Sawyer, a young farmer, who is also a technology and data enthusiast.

"Just keep to platforms you are comfortable with," Sawyer says, pointing out the need to recognize abilities and comfort levels.

Cost effectiveness

Shout says a common misconception is the belief that technology and data require a major capital investment like farm machinery, when in fact, readily available data can be used to make better decisions.

Readily available data can be used to make better decisions.

Shout says finances prepared for a tax return, for example, can be used to improve efficiencies on the farm once carefully reviewed.

He adds many don’t put the same value on that information as they would on data collected from equipment, but the efficiency potential is large.

Tangible value

Shout says there’s likely already equipment data on the farm - it just isn't being pulled and analyzed.

Amount of time on repairs, for instance, is valuable data, Shout points out. He adds some farmers may miss out by not using recorded data if they don’t think they know how to access it, but help is available. 

"They don't have to be the ones analyzing,” Shout says. “Every day there are more platforms, there are more advisors and more people out there to analyze."

Bottom line

Moving a farm to digital platforms and harnessing the power of digital needs a measured approach. Start small – maybe with accounting – and move through various areas of the farm individually. Be sure to review existing data for cost saving possibilities, experts say. They also advise asking for help with moving, gathering and analyzing the data.

Article by: Craig Lester