Commercial Corner: AgSolver: Return on Investment Farming

Author: 
Ali Lenger and Pamela Porter
Newsletter Issue: 
October 2015

Farm equipment in the field

Precision agriculture – a system of using technology to carefully place inputs in the right amount at the right time and the right place—is a growing priority in the world of agriculture. AgSolver, Inc., an Iowa based company, has been working hard to make farmers’ crop production more profitable, while accounting for environmental parameters and restraints. The company’s precision conservation software technology helps quantify performance data at the field and subfield levels. The result? More precise management for each field and farming operation, higher returns on investment and better environmental performance.

One of their goals as a company has been to make crop production more profitable and more sustainable through a landscape-based framework.

“We are trying to leverage the data that are readily available for farmers using both public data sets and private data farmers are generating with their equipment,” said David Muth, Senior Vice President of Analytics at AgSolver “[Data] are being generated in mass quantities now to help them make better decisions.”

Besides handling all this “big data,” Muth explained that AgSolver is a tool that can help farmers shift from revenue focused agronomic planning to return on investment planning. This means that he wants producers to focus their financial efforts to where they will receive the best net return for their crops.

A 2010 USDA Agricultural Resource Management Survey shows precision management has a way to go. Approximately 40-45% of U.S. grain crop farmers’ use yield monitors, but most growers are not tying the data to GPS maps or variable rate fertilizer equipment that allow metering of inputs. For example, in the Cornbelt, GPS based maps were only used on 24% of corn acres and 17% of soybean acres.

Perennial bioenergy cropping systems may be aided by tools like AgSolver. If farmers can identify farm fields (or parts of fields) that are losing money and leaking nutrients, perennial energy grasses may gain a toehold. Planted into unprofitable corn and soybean acres, perennial grasses may provide important water quality benefits and offer farmers a hedge in extreme weather years.

Iowa State University researcher Dr. Emily Heaton has been working with AgSolver to look for ways to reduce losses on corn and soybean fields through modeling the use of perennial crops like switchgrass on a range of soils.

“AgSolver is facilitating cross-cutting collaboration between agronomists, economists, and natural resource managers,” Heaton adds. “Their compute framework allows us to ask questions in a whole new way. Right now, we pinpoint if a field incorporation of a perennial is likely to make or lose you money, and soon we will be able to say what impact that perennial might have on that field’s soil and water quality.”

Dr. Elke Brandes, a post doctoral researcher in Heaton’s lab explains, “This information forms the basis of our research goal: Finding the right locations for perennial grasses in the agricultural landscape to provide food, feed, and fuel, while reducing nutrient leaching into Iowa waterways,” says Dr. Brandes.

AgSolver is helping farmers make sure that their limited dollars are going to productive acres where there is return. Their efforts are sure to transform the nation’s agriculture.