The Roberts’ family farming operation captured data, but mainly in excel spreadsheets together with a total of 55 separate apps. When Ben Roberts joined the family farm, he was determined to make the process of capturing and utilizing data easier and derive more value from the farm data in the end.
After trying different farm management apps and other solutions, Ben Roberts heard about Agworld through his agronomist T.J. Bingham and could see the power within the program. Soon after, the family decided to implement Agworld at the same time as their farm inputs supplier, Valley Agronomics.
By being able to aggregate all important farm data in Agworld, Ben is able to get accurate overviews and reports from Agworld whenever he needs them. Because of the availability of data at all times, the on-farm decision-making process has improved; especially when decisions need to be made on the fly.
A large and diversified operation
Ben Roberts is part of the ‘Roberts Legacy’ family farming operation in Beaver, Utah. What was originally started by Ben’s grandfather as a 150-acre farm with 100 cows together with his brother, is now a much larger operation run by Ben together with father Don, cousin Tyler and uncle David. The family now milks nearly 1,000 cows, as part of a 5,000 strong herd that also comprises beef cattle, 2 hog barns of 10,000 hogs each, a compost business, a gas station and 5,000 acres of cropping.
But, that’s not all; Ben and Don also run an agricultural consultancy business that actively consults in projects from Mexico to as far away as Algeria. With diversity obviously being part and parcel of the operation, it is no wonder that data plays a big part in the Roberts family in order to ensure profitability at all times. After Ben Roberts completed his MBA, he joined his father and uncle on the family farm and he soon realized that a lot of knowledge about data from his degree is directly applicable to the farm. “I started seeing the value of when you keep track of what you’re doing, you can start seeing patterns and trends.”
Ben continues: “In our MBA program we focused a lot on taking data and running regressions and other analyses. Once I got more involved on our farm I realized that there was a lot that we weren’t capturing, and we weren’t seeing with our record keeping. I felt that, if we were able to capture more of this critical data, this would enable us to give it a real practical application. My father used excel spreadsheets, which he is really good at, but they are a nightmare to update and keep moving, and for anyone else but him to understand them is not as easy as we would like it to be.”
Ben soon put an increasing focus on capturing field-level data on their farm, even to the extent that he started the process of developing his own program. Ben explains: “It was my dream to be able to drive into a field, see where you are at, click on the field, and have your year-to-date information right there in front of you. I want to be able to see what we’ve spent on things like seed, chemical and fertilizer and what kind of passes we’ve completed on each field. I was already talking to third parties in order to get this developed when our agronomist T.J. Bingham showed me Agworld and what it can offer us. As soon as I had a look at Agworld I realized immediately: this is what I was looking for, this is what I was trying to do.”
“Because we now utilize Agworld, we’re able to limit the number of spreadsheets and other apps we use; everything is getting collected in Agworld. Because all this data is now centralized on the same platform, we’re able to track our finances better on a per-acre basis so we know exactly what’s going on in each field. Having this knowledge enables us to see what each field produces and which fields need to be changed out for example, but also whether we’re getting our money’s worth out of certain chemicals or fertilizers. Agworld allows us to improve our practices and not only cut our costs but improve our yields by seeing exactly what needed to happen on a per-acre rather than just an overall farm basis.”
“At the beginning of the season T.J. and I use Agworld to plan our whole season ahead. So, at any given time throughout the season, we know exactly what we’re doing moving forward. Sometimes, in the middle of the season when we’re at our busiest, we don’t remember exactly what we had planned and it’s easy to get sidetracked. Because we have all our plans in Agworld now, that’s a thing of the past and this is invaluable to our operation.”
Ben continues: “Quite often during the season, I will be sitting in the truck, driving around trying to make decisions and debating whether we should spray here or add fertilizer there for example. I can now pull up all my information from Agworld on the iPad and see exactly what we’ve done already. Does it make sense to have this $15 per acre application at this time? How much have we spent already? Are we within budget or is it going to take us over our budget for what we’re trying to achieve with this crop? Using Agworld daily really helps me make the best decision in every scenario.”
Although the Roberts family has been using Agworld for over a year already, Ben doesn’t feel that they’re fully utilizing the platform’s capabilities yet: “I have now gotten to the point where I’m starting to tailor more and more of how we run our operation around the way Agworld runs; purely so that Agworld becomes more powerful for us and delivers even more insights. Agworld has got everything that I could ever want from a farm management platform so I’m willing to adjust how I run things a little bit as this will enable us to get the most out of it.”
“Valley Agronomics’ agronomists provide us with recommendations and other information through Agworld, which is also quite exciting for us. We love being able to involve our agronomist as much as we can in our operation and having all this agronomic information available together with our farm data, makes it even more powerful again. With all these different sources of data coming together, we have already been able to discern trends and changes in them, so we’re able to adjust what’s going on.”
“In a farming operation, it is quite easy to get stuck in a routine and do things because that’s what dad did or that’s what’s worked in the past but Agworld helps us move past this. Because we are keeping track of everything we do on the Agworld platform, we are able to make improvements to our farm management practices. Not only does this give me peace of mind during the season, it also makes us more profitable and sustainable, which is why I love using Agworld.”
"Because we are keeping track of everything we do on the Agworld platform, we are able to make improvements to our farm management practices. Not only does this give me peace of mind during the season, it also makes us more profitable and sustainable, which is why I love using Agworld."
Yenda Producers Co-operative used to record their agronomic data by writing it down first and then later entering it in a computer. This way of handling data caused a lot of extra work due to double handling and did not offer an easy way to go back into historic data and find information when they needed it. Also, as a wide variety of both summer and winter crops get grown by Yenda Prods’ growers in overlapping seasons, there is no ‘slow time’ and thus the agronomists had a need to plan accurately and rapidly.
When Ben VanDyke started to grow food crops next to his existing grass seed operation, he found that he needed a better way to track his input applications for certification purposes. VanDyke Farms is also surrounded in the immediate area by sensitive crops, which necessitates a high degree of caution when spraying and accurate input application tracking to prevent spray drift from occurring.