Know More. Grow More.

A technology services podcast provided by Centra Sota Cooperative

The first ever Know More, Grow More podcast was recorded with Centra Sota’s Technology Services Manager, Andrew Lambert and Farmobile’s VP of Data Services, Steve Cubbage. They discussed how data is the foundation of the Yield Quest program and how it helps growers develop a better digital farm management strategy. Topics today cover

Andrew Lambert: Hello everybody. My name is Andrew Lambert, the technology services manager here at Centra Sota Co-Op in central Minnesota. Welcome to the Know More, Grow More podcast. If you’re new to this podcast, that’s all right. This is a new series that we are starting and hope to continue, with a focus around precision agriculture and why it matters to growers here in the state of Minnesota.

So today’s podcast is our very first show. In fact, it’s the first podcast that I have ever recorded, so hang with me as we go through this, but I’m excited to kick it off with a great guest all the way here from Kansas. Mr. Steve Cubbage. Steve is the vice president of services with Farmobile. Welcome Steve, to the Yield Quest podcast and I’m glad to have you here.

Steve Cubbage: Thank you Andrew. Good to be back in Minnesota.

Andrew Lambert: It’s always great to have you up here in Minnesota. So I just want to dive right into why we got you here today. And the reality is that over the past couple months we’ve been working with you guys at Farmobile to directly assist us in building out Centra Sota’s Yield Quest program. As we want to provide growers with a bigger farm data management strategy. So with Farmobile’s help, we’re officially able to relaunch Yield Quest this past summer with a big focus on data. So before we get too far down the road, Steve, tell us a little bit about Farmobile and your history with them.

Steve Cubbage: Well, Farmobile is a company based out of Kansas City and that’s really a data company, but got our start back here a little over five years ago. Developing a technology, basically a wireless technology that takes data from the field, literally the machines in the field, from the planters to the combines to the sprayers, and literally almost instantly takes that up to the cloud and brings that data back down to the grower’s dashboard or the co-op’s dashboard. And it’s really that real-time data piece that really anchors Farmobile’s data technology.

Steve Cubbage: And myself, I came from a precision ag background. I ran an independent precision ag company for 20 years before coming to Farmobile here, about a little over a year ago. And really had that boots on the ground experience with growers, and it’s been great to see some of the things that Farmobile can do at that grower level. And that’s really why I came to Farmobile to help more of those farmers on a broader scale.

Andrew Lambert: Yeah. So in my experience too, when it comes to data collection in general on a farm, it’s been honestly kind of a challenge for most growers. I run into situations where farmers have partial field collection, partial year collection, all the way back from the first year they maybe bought their yield monitor in a combine. So it can be multiple different things causing it, different machines, losing a USB drive as you’re going down the road. And Farmobile gave us some good insight on how to make sure we are collecting that data. So if you can, explain to us a little bit about how Farmobile is able to do that maybe as a backup source, and why you think good quality data is maybe important on the farm.

Steve Cubbage: Well, I think I like to look at Farmobile as in some cases we call it data insurance, because really it’s running alongside that yield monitor that may already be in your combine cab or that planter monitor there. Because literally what we’re doing is plugging into the nervous system directly of that machine and taking data directly from that diagnostic port or that CAN bus port on the system out there.

Steve Cubbage: So we’re literally parallel and working together to get that data totally separate from that monitoring in the cabin. That’s good, because sometimes USBs fail, GPSs fail. We’re a totally redundant system and I think the biggest advantage that we see is that you don’t have to go chase a USB stick. You don’t have to wait literally three months to go out there and download all that data. It’s literally happening instantly. But you have that layer of data ready for you the next morning when you wake up.

Andrew Lambert: Yeah. And the biggest benefit I’ve seen also on the farm is the fact that it is collecting live, real-time information. So in your experience, what ways are farmers potentially able to capture and currently and in the future do you think live data is going to make a impact at the farm gate?

Steve Cubbage: Well, I think this is probably one of the biggest obviously advantages and probably the untapped potential for precision ag. Because in the past, I mean the yield monitor’s been around since 1992, it’s nothing new. And I think data kind of got swept by the wayside, I call it the sophomore slump that happened when auto-steer came on the horizon and really took off. And data’s hard. And having that real time, we always look in a rear view mirror, or have in the past, as far as collecting that data and wait until the snow is flying and you’re in the easy chair going through the three-ring binder with your yield maps.

Steve Cubbage: But now there’s so many apps out there that need data and they need it now. I mean, looking at they need things like planting date. They need to know what variety you planted and what maturity that variety was for corn. Because if you’re having a diagnostic app as far as diseases and insects, you really need to know, and combined with weather data you can literally calculate what stage that crop is in. And chasing a USB stick every two or three days or even every week is just not realistic. And for trusted advisors it’s just not practical.

Andrew Lambert: Yeah. And I think that is something I can reinforce with our experience here within precision ag program. We’ve been trained as growers, and even as sales staff at the co-op level, to want things instantly with smart phones or whatever it may be. So if we want to move past the idea of chasing a yield stick around on five county territories and wanting to collect this information seamlessly and in real time, the ability for Farmobile to be on the farm has really made that possible for us.

Andrew Lambert: So, beyond on-farm data collection there is multiple different layers of data such as planting and harvest, which is typically the farmer doing most of that. What layers of data beyond planting and harvest are you able to collect with co-ops like us or farmers or whoever it may be?

Steve Cubbage: Well, I think Centra Sota is a great example. We obviously from a farmer perspective we always think of planting and harvest as kind of the data bookends as far as what data needs to be collected. You think it’s hard at the farmer level, it’s been really hard at the retail level as well, of getting that as applied data back from sprayers and spreaders out there as far as product going on those fields. And that’s terribly important that there’s just such a mass of that happening at once. It’s been very hard to manage, especially with USB sticks or it’s kind of that older technology. Now we can actually bring data in from the co-op side or the retail side of really what’s happening on that farm and also now pair that with what’s going on at the grower level.

Steve Cubbage: And the nice thing about it, we’re all on the same platform that way. That data meshes very well and it just greases the skids, so to speak, for trusted advisors to really get a feel of what’s going on in that field. Not just from what’s happening at the grower level. Because the grower’s got to realize and in a lot of cases they’re not the only ones in that field. And that retail side is playing a big role.

Steve Cubbage: And truly, if we’re going to get to sustainability, and I think we’ll talk about that a little bit later in another podcast, but true sustainability is really having a record of what’s going on in that field. And if you’re missing half the equation, that’s not good. And that’s really one of the big things and really one of the bridges that Farmobile has built in the technology space is to bring that retail side, commercial side together with what’s happening at the farmer level.

Andrew Lambert: Yeah. So that’s some great insight there. Again, when I start thinking about a farmer taking the stance that I want to make sure I’m collecting data and using it in a way that’s going to return money to my operation through variable applications of cooperative applied products or seeding rates. It really comes down to having all your data in one place. And then after that the idea goes to once I get all this data in one place I want to make sure that whoever’s on my farm, I have that data and I have control over it.

Andrew Lambert: So if you want to dive in, the idea of who owns the data and what potentially a farmer can do with that and some unique things that I think Farmobile has to offer in the data store. Can you dive into deeper a little bit on that?

Steve Cubbage: Sure. Farmobile has always been what we call farmer-friendly from the beginning. Because we see ourselves as, at the basic level, the grower basically needs, like you said, a place that he can look to that he can secure, I call it a safe deposit box for the grower. And sure, you can make a copy of that land deed but don’t give away their original. And I look at Farmobile in that regard is that being able to have a place that you can have transparency, see your data, and decide who you want to share it with and/or that needs access to it and be very transparent about that.

Steve Cubbage: That’s been the philosophy from Farmobile from the very beginning, because our business model is not about just taking data in. Our business model really focuses on getting data out, because we’re not a farm management system. A lot of people confuse that. We’re not a farm management software like Ag Leader SMS or some of the others in the industry. But we’re really is how many different systems and different ways do you want to share your data? Because there’s more than one person that’s probably needing that data.

Steve Cubbage: Whether it’s your insurance guy, whether it’s your banker, whether it’s your trusted advisor at the co-op, seed dealer, whoever it is. That’s becomes very scary because if one of those gets the original copy and takes down the road with it, you don’t have a leg to stand on a lot of times in this digital space. So that’s why Farmobile really has putting that farmer focused in the middle and then having them decide where to send that data.

Andrew Lambert: And one of the more exciting things, like I mentioned a little bit ago, is the data store with Farmobile and the position you guys have taken with farm data value. Can you expand on that a little bit?

Steve Cubbage: Sure. One of the reasons that I came to Farmobile is that obviously we worked with my former company, with precision ag back there in Missouri. A company called Record Harvest. We actually had worked with Farmobile for three years prior to even coming on board. And one thing that really intrigued me is that we’d worked with a core group of our farmers there back in Missouri for several years and said, Hey, we need a digital data strategy that you… Not just one year, but three, four years to collect kind of that history and that portfolio of data. And trust us, it’s going to be worth something someday.

Steve Cubbage: And sure enough, it was. That ship finally came in the harbor with Farmobile saying, Hey, here’s a possibility, we literally give growers the opportunity to license their data to a potential seller that’s in the marketplace and you’re going to get paid for it. That’s a big deal. And it’s amazing that once that data has value and the farmer gets that check in the mail, it becomes really important to him. And we’ve even seen the quality of data as far as just even the practices on the part of the farmer of collecting good data actually improve, obviously, when there’s a check being written to him.

Andrew Lambert: Yeah, definitely. So I think that’s really exciting space to be involved in, into the future. We know that data at scale is being collected across the country. So I think that’ll be a very interesting area of the world to see develop. And I’m excited to offer that as part of our Yield Quest program here at Centra Sota Co-Ops.

Andrew Lambert: So today I think we’ve learned a lot about data collection on the farm, why it’s important to be able to adopt and manage your farm’s precision ag practices. And Farmobile’s really helped us with doing that by being the data in, data out hardware on the farm. And I’m excited to see where it goes with our official revamp of Yield Quest from 2019 and going forward.

Andrew Lambert: I want to thank you all for listening in. If you liked it, please visit our webpage at centrasota.com or myyieldquest.com. Thanks for coming in, Steve, and I can’t wait to have you back in Minnesota again someday.

Steve Cubbage: I appreciate it. It’s been good and certainly we’ll talk soon.