Better farming: data-driven agriculture is replacing farmers’ hunches

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“Better farming: data-driven agriculture is replacing farmers’ hunches” (Canadian Business, September 16, 2013 online; September 30, 2013 print issue) is short little piece on a fascinating Red Deer-based company, Agri-Trend. I don’t do the folks who’ve come up with the idea and are growing it justice in this snippet–they’ve got an amazing database and an aggregation of original and licensed software, and the end result for the farmers who use what Agri-Trend offers is pretty revolutionary.

Featuring Agri-Trend founder and president Robert Saik and its IT guru Kevin Pattison, as well as high-tech prairie farmers Stacey Shurman and Tim Kelly.

Lead and fave quotes:

Want to know how much pesticide went into those McDonald’s French fries your kids are having for lunch? McDonald’s does, and it’s using the software and database developed by Red Deer firm Agri-Trend to track pesticide inputs on all the North American potato fields that end up in its restaurants. The database has information on more than 50 million acres of North American farmland—including a third of all of the continent’s potato acres.

“It makes us farm smarter,” says Stacy Shurman, who uses Agri-Trend software to track every action and consequence on a large Alberta farm. She knows the unit cost of production and profit margin on every individual field, and how it’s affected by fertilizers, pesticides or other interventions. “We can see where every penny goes,” Shurman says. And with every year the farm amasses more data, she’s better able to refine the decision-making process.

Tim Kelly, who runs a family farm in Saskatchewan, agrees. “It makes me more money,” he says simply. “All the information I need to make the best decision at any given time is right there, at my fingertips.”

Full text at Canadian Business: Better farming: data-driven agriculture is replacing farmers’ hunches