Technology helps farmers share information in new way
FARGO-A new business is helping farmers share information across the country. Farmers Business Network is a California-based business that connects farmers and their crop info online. Charles Baron, the network's co-founder, was in Fargo recently...
FARGO - A new business is helping farmers share information across the country.
Farmers Business Network is a California-based business that connects farmers and their crop info online.
Charles Baron, the network's co-founder, was in Fargo recently to celebrate the network's December launch.
"What FBN does is it allows growers to share information in an entirely new way," he said. "Farmers advising each other is as old as agriculture, passing knowledge from one generation to the next or getting together at harvest time to talk about that year's crop, it's as ancient as agriculture itself. All FBN does is takes that conversation, backs it up with real data generated by modern farm equipment, and uses that to help farmers make better decisions."
Since launching, Farmers Business Network members have added data from more than 7.5 million acres in 18 states, Baron said. So far, the network tracks 16 crops.
"By aggregating the power of information from tens of thousands of fields around the country, we can learn so much more about an individual input, like a seed or a fertilizer, than we ever could by looking only at a grower's farm by itself," he said. "What FBN does is it allows you to look beyond your own farm."
The network helps farmers learn what their soils are capable of, which seeds work the best, and how hybrids respond to different nutrient programs, Baron said. With every new member and every new region, he said the network gets a little smarter.
Michael Zenker, who farms small grains near Gackle, N.D., is a network member.
"We're always looking for ways to utilize our data so we can better improve our operation," he said. "We can start to look back and analyze our planting dates, our planting timing, what types of hybrids we've been using on different types of soils and see how they perform."
Zenker said he plans to use the program to look at seeds and spraying applications to see how he might be able to increase profits.
"The more information they get, the more they can help everybody who gets involved and the more detailed information we'll be able to get so I can compare my farm to other farms in the area, how different varieties did for other people and maybe find things that will work better on our farm and vice versa, other people can benefit from what I put on the system," he said.
Farmers upload files from their equipment into the network, which then simplifies the data, Baron said.
"Fundamentally, FBN is about providing independent, trusted, unbiased information," he said. "We don't do anything else besides managing data and creating the platform for our farmers."
Kelby Kleinsasser, Farmers Business Network head of business development, who works out of Sioux Falls, S.D., said North Dakota is one of the network's densest areas.
"Farmers have been waiting for this technology to mature," he said.
The information helps farmers be more knowledgeable when it comes to making purchases, he said.
"We have farmers tell us all the time that it used to be when they'd go to meet with their seedsman, they would sit down and the seedsman would be the one bringing the information to the discussion," he said. "Now we have farmers in our network who actually have more information than the person they're talking to so it's a great experience for them because it's empowering and it enables them to ask good questions and to be more educated about the process."
The annual membership costs $500. It includes a farm analysis to help pinpoint what factors affect yields; field profiles to determine what works and what can be improved; and access to FBN Seed Finder to help determine the best performing seeds for specific conditions.