The data-driven future of farming
As a fifth-generation farmer, I often think about the massive changes to farming practices since my great-great-grandfather’s time. It’s hard to imagine what it was like before machinery revolutionised the way we farm. A time before utes, tractors, harvesters, electric shears and milking machines to name just a few.
Even well into the 1990s you tuned in to the radio to hear the district weather forecast or, if you owned one, you could get a fax from the Bureau of Meteorology twice a day.
To find out livestock or grain prices you had to go to the saleyard, go to the pub to chat to someone who’d been, meet with the local agent or read about it in next week’s newspaper.
Your farm map, if you were lucky, was on a big piece of paper with key boundaries and features marked, and only those who used a crop-duster had a chance of seeing an ‘aerial’ view of the property.
The digital agtech revolution
The last 20 years, and especially the last 10, have been all about the digital farming revolution.
Like many people, my digital farming journey started slowly. In 1990 I had a laptop in the cattle yards for transferring our cattle, using EID tags (pre NLIS). I started to look up BOM forecasts on the internet and if I went to a few different websites, I could get reasonably accurate livestock and grain prices.
It was a bit fiddly, not fully up to date, and I had no way of storing and recalling the information I needed to help make accurate data-led decisions, but it was a great start and better than guessing. I also had paper records of my grain harvests and cattle sales that I could transfer to a spreadsheet.
I could clearly see a future with more digital equipment that would deliver more data – but if I couldn’t access it easily nor compare data sets from different sources together, I wouldn’t be making the most of my digital assets.
How much fertiliser did I put on that paddock? How much rain fell? What were the average temperatures that season? What were the soil probe moisture readings at particular depths? How much did I harvest and what did it sell for? How much pasture was produced and what is my optimal stocking rate? What was the average daily weight gain of my trading steers? Knowing the answers to all these questions would lead to more resource efficient farming.
Inspiration to help farmers navigate a digital future
That was the inspiration for Pairtree. Developing a way to streamline all the different data, no matter the source, into an easy to navigate, single log in farm computer dashboard. Not only that, the data needed to be securely stored in a format that could be used across different platforms and programs now and in the future.
From the outset we knew the answer was to collaborate, rather than compete with the various agtech device and service providers. We didn’t want to be prescriptive about which brand of tank sensor, soil probe, weather station or mob management software a farmer must have to use our platform.
Our ability to streamline data from 90+ different suppliers makes us the market leader in the Australian farm data integration space.
The starting point for our farming clients is Pairtree PLUS. All subscriptions include access to the very latest Livestock & Grain Prices, detailed Forecast & Historic Weather, Spray Mate (spray planning tool) and a GIS Mapping Tool & basic Satellite Imagery.
Each of these features is set up specifically for your farm – whether it’s the hyper-localised weather forecast or the ability to compare prices at nearby (and distant) livestock saleyards and grain ports. You also have the choice to view and save as much or as little detail as you want.
No two farms are the same
We know that no two farming operations are the same, so building on our base of Weather, Markets, Mapping and Satellite Imagery, Farms of the Future (FotF) participants can choose to add data feeds from devices & services supplied by 18 popular FotF Program Partners for a more complete view of operations.
No one company provides all the solutions to monitor and manage all aspects of your farm, but only Pairtree allows you to centralise all of the data in one place to make it much easier to view, use and manage.
Agtech devices can save you time and money and deliver peace of mind. Using the data they deliver to make decisions based on facts, not feelings, leads to more efficient use of resources, increasing sustainability and profits.
In addition, livestock enterprises may want to add automated in-paddock weighing (Optiweigh) or animal location and stocking density data (Agriwebb) while cropping enterprises might add more weather stations (GoannaAg, Metos, Wildeye) or harvest or irrigation specific technologies.
All Pairtree subscribers can access the very latest market prices with MLA and AuctionsPlus indicators and saleyard prices nationally for livestock and grain markets including current and historic wheat and canola prices at all major ports from iGrain and live grain futures and forex rates from CBOT.
All your different devices and data sources are centralised and viewed on a Pairtree dashboard farm map. For example, you can select a water tank on the map and see its level, or whether the sensor is running low on battery or has been chewed by a cockatoo.
You can see how much rain has fallen in a paddock and what the satellite image says about the moisture index (MI), shortwave infrared (SWIR) or normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI).
View your mob management tool on the map to see where your cattle are, and the satellite images to see how much pasture they have in front of them.
Plan for the future now
We are asking farmers who are about to go digital on their farm to think about how they will store, access, and use all their new data efficiently. It is definitely worth planning from the outset.
Who knows how you might want to use your data in the future? With Pairtree you know that it will be safely stored and accessible in a format that can be used across multiple platforms.
The beauty of Pairtree is that you can always add more data sources later as your uptake of technology grows. Collecting data is valuable. Having the ability to use the same data in unlimited ways to support better decision making is priceless.
Pairtree’s expertise in integrating data from so many different devices and suppliers means we are also the natural choice for large corporate clients, agtech developers and researchers working on new tools for Australian farmers, particularly when they are developing and testing on farms with existing or ‘incompatible’ agtech.
Our latest projects include working on crop disease prevention tools with Syngenta, crop frost and heat stress prevention tools with GRDC and CSIRO and we’ve worked closely with the MLA to streamline compliance reporting and numerous natural capital and carbon projects with various stakeholders. We hope to offer these services to all our clients in the near future.
Data-driven farming is the way of the future and Pairtree can help you make the most of it.
Author: Hamish Munro, Co-Founder, Pairtree Intelligence