Agriculture has seen major strides in technology over recent years, and as the original entrepreneurs, farmers are always ready to test new methods and tools that could help improve yield and profitability, while simultaneously enhancing efforts to safeguard the environment.
As a member-owned cooperative that works every day with farmers and agricultural retailers, Land O’Lakes, Inc. is constantly working to help farmers do more with less.
The past month has been especially exciting for our work on technology and innovation, with new opportunities to talk about the tools we’ve developed and the research we’re leading.
Here’s the latest:
Showcasing the next generation of technology on the farm
October’s Food, Ag, Ideas Week hosted in the Twin Cities was an opportunity for Land O’Lakes ag tech experts to share a few areas where we see opportunity in the coming years.
“Everyone in agriculture talks about how we have to feed around nine billion people in the next 30 years. Sometimes that seems a long way off,” said Ryan Miller, a WinField United ag tech specialist. “But think about the problem another way: It’s 30 harvests away. We have 30 tries to get this right.”
Ryan was showing visitors how field imagery is moving ahead, harnessing improved satellites, autonomous drones and in-field cameras to create better images that could give farmers a more holistic look at their farms and help improve yields.
It’s one important way to help farmers unlock the greatest potential of every acre, the focus every day for WinField United a -- the seed, crop protection, agronomic insights and ag technology business of Land O'Lakes, Inc.
Imaging is just one example of the innovation being led by the ag tech team.
Voice recognition -- similar to systems you can use at home to turn on the lights or play music -- is also being adapted for on-farm use. Down the hall at Food, Ag, Ideas, the team demonstrated the technology.
With voice input from a farmer or agronomist, the system can quickly deliver information specific to crop stressors and inputs. Instead of flipping through a crop protection manual, agronomists and farmers could use voice search to quickly access details on everything from optimal soybean nutrients to controlling crabgrass.
A few more feet away, two more researchers helped participants try out virtual reality systems displaying a cornfield hologram to the user.
WinField United’s Jon Zuk explained that while there’s still lots to be done on virtual reality for on-farm use, it could be a huge step forward for field management in the coming years. For example, it could enable a farmer to take a 360-degree view of plants in a specific area of a field, simulate the impacts of weather events and various crop inputs on that plant, all from an office.
Land O’Lakes, Inc. Chief Technology Officer Teddy Bekele said that Land O’Lakes has invested in ag tech both to seek out next-generation innovation, and deliver tools that can help farmers today.
“All of our work comes back to insights that help farmers make decisions based on the data,” said Bekele. “That’s what you see on our ag tech team -- working on next generation ideas, while also leveraging existing research capabilities like our Answer Plot® program, cutting-edge decision making technologies like the R7® Tool, and in-season management tools like Field Forecasting.”
With each of these tools, it’s all about providing insights to help farmers make decisions that drive efficiency and sustainability—both economic and environmental. Tracking and quantifying these environmental stewardship practices was the basis of another major announcement made recently from Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN.
A new brand delivering insights to the farm in real time, acre-by-acre
As farmers work to improve yields and profitability, they’re also focused on safeguarding the air, land and water. Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN is focused on helping them advance and connect their stewardship efforts across the food value chain.
That’s why we created Truterra -- launched at the end of September -- which aims to advance the agricultural industry’s ability to support conservation at scale across a variety of crops, commodities and commitments.
The new brand is rooted in the Truterra Insights Engine, an interactive on-farm digital platform that will help farmers advance their stewardship goals and return-on-investment in real time, acre-by-acre, and help food companies measure sustainability progress.
Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN senior vice president Matt Carstens said the tool is meant to drive value from farm to fork -- starting with the farmer.
“Using the Truterra Insights Engine, farmers and food companies will have the ability to establish and report clear metrics,” said Carstens. “They’ll be able to create customized stewardship strategies that meet farmers where they are in their sustainability journey, and use a common language for on-farm stewardship that holds meaning and value.”
Jason Weller, senior director of sustainability for Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN, added it will fill a huge need to quantify the results of farmers’ stewardship.
“Understanding and enhancing the sustainability of our food system is critical, but a major challenge remains a lack of comprehensive tools to quantify results,” said Weller. “The Truterra Insights Engine will help to fill this need by providing tangible conservation options and benefits customized to every business.”
Importantly, he said, Truterra contributes to Land O’Lakes’ overall focus on technology to help farmers from both an economic and environmental perspective. “This is about making farmers more successful by providing them with new solutions at the farm gate -- tools they can deploy to be more successful across the board,” said Weller.