Technology on the Farm - New tools increase efficiency, reduce losses

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Joe Shirbroun, Farmersburg, left, uses an iPad to verify seed delivery information.

Editor’s note: Look for more agriculture-related articles in our Farm & Field section, which is distributed with this week’s Trader. The section is a collaborative effort of the Register, North Iowa Times and the Courier Press.

The pioneering spirit that brought Suzanne Shirbroun’s family to Clayton County six generations ago continues today as Suzanne, her husband, Joe, and their three sons—Nate, Andrey and Tom—blaze new trails in the field of precision technology. It’s an effort that requires an investment in and extensive use of technological tools.

The Shirbrouns, who farm near Farmersburg, also manage a Pioneer Hi-Bred seed dealership and seed treatment business, and own Agronomy Insights, a precision ag business. In addition, Suzanne writes a blog called “2 Farmers and Their 3 Sprouts” and uses other forms of social media to educate people, especially non-farmers, about agriculture.

The family’s connectivity doesn’t end in the farmyard or home, either. Their John Deere tractors and implements are equipped with monitors that wirelessly communicate between tractors and with the operation’s important planting and harvesting data. Corn dryer sensors are connected to allow remote monitoring of various dryer functions, providing hassle-free monitoring during the harvest season.  

Joe and Suzanne are prime examples of how ag businesses are using technology to work smarter. Alpine Communications, Elkader, installed the family’s WiFi network, which enables high-speed Internet connectivity in their warehouse, home and on the farm. iPads provide real-time seed inventory management and use the farm’s WiFi signal to send email notifications to customers for orders  and deliveries, transmit  crop photos to diagnose problems from remote locations, and print information.

“It’s becoming increasingly common for producers to use technology in their livestock and crop operations,” said Chris Hopp, manager at Alpine. “Producers are eagerly embracing technology to manage most everything on the farm including surveillance cameras, livestock feed and water management, manage the environment in various livestock confinement facilities, bin monitoring and fuel and fertilizer tank monitoring from a computer, tablet or smartphone.”

According to Hopp, the most common technologies used by Northeast Iowa producers are video surveillance cameras for dairies, lambing and calving barns, and swine and poultry confident facilities, which provide real-time assurance of the animals’ health during critical times.

In addition, he continued, “producers are monitoring grain bin dryers during the harvest by installing sensors that monitor the grain temperature and moisture.  This also reduces the risks of falls and accidents by eliminating the need to climb a ladder to check grain levels manually.” Surveillance equipment and security alarm systems in homes, barns and sheds also greatly minimize losses from theft, Hopp added.

Alpine not only offers state-of-the-art, peace-of-mind technologies, the company can also assist with overcoming “the obstacle of technology learning curves by offering local support from our staff,” said marketing manager Sara Hertrampf.

The Shirbrouns and other farm families have various reasons for investing in technology but surely an important one is meeting the food demand needs of our country.

“Recent studies show food production must increase by 70 percent by 2050,” said Hopp. “Investing in smart farm technology will help farmers become more efficient and identify areas in their operation that they can reduce expenses, increase production, and improve the quality of their products to meet future global food demands.”

This article was written by Pam Reinig, Register Editor, with the generous assistance of Sara Hertrampf, Alpine Communications.



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