With nearly one-third of corn and soybean acres likely unprofitable despite record yields, new analysis by FarmLink's TrueHarvest identifies unrealized revenue; need for tool to find and measure that opportunity
Although yields increased in 2014 to record levels, at least 50 million corn and soybean acres, or almost one-third, were likely unprofitable in 2014, according to a new analysis by FarmLink.
And yet, opportunity for production and revenue remained unrealized in 2014. FarmLink identified an additional 1.6 billion bushels of corn and soybeans worth approximately $9.5 billion in revenue that American farmers could have realized in 2014 if their land had performed at the 75th percentile (high performing land) compared to their peers.
Compared to 2013, unprofitable corn and soybean acres increased by approximately 20 million, while the bushel improvement opportunity remained relatively steady from year to year (1.7 billion bushels in 2013), based on an analysis by FarmLink of commodity prices, USDA cost data and FarmLink data.
"Farmers need 'actionable data', not just 'big data', to answer critical questions about performance and profitability," said Ron LeMay, Chairman and CEO of FarmLink. "Our analysis shows that if land performing at the 50th percentile had performed at the level of peers producing at the 75th percentile, American growers could have harvested and sold nearly $10 billion more, which would have contributed to profitability. Unfortunately, due to inaccurate collection and inadequate data management capabilities, much of the data in agriculture today is of suspect quality and not organized and formulated into tools that make it actionable for farmers. FarmLink's TrueHarvest turns big data into highly actionable, accurate data that farmers can use to move their land toward higher percentile performance."
FarmLink's TrueHarvest analyzes similar land in similar conditions to determine the range of performance, then compares individual fields, and zones within fields, to that range to determine improvement opportunity. The opportunity is identified by analyzing yields, down to the 150-square-foot-area, coupled with 62 additional weather, soil, evapotranspiration and topographical variables, to determine peak performance capabilities.
"To realize the full potential of farmland in the United States, we first need to move away from using county averages to measure performance," said Scott Robinson, President of FarmLink. "County averages mask critical, necessary details to determine relative percentile performance and therefore do not represent 'actionable data'. TrueHarvest allows farmers to see where there is opportunity, and just as importantly, where there is not opportunity for yield and revenue improvement. Farmers also can accurately measure farming practices, including input performance, and how those practices are helping move their land toward its most profitable potential."
"A lot of yield maps show you what the yield was, but it doesn't show you the potential of that acre," said Brent Schipper, a TrueHarvest subscriber who farms near Conrad, Iowa. "Benchmarking, and yield gap maps provided by TrueHarvest, allows you to see where maybe you should put some extra inputs, or instead of putting them on one acre, shift them over additional acreage and be more responsible with what you are using."
TrueHarvest identifies a wide range of performance within fields and across zones. One TrueHarvest subscriber in Iowa whose field performed at the 70th percentile still had an opportunity range of 0 – 46 BPA across zones in just that one field. Improvement potential also varies widely from field to field, meaning averages hide individual opportunities. For example, in that subscriber's county, the average improvement opportunity was 11 BPA, while within that field, the improvement potential was as high as 46 BPA.
To create TrueHarvest, FarmLink captures yield data from a captive fleet of 200 combines that are leased by a subsidiary company, MachineryLink. The combines, which have harvested more than 6 million corn, soybean and wheat acres in 26 states, take a 150-square-foot (micro-field) data snapshot every second as they go through the field, amassing more than 800 million micro-fields. The result is a unique and precise understanding of the performance range of comparable land in comparable conditions for that season.
TrueHarvest is available to farmers by subscription for use in evaluating 2014 farming practices and for 2015 on-farm planning. The price of the subscription—one bushel of corn per acre—reflects FarmLink's commitment to share risk with its farmer-customers.