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Expert advice on innovation in precision agriculture

August 31, 2017

Ask The Expert: Maximizing soil fertility

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Inch by inch, acre by acre: Maximizing soil fertility with Echelon

When it comes to demonstrating the value of Echelon™ – the technology and precision agriculture platform from Crop Production Services (CPS) – proof comes in many forms: from increased yields, to controlled input costs, to faster and more efficient management of weed and pest issues.

Tom Staples, director of Echelon, says the platform delivers far more than simply the variable rate technology (VRT) associated with most precision agriculture offerings.

“Our key strength and what sets us apart is the 16 years of data that we pull from, which informs every aspect of our approach to growing a profitable crop,” explains Staples.  “We are able to look at the weather forecast and overlay that with years’ worth of satellite imagery that shows us down to the pixel level how the soil responded to those conditions. If it’s going to be wetter than normal we’ll weight all of the images based on that. If it’s going to be drier, we dial it back to what that field looked like in an exceptionally dry season. With that much data, you’re able to plan based on realistic in-field conditions, not guess work.”

From the CPS team working side by side with the farmer in the field to integrate the platform, to the Echelon technical analysts optimizing captured data, the result is an extremely accurate nutrient prescription designed “to get the most response from the soil and weather conditions on that exact piece of land,” says Staples.

In terms of results, Echelon and CPS continue to build on their year-on-year success story. The service has grown from optimizing 250,000 acres in 2013 to just over a million acres managed in 2017. Staples says 2018 will see continued growth as more and more farmers try the platform and discover the ease of integrating it into their existing equipment.

“We believe in showing real proof, real return on investment. We have a series of checks that allow us to track success and results farm by farm,” explains Staples. “In 2016, Echelon users experienced an an average yield increase of 10.8% in canola, 5.9% in wheat and 6.4% in barley* when variable rate fertility was utilized. That’s across Western Canada, but it gives a good idea of the response we can deliver.”

The real win-win is in the combination of increased yield with the cost savings that come from more efficient nutrient application.

“Nitrogen is a crop farmer’s largest input investment, and the difference between applying 70 or 80 pounds for best effect has huge impact on the bottom line. We’re applying that nitrogen investment as smart as possible

Staples says the other significant advantage of Echelon from CPS is the extra support and service provided by the local retail network.

“Integration of a technology and precision ag platform with a crop inputs retailer drives even more benefit for the farmer. CPS is unique this way as our retails provide help with planning and access to credit programs, and a host of leading products and tools.”

CPS offers a unique Echelon pricing model that allows growers of all farm sizes to benefit from the power of the precision agriculture service. For farms larger than 2,000 acres, the cost is $10,000 per year for unlimited variable rate prescriptions, on-farm support, crop planning and access to data. For operations less than 2,000 acres, the cost is just $5 per acre.

*Source: 2015/2016 CPS Harvest Data – 5791 data sources across Western Canada; 2188 canola; 1645 wheat; 405 barley; 1533 other. Data compared to average zones.


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Echelon™ is a trademark of Crop Production Services (Canada) Inc.

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