The 2002 Oakland A's front office built a playoff team on a small budget using complex data to rate undervalued baseball players. Benton County, Minnesota, farmer Jake Bauerly believed such a data strategy could drive his input management philosophy to transform and grow his business.
Bauerly built a front office team with data, agronomic skill sets and trusted partners and products like Dyna-Gro(R) Seed that helped him increase efficiency as Valley View Farms grew from 1,600 to 4,000 acres in a decade.
"During my previous career as a highway contractor, I learned that life can be easy if you deal with people you trust. But life gets hard if you deal with sketchy people," Bauerly says. "So, when I sold that business, I wanted that same trustworthiness for my farm. A neighbor recommended Nutrien Ag Solutions(R) agronomist Andy Oeding in 2010, and now Robby Reinking since 2020 -- both are straight shooters with great integrity and good local trust who push us to be better."
VALUABLE DATA-FOCUSED PARTNERS
Bauerly added farm managers Colby and Bruce Kaschmitter in 2016, playing on their technology, data, equipment and farm agronomics experience strengths. Colby was a new college grad in GPS and GIS for agriculture, and Bruce had family farm experience and his diesel technician skills. Today, they run the day-to-day operations as valuable partners in this Sauk Rapids-based farm.
Over the past five years, Bauerly cites more than 20 data points that help drive their input and management decisions. They include yield and weather data, growing degree days, plant population, fungicide response, fertility variations, tissue samples, nitrate and environmental data, erosion, crop insurance, satellite imagery, input trials by row, grain quality, tillage, employee and landlord satisfaction, fuel economy, ROI and profit.
"We spend all winter analyzing our current and past input data, comparing it to area results to decide what stays and what goes," Colby says.
Years of test plot and farm yield data confirm success when planting corn and soybeans simultaneously, two to three weeks early into cold 40-degree soils. "In a traditional 92- to 97-day corn maturity area, we succeeded with a 104-day Dyna-Gro Seed hybrid that earned us the third-highest yield in Minnesota in the 2022 NCGA irrigated category," Bruce says.
CLIMATE EXTREME IMPACT
Continued weather extremes -- like a 10-inch rain in four days during 2022 and drought in 2021 and 2023 -- have pushed Valley View Farms to add more irrigation and drainage tile. "Taking care of the soil is critical, as a crop insurance guy once told us that 40% of yield loss comes from too little water and 30% from too much water," Bauerly says. "So, if a field has drain tile and irrigation, we remove 70% of the risk, adding comfort to my grain marketing moves."
Reinking works with Colby to ensure that in-season soil and tissue sample data drive healthier plants. "For three years, we've noticed data trends by crop growth stage, used to improve our foliar feeding," Colby says. "Our goal is to model a foliar application timing schedule to reduce corn stress given climate extremes, ensuring plants are not running short of nutrients like magnesium, copper or zinc."
Hybrid and variety selection also changes with climate extremes, further challenged by the April planting of 22-inch corn and soybeans in central Minnesota.
TEST PLOT TRIALS
Reinking helps Valley View Farms apply data strategy to push the envelope in test plots -- from plant populations to micronutrients -- to adopt what works and drop what doesn't work on widely variable soils.
"We want yield consistency across different soils, comparing flex ears to drought tolerant hybrids under different populations and inputs given various weather extremes," Bruce adds.
Finding the young talent that overachieves in a big-league environment helps build champion teams with greater value. Colby feels the same toward Dyna-Gro Seed and Nutrien Ag Solution's valuable input advice. "It's usually $20 to $30 less per bag, but Dyna-Gro yields about the same as larger company brands, giving us more profit per acre," he says. "And that performance earns a spot on our roster."
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