We Listen to the Land

Jon Fridgen

Jon earned a Masters of Agronomy from University of Missouri. His expertise lies in the development of site-specific analyses and process-based models to improve our understanding of product response and the yield generation process across the landscape.

Imagine yourself walking across a field. With every step you take, your foot falls on a different patch of earth. It all looks the same, but it isn’t. One step might be on fertile ground, the other on a patch where nutrients are needed. You can’t just look at the land and know what it needs to make seeds grow better. Even planting strategies based on elevation or sunlight, plans which can be formed from observation, should be supported by scientific analysis. What’s the point of planting seeds where the sun falls most, if you don’t know anything about the soil you’re planting them in? Farming is an integrative industry, one where many factors must be balanced.

In the year 2000, I finished my Master’s in Agronomy at the University of Missouri.  Agronomy is the science of soil—a science, to be sure, but one which encourages a holistic perspective on the earth which supports human life. My education taught me a lot about how soil can promote or hinder growth, but I still had questions. What causes some crops to grow better than others? How much does the soil really determine yield? And how can we promote more growth without impact on the environment?

But as I looked around the industry of data analytics in the agricultural sector, I couldn’t find a company that took the approach I thought was best for growers. Rather than digging deep into the invaluable data collected by farm equipment and yield analysis, many companies were just looking at averages. Even though it was the early days of data analytics, I knew deeper solutions could be found with more scientific effort. The end goal of a richer harvest can only be consistently achieved by listening to the land about its needs.

Luckily, I’ve been able to chase my curiosities and passion for finding that ideal growing balance into my work at Advanced Agrilytics. Here, we don’t get just a few soil samples and make sweeping recommendations based on them. We divide each field into small management zones, numbering in the thousands, and analyze the soil to create a full portrait of the continuum of your patch of earth. We get to know the land, we hear what it needs to get better, and we help growers act accordingly.

But we can’t just look at the soil alone when devising these strategies. The results of a study I performed supported this by showing soil type only accounted for 8% of yield variability. We at Advanced Agrilytics don’t just ask your land what it’s made of—we pay attention to how it breathes, what it drinks, and how it gets warm. What other creatures live on your land? How do air and rain typically move across it? Your land is an environment, and by not only treating it as such, but really listening to it, we can better maximize the yields within it. 

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