Years before Farmers Edge officially incorporated in 2005, the Winnipeg-based precision agronomy company has been leading the industry in innovation. The company started as a small operation and is now a global leader, but maintains key, direct connections to the farm.
Wade Barnes, president and CEO of Farmers Edge, founded the company with his business partner, Curtis MacKinnon, to prove variable rate technology (VRT) was a viable solution for more than just steering and guiding farm equipment, but to also identify the overall crop health.
Wade saw the value in VRT before the technology was commonplace on the farm. At first Wade and Curtis tested their idea with about a half dozen farms. “We eventually saw fertilizer use go down and crop yields go up,” recounts Wade. “As our program grew, word spread and more and more farmers got involved because word-of-mouth is the best advertising in this business.”
The company has grown rapidly since. “Farmers Edge started out as Curtis and I working in my basement, with just 10 farms and 20,000 acres, growing to more than 5 million acres of precision agronomy fields today,” reveals Wade.
Farmers Edge now employs some 160 professionals, including GIS experts, technology specialists, data scientists, research and development team, precision agronomists, sustainability analysts, carbon specialists, laboratory technicians, soil scientists and more. “What differentiates us is we’re a ‘boots-on-the-ground’ kind of operation,” says Marina Barnes, vice president of marketing at Farmers Edge. “Our team of technology specialists offer phone and field support and we really make technology work for farmers; the last thing a producer has time for is figuring out a complex technology platform. It’s as simple as plug-and-play and we look after everything else, guiding them through the whole process.”
Making VRT work for growers
Farmers Edge continues its tradition of innovation today and the company is now rolling out more solutions than ever before. “Farmers Edge is offering the industry’s most complete package, Precision Solutions, for every agribusiness, every crop and every geography,” explains Barnes. “Precision Solutions is a turnkey comprehensive package that includes variable rate technology [VRT], field centric weather monitoring, high-resolution satellite imagery, infield telematics and real boots on the ground.” Leading the development and application of new technologies on the farm, Farmers Edge allows farmers to collect, store and transfer data, make advanced management decisions and measure results.
“This is a beginning-to-end platform for farmers,” she adds. “We’ve integrated five different systems into one for convenience and this allows growers to visualize, analyze and control data more effectively.”
Two influential pieces of the platform are the signature CanPlug hardware device and the FarmCommand data management platform. Farmers Edge understands growers’ time is not only valuable, but also limited. “This is the driver behind the development of CanPlug,” says Barnes. “This rugged and durable device incorporates innovative cloud-based technology that collects and reports real-time costs, equipment and as-applied data for growers.”
CanPlug also includes integrated GPS, Bluetooth and cellular modem. “Growers can connect with a tablet or smartphone to view important field information; but if they do not happen to have a device in the field or a wireless connection, CanPlug has a large memory capacity,” adds Barnes. “Simply plug in the device and CanPlug automatically connects to the cloud and starts collecting and transmitting data.”
From the field to the comfort of the office, FarmCommand serves growers as a fully-integrated data-management platform. “Most importantly, growers can view and manage this data from anywhere in the world,” says Barnes. “FarmCommand gives growers the ability to capture and analyze data from anywhere at any time.”
“Overall this integrated platform empowers farmers to make more advanced and informed management decisions, leading to maximized efficiency, productivity and profitability,” adds Barnes.
Looking at global gains
This complete land management platform works across all shapes and sizes of farming operations –ranging from the 200-acre producer to the large corporate farm. The company provides additional management services such as record keeping, carbon aggregation, traceability and in-season crop monitoring.
Farmers Edge remains based in Winnipeg, but now has operations across Canada, the U.S., Eastern Europe, South America and Russia. “Our goal is to grow substantially over the next few years and to take this platform on a more global scale,” says Marina. “We’re currently branching into Australia as well.”
The company has already made significant improvements over its decade-long history, all driven by a commitment and dedication to agriculture and sustainable food production worldwide. While producers are busy in the fields, Farmers Edge is busy working to provide them with accurate, industry-leading precision agriculture advancements and seamless data management solutions.