Alexandru Haita did not plan to go into farming and take over his parents’ farm in the small Romanian village of Calinesti, about 100km north west of the country’s capital, Bucharest. He wanted to start a career in the IT sector, an industry with a future, he thought. But then, in 2006, two things happened: His parents bought a high-tech tractor and IPSO Agricultură, the Romanian importer for John Deere, presented the latest precision agriculture technology at a fair in Bucharest. After using the new tractor and seeing what modern farming technologies held in store, Mr Haita changed his mind. “I realised that I could really make use of my IT skills and help improve the way we ran the farm.”
He completed a degree in agronomic engineering and joined the family farm in 2008. Together with this wife, his sister and his brother-in-law, Mr Haita is now running a farming operation of 1,100ha (200ha owned) with a staff of three and a machine fleet of four tractors, a combine and a trailed sprayer. “Every one of us works according to his or her own strengths,” he says.
Data driven farming
Mr Haita’s focus is the overall management of the farm – particularly anything related to digital farming. “Modern farming needs to combine agronomic skills like expertise on soils, plants and crop protection with knowledge about machine technology and data driven management.” Using the Operations Centre on the MyJohnDeere.com platform, he can, for instance, track each machine’s location and movement in real-time, check machine data such as idle time and fuel consumption and communicate easily with the operator via the machine’s display.
All of this helps to efficiently manage the arable farm, with main crops being winter wheat and barley, yielding an average of 6.5t/ha and 5t/ha, respectively. In addition, the farm grows oilseeds, sunflowers, and maize. The machine fleet includes four John Deere tractors with an 8295R bought in 2018 as the latest addition, a trailed sprayer and an S680 combine harvester, both also from John Deere. “In the coming two years we plan to invest in another combine and a self-propelled sprayer,” says Mr Haita. The farm currently produces conventional crops but they are thinking of starting organic production on a smaller scale.
Saving time and money
In 2014 Mr Haita registered with MyJohnDeere.com and started to use it intensively in 2016. He has not looked back since: “At the time we bought new tractors and implements with ISOBUS functionality so it really made sense to start using this platform as a fleet and farm management tool.”
The family digitised their 1,100ha and entered the data into the MyJohnDeere.com platform so that they can now manage all of their fields, mainly using the functionality of the Operations Centre. “The beauty of this system is that I can view and control everything from machines and fields to application measures in one tool,” says Mr Haita. “And with the respective smartphone app I basically have my farm in my pocket,” he adds with a smile.
With the Operations Centre I can view and control everything from machines and fields to application measures in one tool.
In 2017 he implemented wireless data transfer from the office to machines as well as between machines, which he describes as a big time saver and a means of reducing transfer errors. “What I like best about working wirelessly is the Remote Display Access functionality. I can solve issues by accessing the machine’s display from my office computer and support the driver by adjusting machine settings. The same goes, of course, for a technician from our John Deere dealer IPSO.” Mr Haita estimates that by using the Operations Centre to manage his farm he saves about two hours per day on average compared to the pre-digital days. “I can use that time to focus more on the business side of my work,” he says.
Benefits of going digital for the Haita Farm
- better fleet management
- less fuel consumption
- cost savings on repairs and spare parts
- increased machine uptime
- better field management
- easier crop planning
- fact-based decisions
- more time for business administration
Fact-based decision making
But it is not only about saving time. Visualising and analysing the machine data helps Mr Haita to optimise the way machines are used. “With the Operations Centre I can see where they are at any given time, where they travelled and how much time they spent on the road or simply waiting for something to happen,” he says. “And I can then easily compare this to the times when the machines were actually working.”
Register with the John Deere Operations Centre.MyJohnDeere.com
As an example, he mentions analysing the combine’s fuel consumption. He saw that it burned about 2,000l of diesel each season just travelling from the farm to the field in the morning and back home in the evening. “Once we noticed this it was clear that we needed to build a field camp much closer to the combine’s working area to reduce the number of trips to the farm yard.” Since the family also store parts and tools in the field camp they can leave the machine there during the season and thus save a lot of money.
The combine used another 600l of fuel when waiting for a trailer to unload the grain. “Just having proof of this amount of fuel being wasted makes it easy for you to take a decision. We changed our harvesting logistics and we will also buy a new truck for loading the grain,” says Mr Haita.
By visualising the routes, idle vs working time, fuel consumption etc, he can discuss machine use with his operators. “Together we can then come up with a solution to change behaviour on the machine or our work flow.” Having all this data readily available and easy to analyse is a big advantage, helping Mr Haita to improve the farm management: “We can make decisions based on data and facts and don’t have to rely on gut-feeling and assumptions. ”
Mr Haita has another example of how he uses the Operations Centre. “We have quite a high clay fraction in our soils, so we have an issue with waterlogging on about 20% of our total acreage.” He tackles this problem on the one hand with deep rooting catch crops to loosen the soil. On the other hand, he tries to improve the drainage of the affected areas. “With the help of the Operations Centre I could plan and implement drainage measures quite efficiently.”
Using his yield maps he pinpointed yield differences both within and between fields, and compared them with three-dimensional elevation maps. Using third-party software to simulate water flows in his fields he could then plan exactly where to dig drainage lines. “The Operations Centre provided an easy-to-use interface with the simulation software so I could correlate yield with elevation data and get a really good idea where to dig the irrigation channels. Without having this tool to use the digital information, there would have been much more guesswork.”
The Haita Farm
- 1,100ha (200ha owned)
- 3 staff
- wheat, barley
Machine fleet (John Deere)
- 4 tractors (8295R, 8370RT, 6175R, 5820)
- 1 trailed sprayer (732M)
- 1 combine (S680)