Your farm in your pocket

In 2016, Alexandru Haita started to use John Deere’s web-based farming plat­form and the asso­ci­ated tool “Oper­a­tions Centre” to manage his farming oper­a­tion. And he has not looked back since.

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 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.

The Oper­a­tions Centre from John Deere combines machine data, agro­nomic infor­ma­tion, and analysis tools in one system.

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 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 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.

Alexandru Haita

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

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. ”

Open system

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

Main crops

  • wheat, barley
  • oilseeds
  • maize
  • sunflowers

Machine fleet (John Deere)

  • 4 trac­tors (8295R, 8370RT, 6175R, 5820)
  • 1 trailed sprayer (732M)
  • 1 combine (S680)