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 Cen­

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)