Alleviating Farming Challenges with Drone Data

One of the largest independent agricultural cooperatives in Illinois helped growers improve farming conditions and boost yields

The Equity - Illinois

Explore Customer Stories

250%

improved data capture

7%

increase in sales

10%

higher client retention rate

Growers are met with a whole host of challenges when it comes to farming. From predicting soil saturation, crop yields, plant health, and fertilizer needs, farmers can find themselves in a guessing game when it comes to what will work and what won’t. But as technology advances and becomes more readily available, hundreds of growers across Illinois have turned to The Equity’s GoSmart agronomy technology to curb these challenges. 

The Equity, one of the largest independent agricultural cooperatives in Illinois, have long offered their customers a range of products, including grain services, feed & livestock, and hardware.  But over the past few years, The Equity has begun offering customers a range of agronomy services that utilize drones and DroneDeploy as their main agricultural tools, knowing the data processed through DroneDeploy’s platform would be fast, accurate, and reliable. This is especially important at GoSmart, because the goal is simple: Utilize farm data to make better decisions.

Using DroneDeploy, we were able to use data to provide sound agronomic advice as well as minimize grower risk by optimizing the controllable variables.

Adam Garretson picture Adam Garretson, GoSmart Manager, The Equity

Challenges Mitigated

Drone agronomy services can be especially important in the midwest as temperatures fluctuate, weather can be harsh and unpredictable, and the multitude of soil variations. “Our market covers approximately 20,000 square miles,” says Adam Garretson, The Equity’s GoSmart Manager. “That’s over a million and a half acres.” Monitoring such vast spans of cropland can be incredibly challenging and, oftentimes, unreliable.

Photo credit: Rushville Republican

Before switching to DroneDeploy, GoSmart found the success rate of capturing accurate drone data was hovering around 30%. After implementing DroneDeploy, they saw a 250% improvement, marking a new peak in reliability. Garretson also found by using drones and DroneDeploy, not only could his team capture, monitor, and analyze crops faster, they could do it far more accurately and with sizably less manpower.

The Past is the Past

In the past, The Equity used satellite imagery to capture a farm’s acreage. But they found they couldn’t control what acreage the satellites actually covered. “Drones provide us the ability to go out and capture images ourselves,” said Garretson. “Instead of hoping for a satellite to pass over, drones can capture exactly what we need, when we need it.” Using drones, GoSmart had complete control over what images they were capturing and what data they were analyzing.

Screenshot of DroneDeploy's Live Map

They use DroneDeploy’s Live Map to have on-site conversations with growers and provide detailed field documentation. This allows GoSmart team members to spend more time in the field with the growers, and less time in the office waiting for data to be uploaded and analyzed. From there, they can inform their clients on everything from what seeds to buy, to what nutrients to use, to different corn and soybean hybrids. GoSmart does everything to optimize overall yield potential.    

Unquestionable Results

Drones are used across all phases of the growing season and can be deployed as frequently as a grower would like. Throughout the Spring, The Equity utilizes DroneDeploy and Live Map to make better decisions related to the application of nitrogen and seed, while revealing trends between soil samples and crop health.

During harvest, they use drones to detect yield data and build a spatial map on which plots of land have higher and lower yields. And since The Equity regularly flies their grower's fields--up to five flights a week--they are able to monitor trends to make more effective operational decisions for the next season. Currently, 225 growers use GoSmart, spanning more than 325,000 acres. Across all customers, The Equity found a 5-10% higher client retention rate on GoSmart as compared to traditional agronomy services. They also saw a 7% higher increase in sales since its inception.  

One of the great things this drone software can do is advanced plant health analysis. Based on the plant health and soil analysis, we can make prescriptions for the grower, giving them the best fertility recipe based on their specific farm.

Adam Garretson picture Adam Garretson, GoSmart Manager, The Equity

With data so easily accessible, farmers are now growing with confidence. They have greater control over almost every variable when it comes to farming. The level of nitrogen, the tilling for drainage, the slopes in elevation, and the number of seeds can all be monitored and analyzed, providing an incredible level of direction for their farm. Providing such in-depth analysis and insightful prescriptions, GoSmart has continued to save their customers money, cut down on unnecessary manpower, and improve farming efficiencies, spanning well into the years ahead.  “It’s simple,” says Garretson. “Using drones, we can better predict what will happen in the future.”


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