Wanted: Informed decisions From the Midwest to East Africa, data and innovative digital solutions are helping farmers assess their options

Date published: Dec. 5, 2018

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Some of us see the world in black and white. Joel Wipperfurth sees the world in heat maps. Well, the farming world at least. He remembers when his brain started thinking this way. It was over 10 years ago as an agronomy intern in southern Minnesota with the Land O’Lakes, Inc. crop inputs and insights business, WinField United. A soybean pest called aphid was new to farms in the Midwest.

“I hadn’t seen an aphid before, so I grabbed a map and jumped in our white pickup truck. After seeing the pest on several farms, I started to visualize a heat map of where the pest was — it was affecting a third of our customers,” says Joel, now the director of e-business for WinField United.

At the time, Joel and his colleagues couldn’t estimate the impact the small, yellow-bodied insect could have on soybean fields. Neither could farmers. Eventually, after finding the right technologies and products to control the pest, they educated Land O’Lakes’ farmer and retail customers about integrated pest management solutions.

“Pest epidemics happen all over the world. One day a farmer’s field is just fine. A month later, that farm and its neighbors could be devasted. The surrounding region then has a widespread supply chain issue,” says Joel. “It’s our job to use science, data and partnerships to find solutions and educate farmers about the range of potential outcomes. It’s the only way they can make informed decisions to mitigate their risk.”

Sorry aphids, the rest is history.

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