Despite only having been on the Climate FieldView™ team since this past August, Andrew Elgersma dove in headfirst with a passion for digital agriculture that only comes from years of personal and professional experience in the industry.
A farmer himself, Andrew and his wife Lindsay, with their children Andy (6), Nadia (5), and Ryland (2), run an egg farm and grow their own crops just outside of Guelph, Ontario. With his farming and extensive digital agriculture experience, Andrew is a natural fit for the role of a Climate Business Manager for Southwestern Ontario, providing support and education for growers and dealers alike.
Andrew has both a diploma and BSc in agriculture from the University of Guelph, along with thirteen years of experience working in the agriculture industry, from managing marketing efforts to hiring salespeople to designing grower programs and managing digital farming solutions.
His education and technical experience in the industry is bolstered by a life lived on the farm. His parents both grew up on farms and eventually bought their own when he was just nine years old. It wasn’t until Andrew was fifteen, however, that his father bought cows and calves with the intention of getting Andrew involved in 4H. Those first calves weren’t suitable for 4H, so his father bought more, and “next thing we knew we were raising a small herd of pure-bred Limousin cattle.”
Andrew and his family began showing cattle at local fairs, including the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, and sold their own breeding stock. “It was really that experience in getting involved with livestock that then led me to want to pursue a career in agriculture,” Andrew says.
Once he began his studies at the University of Guelph, it was a first-year soils class, taught by an exceptionally passionate professor, that piqued his interest in agronomy specifically.
As Climate FieldView™ launched in Canada, Andrew became acquainted with the platform at various conferences. It was during a break-out session at a Saskatchewan conference that Andrew realized just how impressive the Climate FieldView™ platform is, seeing its potential given that it is “easy to use with a lot of powerful, data-driven insights that could come out of it.”
When the opportunity presented itself, Andrew applied and joined the Climate FieldView™ team.
As a Climate Business Manager, Andrew is responsible for ensuring that business in Southwestern Ontario is well-served. He’s also responsible for training: recently completing four How-To sessions across Southwestern Ontario. There he educated dealers and users on opportunities available to them within the platform, helping them to improve their skills and remain confident using FieldView’s digital assets.
These training sessions are energizing for Andrew, as he sees firsthand the enthusiasm for the platform. At a recent session, Andrew worked with two brothers who had just signed up with the platform the day prior.
“One thing they noticed right away in getting some of the field health imagery,” Andrew explains, “was that the area that used to be in wheat on half of the field, which is now all one crop of soybeans, was now showing a nice bump in the field health as a result of having the benefits of wheat in the rotation.” So, without even getting into the combine, these growers were already realizing some insights from FieldView’s digital tools.
Training isn’t where Andrew’s responsibilities end, however. His long list of tasks also includes connecting with Climate Activation Specialists, ensuring growers are supported and their questions and concerns are followed up. He evaluates reports of customers on the platform to be sure he’s providing them with everything they need for success. He recruits new users and connects with equipment dealers who sell Climate’s FieldView platform to support them in their work. He works with Bayer territory managers to help support their promotional activities and address any concerns they have. Andrew also continuously educates himself on the platform and associated apps to be sure he’s always delivering up to date and helpful training content.
In his admittedly short time with Climate FieldView™, Andrew has already seen the powerful benefits of working with the digital platform. Feedback from training sessions and How-To meetings has been incredibly positive, especially as users learn how to aggregate their data.
“This is an area I see a lot of growers getting interested in and many are looking for the solution we’re able to provide,” Andrew says. “That has been really encouraging, because growers want to make better decisions, keep moving their farm forward, and get more out of their crop plans and we can help them identify how to manage through the powerful insights that can be provided by Climate FieldView.”
One of the reasons for the platform’s success is its intuitive structure and visual elements. “My experience working with farmers over the years is that many of them are visual people,” Andrew explains. “Farmers like working with data, but if they can visualize it, that makes it that much more powerful for them and much more usable.”
Developed with farmers in mind, the platform is able to easily pinpoint opportunities for improvement. “Whether it’s through field health imagery or looking at the yield report from the combine, there’s a lot of different opportunities that farmers are able to look at for improving their profitability and optimizing their inputs,” Andrew says.
Andrew’s favourite feature of the platform is its flexibility. Whether that is integrating equipment data or working with other partners to integrate their data layers into the platform, farmers are able to collect a number of different data sources to bring them all to one place. Building planting maps or yield maps also allows users to sort their farm’s information based on historical data, field health imagery, or yield output. And even if a farmer doesn’t have equipment that’s compatible with the platform, “they can still get a lot of benefit out of using FieldView to be able to build maps on their farm using existing tools,” Andrew explains.
Hearing from farmers about how the platform has been able to help them and where they see it taking them in the future of their farms is what really energizes Andrew and makes him excited to get to work every morning. Helping customers be successful and validating insights with actual farm outputs is even more rewarding when working with such a collaborative, skilled, and fun team, Andrew says.
What’s in store for the future of digital agriculture in Canada? “Remote sensing, predictive modelling, improved automation, and autonomous farming,” Andrew notes. “I think there’s going to be a strong desire and investment in the automation of data layers. Using satellite imagery is one component, but if farmers have the opportunity to also do more around soil mapping then it becomes a much bigger layer to determine what is happening in specific zones in certain fields.”
With the ongoing challenges of unpredictable weather, management becomes all the more important. As farmers continue to grow, both challenges and opportunities will grow with them. A zone management approach coupled with more variable rate applications provides some solutions in this regard.
“We’re going to be able to respond better and make better recommendations as the season develops with weather,” Andrew says. “Our weather models will get more intricate in how we’re better able to predict in different growing seasons which management practices will need to be employed.” And with predictive modelling, farmers are able to be more precise with applications in terms of when they want to apply them, as well as identify when disease risk is going to be higher.
Andrew explains: “We now have tools that can help guide us in farming decisions and that’s where, in spite of the scale we’re seeing farmers grow to, we’re able to farm more sustainably through the engagement in these kinds of precision technologies.”