Farmer Q/A: Spotlight on ag technology ROI

Guy standing outside by grain bin

Jim Kline, who owns and operates Kline Family Farms in Hartford City, Ind., has been ahead of the curve and outside the box for decades. How has the rapidly changing ag technology field impacted his large row crop operation?

Kline: We’re focusing much more on finances because of the economic crunch agriculture is experiencing. At the beginning of the year we lay out our budget and make decisions based on where we expect our returns to be the greatest.

Since 2010, a key factor indicative of farmer success is how well we as an industry interpret data and make outcomes work for us. There are ever-increasing software options available that allow farmers to organize this data, ask questions, and get answers.

Farm Futures: How do you allocate resources?

Kline: Currently 50% of our labor is spent in the office, which is probably a surprise. We have a CFO, an on-site agronomist and an assistant agronomist. They’re always evaluating information to help improve our business’ position.

We are still investing in equipment when a need arises. But the primary motivation driving when and where we spend money on equipment is measured by what type of returns that equipment will provide. Our software helps us do that.

Farm Futures: What kind of payback period do you expect with new technology?

Kline: You’re not going to see a significant return in year one or two. For example, we’ve been with Granular five years—since it first launched commercially—and now we are routinely able to collect enough information to make sound economic decisions.

Farm Futures: How has technology helped your business?

Kline: We raise corn, soybeans and seed wheat; we’re transitioning some acres to organic. In an era where the consumer is increasingly curious about farm activities, traceability is key. We now can tell the story of our crop in any given year. We can trace back to each field and know what tractor operated when and where, who the operator was, what was applied and at what rate, and in what area of the field they are applying it.

Merging the technology above, with advances in our personnel and equipment, has also made us better environmental stewards. For example, we now regularly apply variable rate nitrogen; that’s allowed us to use two-thirds of the amount of N that we did a few years ago and get just as good a crop.

Farm Futures: Where will ag technology help farmers in the short-term?

Kline: One issue we originally discounted was the amount of training required with today’s machinery. Often our more seasoned drivers are also our most proficient at operating the machinery. But they run into issues understanding the devices in the cab. The opposite is true with our younger generation of operators, who haven’t mastered operating the equipment but can pick up the technology quickly.

In either scenario, we typically need a season to adequately train operators for today’s equipment. Even then, we still concentrate a large amount of time adjusting machinery for maximum performance.

Moving forward, the greatest opportunity for ag tech is real-time machine optimization. A manager of employees would not have to worry as much about operators who may not have the experience or aptitude to calibrate the machinery. In that scenario, neither efficiencies nor performance would be sacrificed.


Stocks This Week: Short Micron Technology, Facebook And Lam Research

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The market is likely to decline this week as the correction resumes after the brief rally of the last twoweeks. The drop will likely complete by the 19th.

The seasonal cycle for Micron Technology falls from November 8th to the 20th, Micron’s weakest period in the month of November. In addition, the weekly cycle of Micron Technology turned down on October 4th. Six of the last seven sell signals have been successful. The stock could decline to $93.4 to $92.0 in the coming week. The cycle does not bottom until the 22nd, but traders may wish to take profits by the 19th.

Chart 1

The Micron cycle peaks this week.Cycles Research Investments LLC

Chart 2

The stock is overbought and relative strength is weak.Cycles Research Investments LLC

Facebook is likely to decline this week. There is a cycle peak on the 13th. Ten of twelve sell signals have been profitable in the last year. The stock is overbought daily and relative strength has hit a new low. The $139 level, the October 29th low, is a downside target.

LAM Research was featured in a posting on September 23rd as a short. The stock has declined from $154.70 to $147.85. All six sell signals in the last year have been profitable. The $141-$143 level is a reasonable downside minimum target.

I bought my first stock in 1966 and then obtained my BS in banking in 1971 and MBA in corporate finance in 1972 from NYU. A study cycles began in the same year. A 9-year psychotherapeutic training apprenticeship followed. Many of my concepts concerning crowd psychology deriv…


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