Use Your Data to Set SMART Goals

At the inaugural Ag Data Conference, Aaron Rahe, one of our Premier Crop advisors, shared his perspective on how he works with his grower customers. Premier Crop was fortunate to hire Aaron is an Iowa farm kid, as he finished his MBA after his five-year stint with the U.S, Navy. Aaron carries his military and business training into how he approaches his work with growers.

Aaron starts each crop year with a discussion about goals – what are our goals for the year? Aaron expects S.M.A.R.T. goals put in writing and shared with the team. His real world experience in leading teams drove home the point that everyone needs to know the objective – same as it is with the team working at your operations and those that support your operation.


Your agronomic data is perfect for implementing SMART goals for your corn and soybean production (Time-bound). Drilling down in your data makes it easy to be Specific and Measurable.

Let’s think about what a SMART goal might be for the upcoming year.

Your yields were the best ever in 2016, your overall yield average for your corn on corn acres was 220 bu/ac.

This table summarizes 2016 results by management zone and by nitrogen efficiency. A 2017 SMART goal might be to lower your rate of N/bu by on-tenth lb. at the same yield levels. That’s a goal that is very Specific, Measurable, and Tim-bound. But is it Realistic? That translates into lowering total applied N by 22 lbs. of N/acre while maintaining high yields. What if you tweaked your N rates, moving some of your pre-plant N into your early post-emerge application, but reduced overall pre-plant N rates by 20 lbs.? When you advisor looks a aggregated data from growers in your area, for growers with similar yield, the ranges are from 0.9 to 1.3 lbs. N/bu. You’re already more efficient than some, but the data also tells you that setting a SMART goal of 0.96 lb. N/bu is Realistic. At $0.40/lb. N/bu is Realistic. At $0.40/lb. of N, hitting your SMART goals saves over $8 per acre.


Here are other examples of how you might use your data to set SMART goals for 2017:

  1. Increasing seed efficiency – bushels per 1000 seeds planted. Similar to being more efficient with nitrogen, can you use your variable-rate planting capabilities to be more efficient with your seed investment. Start with your data – if you averaged 200 bu/ac and planted 34,500 across your entire operation, your seed efficiency is 5.79 bu/1000 seeds. Each 1/10th in better efficiency could translate into $2/acre in increased profits.
  2. Increasing planted acres per day – if you are currently at 290 acres/day, is a realistic SMART goal 320 acres/day? What would have to change to make it happen?
  3. Lowering cost/bushel by $0.25/bushel on corn and $0.40/bushel on soybeans. That’s a tough SMART goal because there are so many variables that affect your cost/bushel.

Using your data and committing to SMART goals now can result increased profits. Written and agreed upon goals can focus your entire operation on what’s most important to your farming business.

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