Work Reworked: Tech helps Land O’Lakes take the guesswork out of farming

You may know Land O’Lakes Inc. as an agribusiness and food company that produces the famous Land O Lakes butter. But the global, Minnesota-based cooperative is also a leading technology company that makes innovative tools for farmers to maximize yield and profit.

Land O’Lakes’ R7 Tool by WinField, a comprehensive precision farming solution, pulls satellite images, biomass metrics and geolocated, agronomic data into an algorithm that gives farmers valuable insights. Hosted in the Microsoft Cloud, the solution helps farmers choose the best seeds for their crops and develop the best plan for feeding, protecting and managing them – all to produce the most value per acre.

“I’m able to select not only the right seed based on data for my area, soil type and farm, but also based on how I’m going to manage that seed,” said Jim Hedges, an Illinois corn-and-soybean farmer who uses R7. Hedges is also the director of insights and partnerships at WinField United, the crop input and insights business of Land O’Lakes.

Microsoft visited Hedges in the heartland for the premier episode of “Work Reworked,” the company’s new web series about the unexpected ways technology is changing our jobs.

The episode explores how Land O’Lakes helps farmers from planning to growing, with insight into recent and historical data, the health of their crops mid-season, and best ways to adapt to changing conditions.

“We’re helping them quantify the environment,” said Joel Wipperfurth, ag technology applications lead at WinField United. “We’re helping them bring insights … to their fingertips, so they can be anywhere and access information about their farm, whether it’s the latest rainfall or need for fertilizer on a particular field.”

To smoothly process large amounts of data, R7 relies on the scalability and flexibility of Microsoft Azure, which helps farmers across the country, primarily with corn, soybean, wheat, alfalfa and canola crops.

“It gives me the ability to see things I can’t see,” said Hedges, an agronomist by training and a farmer of 31 years. R7 has helped him save costs on the 3,000-acre farm he operates, recently by showing him the best way to use less nitrogen on his corn. The decision benefits the environment, with less of the nutrient entering nearby waterways.

“Every time growers change a decision on how we’re going to produce a crop, it puts our personal wealth at risk,” Hedges said. “All of a sudden, they’re risk-averse, because they think, ‘I’ve got land payments to make. I want to put my kids through college.’”

“The technology gives me the confidence to make those changes.”