by Steven E. Smith
Specialized computer systems, advanced controllers, cameras and wireless networks are modern technologies that connect the agricultural manager of today to their 24 hour- 7 day per week workplace. While there are many great innovations to incorporate on a farm, the task of designing, installing and maintaining these systems can seem daunting to many who specialize in animal husbandry or crop production. As the saying goes, necessity breeds innovation. In agriculture, it is in those times that concepts for improvements to daily tasks, data collection, and other activities undergo change.
Previous generations of farmers would envy the possibilities of cameras that overlook the calving pen, wireless internet networks that connect elements of the farmstead to new levels of automation and customized information technology systems specifically designed for remote access to the on-farm computer records. Through do it yourself endeavors or by using skilled specialists with these technologies, farms throughout the northeast are realizing these methods of improved management. In an interview with Marcel Poirier, owner of Farm Work Services, Poirier explained that farms can install specialized computer systems that marry the worlds of computers and agriculture. “There are opportunities to incorporate farm computer services to monitor and control alley scrapes, parlors systems and just about anything else that takes place on a dairy farm,” stated Poirier.
Computers and other technology applications when integrated into agricultural setting require customization in order to adapt the standard equipment into the farmstead environment. “For most on farm computer needs, it is unlikely that a standard computer can be pulled off the shelf and installed. Since the inception of Afi Milk and other daily milk yield collections systems, those of us in the technology support field have had to make on farm modifications to enable all the programs to properly interact.”
What should farms be considering today?
Another aspect to consider as farm businesses become more and more computer dependent is the maintenance of data as well as equipment. “Good data backup plan systems will always have a place.” Since the farm is not exactly the most ideal environment for these more delicate devices, the use of on-farm servers and maintenance of units within a farm network is in keeping with the old adage that advises never to be cheap about maintenance unless one doesn’t mind paying the expenses that result from repair.
Poirier is among a group of pioneers in the technology fields of the dairy industry. “Computer technologies and system integration will likely become an increasingly important command center for every dairy farmer or operation manager. For Poirier, the development and implementation of new systems based on his and his customer’s brainstorming for ways to improve an area of the dairy farm. “Right now, I am working with a system engaging the feed truck’s power take off and high idle from the feed loader. I use technologies such as Programmable Logic Controller, ladder Logic Programming and Wireless RF remotes to control feed augers from the cab of feed trucks among other things. In another instance, I set the customer’s wireless network up over a three mile distant so that the farm is able to project data from one computer system to another. We just had to get creative and use a few silos and buildings to accomplish the task.”
Poirier commented on the importance of being ready to assist customers when systems malfunction. “As dairies have grown to today’s larger operations that rely on efficiencies through the use of systems, I have made it a point to make myself available to get my customer’s back online as soon as possible.” Late one afternoon, Poirier had received a cell phone text informing him that a customer had a business computer failure on the eve they were scheduled to process payroll. Poirier made certain that he made the necessary repairs that evening that made payroll processing possible. Poirier brings a farm boy mindset to the job. “If you are going to work with the dairy industry, you better be available seven days week.”
“For me, every day is a little something different and I love it.” Like most successful men in a demanding job, Marcel pointed out how important the support and understanding of his fantastic wife Laurie has been to allow him to continue to serve the dairy industry as an innovator of computer and systems technologies.
They are already linking the business managers with full records access from wherever. Poirier recently assisted a customer to link all their systems including the time clock and computer farm records systems so that the customer could advise the farm and process payroll all while he was out of the country. These opportunities to harness technologies to use computer systems, actuators, cameras and wireless networks will better enable Poirier’s customers to meet the ever-increasing demands on the agricultural industry.
What will the future bring?
For those people who don’t consider themselves very tech savvy, today’s technological advancements might seem the best possible solution but Poirier reflects on his career and can envision more opportunities and new systems. “As a milk tester, I got my start with computers as a DHI milk tester. Soon computer systems became commonplace at dairies, so I then got experience with Dairy Comp 305, Feedwatch and Parlor Watch. For me, embracing technology led to becoming a NY DHI’s Afi Milk installer. For tomorrow, it is exciting to think where we might be after looking back on the advancements of the last three decades alone.” With the help of technology specialists such as Marcel Poirier of Farm Work Services, the creativity and ingenuity common to the American farmer will be realized. Farm Work Services can be contacted at 607-591-3284 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Steven E. Smith