A determination to take control of the production elements he can, including machinery, is empowering mixed-enterprise producer, Andrew Thomas, to minimise the impact of varied seasonal conditions across his Murraylands farming operation in South Australia.
"Timing is everything when it comes to farming," Andrew said.
"There are small windows in farming where there are opportunities to implement practices to maximise production and, for us, we feel ensuring equipment is up and running is a strategy within our control we can use to help counter uncontrollable risks, like the weather."
John Deere's Connected Support has been the key tool used to make this prioritisation of machinery possible across Andrew's equipment fleet, which is used to farm 4000ha spanning two properties - one at Moorlands and the other at Wynarka about 120 km southeast of Adelaide.
Through Connected Support, a suite of digital tools linking farmers with their dealership, skilled technicians can connect virtually into Andrew's cab via JDLink to provide instant remote diagnostics and back-up support.
"I would say we wouldn't be where we are now if it wasn't for the technology we have," Andrew said.
"Connected Support is very important to our business. Our dealership used to have to travel an hour-and-a-half to our farm, now they can just log on remotely and fix an issue straight away. It's saved me time, and it's also saved our dealership time."
Combatting the elements
The need to maximise productivity during any season was drummed home to Andrew, who farms alongside his family including wife Emily and four boys, Jake (14), Micah (12), Owen (10), and Reuben (4), as his properties endured the worst start to the season he has ever experienced.
"It was a very challenging start to the year, we had a lupin crop which had enough moisture to germinate, but not enough to survive, so we resowed the paddock to canola," he said.
"Across a lot of our region, we didn't receive any decent rainfall to around mid-June. We are not looking at a bumper year, but providing we get a good spring, I think we are shaping up to achieve an average yield."
The Thomas' cropping operation is typically made up of wheat (20 per cent), barley (25 per cent), canola (25 per cent) and oaten hay (10 per cent), with the remainder sown to beans.
About 500ha of land is under pasture, running Merino ewes which are bred to White Suffolk rams to produce crossbred lambs.
For most of the year, Andrew is supported by a small on-farm team, including one full-time worker and a part-time employee. However, during the peak season, more staff are brought in to operate his John Deere 8RX 370 4-Track, 6620, 8245R and S770 Combine Harvester.
The full fleet is connected to JDLink, meaning Andrew's local dealership can analyse Diagnostic Trouble Codes with Connected Support's Service ADVISOR Remote function and dial in through Remote Display Access.
"During seeding this year, we had a new casual worker who wasn't used to John Deere equipment, who had few questions while he was operating a machine.
Connected Support was so helpful, as we could dial in, look at his screen, and he was up and running again in a few moments," he said.
Connected Support also provides farmers with access to Expert Alerts, a proactive monitoring system that automatically notifies dealers of certain unforeseen machine issues that can arise. While Andrew hasn't personally needed Expert Alerts, he knows the technology has helped other farmers avoid unnecessary repair bills.
An eager adopter of precision agriculture practices, Andrew has also used John Deere's integrated Yield Monitoring system with ActiveYield automatic calibration technology on his S770 harvester to grow his business' productivity.
"We are constantly running our own trials," Andrew said.
"We often tweak our input levels to learn the full capacity of our country, and through our monitoring system, we can quantify any gains.
"Overall, we are growing more grain with less rainfall, and are managing our risks a lot better. Given the advancements in farming technology, the sector has become much more attractive for the younger generation. It's a promising industry to be in."