In a constantly changing world where margins are tight, greenhouse growers are looking for ways to optimize the cost of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and ensure that they are not overspending. With many solution providers in the space, it can be challenging to identify which innovations will prove to be effective and have a positive return on investment.
Most companies that assist growers with IPM planning and scout services do not typically suggest that growers reduce their spending on their solution. But how can growers objectively assess their spending and ensure that they are applying the appropriate amount to avoid overspending?
Data-driven growing using the Ecoation platform helps growers collect and digitize their IPM and yield data and provides them with the ability to analyze previous years' results and use data to answer complex questions surrounding IPM and Yield. Lessons learned through collected data can ultimately help growers optimize their practices.
Ecoation platform offers several benefits, including enhanced scout workflow and real-time notifications about the status of pests and diseases. These features can help growers save time and resources while also improving the accuracy and effectiveness of their IPM practices.
For example, by analyzing data from previous years, growers can determine whether they overspent on treatments and whether pest outbreaks impacted their yields. They can also gain insights into which biological control agents were most effective and what rates are ideal for their crops.
To illustrate the power of data-driven growing, the Ecoation team did a case study involving one of our customers. The customer had already implemented Ecoation IPM and Yield forecasting platform in his greenhouse back in 2021. The scouts and growers used the OKO to record pest and disease observations as well as recording the treatments. The grower has also used the OKO to get short-term yield forecasting every week during the growing season.
For several years the grower had been implementing various IPM strategies, including using different biological control agents and release rates, but was not sure whether they were effective or cost-efficient. At the end of the growing season, he approached our team for help in analyzing their IPM data to determine whether they were overspending on treatments and whether there were more effective strategies they could be using.
The Ecoation team sat down with the growing team to understand their goals and objectives and to develop a customized plan for analyzing their data. We analyzed data from the full season to gain insights into which strategies were most effective and which ones were less so.
Why It's Crucial to Identify Overspending as a Grower
As a grower, it can be challenging to strike the right balance between investing in treatments and saving money. Margins are often tight, and overspending on treatments can have a significant impact on your bottom line. That's why it's crucial to know when to stop investing in treatments and to identify the point at which additional investment is unlikely to yield significant returns.
According to industry experts, determining the optimal level of investment can be challenging, but it's essential to manage costs effectively. It is very difficult to quantify whether you've overspent or underspent on treatments. This is where careful analysis and decision-making come into play.
Companies that sell bios or scouting services will always encourage growers to buy more, but it's crucial to know when to say, "we have enough." Unfortunately, most companies won't tell you when to stop, as they make their money by selling more products or services. Therefore, it's up to growers to determine where their threshold lies and make informed decisions about when to stop investing.
Knowing when to stop is the number one priority for growers who want to manage costs effectively and yet keep plants healthy at max production capacity. By identifying the point at which additional investment is unlikely to yield significant returns, growers can optimize their investment in treatments and make the most of their resources. This requires a holistic approach to decision-making, taking into account factors such as detailed pest and disease information as well as yield.
Unveiling Key Insights: An Analysis of Full Season Data
Analysis of the full season of data from each phase revealed several important findings. Firstly, the report fully highlighted the phases in that the treatment seemed to be sufficient, and the amount spent to control the largest aphids and thrips hotspots was appropriate to maintain consistent production. Secondly, the data showed that an additional bio treatment designed to test the efficacy of a new bio on aphids had no significant impact on yield. Finally, the data revealed specific sections of the greenhouse where rows with below-average yields were correlated with thrips hotspots.
"Following the presentation of our data, we interviewed the grower to gather their feedback on the findings. The grower informed us that they heavily rely on biological control agents for their Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach. Our report highlighted that some biological agents are more effective than others and that certain cheaper agents perform better than their expensive counterparts. Managing thrips is particularly challenging as their damage is not readily visible on crops, unlike aphids or spider mites. Although the thrip infestation did not cause fruit damage, it led to a reduction in yield. The grower admitted that more attention should have been given to thrips management," the Ecoation team says.
"Access to this data has enabled the grower to better prepare for potential thrip outbreaks in the future. Furthermore, the grower can now avoid overspending on expensive bios that serve the same purpose as cheaper ones. They have also discovered that introducing biological agents at an earlier stage in the growing season is an effective method of controlling pest populations over time. Moreover, a rapid decline in pest counts may indicate overspending on control measures, and it is preferred to observe gradual pest count drops week after week. The grower intends to leverage these findings to enhance and refine their IPM strategy over time."
Effective management of a full-season production entails controlling a myriad of variables and adopting a customized data-driven approach is pivotal for each farm. The ability to access historical data enables growers to anticipate the emergence of specific pests and their potential damage to crops. This knowledge empowers them to proactively predict and mitigate issues before they become critical and impact crop yield negatively. "Our ultimate aim is to optimize crop production while minimizing costs, and this can be achieved by systematically analyzing the data and taking appropriate measures to progress steadily towards this goal every year," they conclude.
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