I spoke to Trevor Scherman today from the tractor on his farm near Battleford in northwest Saskatchewan where he’s in the middle of seeding. See what he has to say about their family farm and being a grain farmer in Canada.
Q: Tell me about your farm.
My wife and I, our two kids along with my parents farm together. We primarily farm peas, wheat, and canola.
My grandpa settled this land and my dad farmed it after him. In fact my dad is still quite involved and is busy helping to keep me and the seeder running by bringing me fertilizer, fuel, seed and other supplies. We have a full time hired guy (an exchange student from the Ukraine) who is out picking rocks today. When my son gets home from school (he is the fourth generation) he goes over to his grandpa’s yard and helps him out. He’s 10 so he does whatever needs to be done. He’s learning to weld, he sweeps and does just about anything else his grandpa needs him to do. My wife and daughter Haley stay busy cooking meals, paying bills and picking up parts. When my wife is not doing that, she’s busy running kids around. And my mom is on standby to do running around whenever we need anything
Q: Did you go to school to become a farmer?
I grew up on a farm and went to the University of Saskatchewan where I got a diploma in Agriculture. I spent a few months touring the world then came home to farm while working full time. My wife, Michelle, has a degree in Agricultural Economics so we are a great team. I worked for a major crop protection company for 10 years, but for the last four years I’ve been working for Farmer’s Edge, a company that provides expertise on precision agriculture and data management.
Q: What time did you get up this morning?
Today I got up around 5:15 a.m. filled the drill with seed and fertilizer and the tractor with diesel, and was in the field by 6:30 a.m. It was a late day.
Q: What are you doing today?
Today I’m seeding canola. For the rest of the day I’ll be doing the same thing. When this field is finished, I’ll move to a different field and continue seeding canola and from there I’ll move on to wheat, hopefully in a few days.
The next field isn’t as good, because it’s more variable in land in terms of topography and soil structure (it varies in alkalinity and has sandier hill tops) but that’s okay, now that I use variable rate technology.
Q: Can you explain what variable rate technology is?
Based on satellite imagery we’ve created zones in each of our fields to show different areas of growing potential. Then we soil test each zone separately. From there we create a plan or a prescription for each of those zones. This allows us to reduce the use of fertilizer because we can put less fertilizer on the lower quality zones and more fertilizer on the better quality zones. Fertilizer isn’t wasted on land that can’t use it. It’s really all about putting the right fertilizer in the right place at the right time and in the right amount.
Once it comes time to seed we have the GPS and monitor connected to read the prescription that we created for each zone, so all of the time the monitor knows how much fertilizer needs to go down. With this technology in the tractor I’m also able to have my monitor connected to tech support remotely. In fact this is one of my roles as a Territory Manager for Farmer’s Edge, I can fire up my iPad and log onto the monitors of other farmers to help them out, too.
The whole point of variable rate technology is to not waste fertilizer for the best sustainable outcome for my farm and for our environment. I don’t want to over apply anything because it’s wasteful and expensive, and I don’t want to under apply because we won’t maximize production.