Mapping it all out
David Hagert is a friend to many in agriculture, providing valuable mapping services to farmers, ranchers, aerial and ground applicators, crop consultants, crop insurance agents, land managers and rural real estate appraisers. His Surety Customiz...
David Hagert is a friend to many in agriculture, providing valuable mapping services to farmers, ranchers, aerial and ground applicators, crop consultants, crop insurance agents, land managers and rural real estate appraisers. His Surety Customized Online Mapping system provided more than 1.8 million maps of various types to customers across these industries in 2008, and they're clamoring for more.
"We've been a little fortunate in that, so far, we've been providing the information our clients prefer," he says. "We do it very economically because a lot of the Surety program is being used so widely across so many areas that we cover."
AgriCrop Peril L.L.C., a subsidiary of Hagert's AgriData Inc., which both Hagert and his partner, Chad Ringenberg, co-own. They got their start in 1997, working with crop insurance agents to provide more informative acreage reports to farmers. A typical acreage report always had included township and section data to describe the areas being planted and with what crop. But these columnar lists were complex-looking and producers had, on multiple occasions, missed the fact that perhaps one of his fields was not included on the policy. This can be a problem, to say the least.
"If you miss it and if you got a loss on it, then it's your problem," Hagert says.
By giving a printed photographic representation of the farmers' fields, broken down by crop areas, farmers can tell with a glance whether all their fields are properly covered. Doing so also saves the agent hours of work, manually drawing up these maps.
Hagert's system uses the most current mapping information available from the Farm Service Agency, which aerially photographs the entire U.S. once every three years, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which generates the soil survey maps, which now cover 95 percent of U.S. all counties. The system loads the latest mapping updates every morning and uses them to generate easy-to-read reports of the insured properties.
The result is a photographic representation of exactly what the farmer is insuring. Included are the individual crops; crop practices, such as share cropping, for example; and production information used to calculate the premiums.
"You can plainly see if you've got everything," he says. "The information that has always been on the worksheet is now tied to the map so the farmer can actually see it and feel more comfortable with it."
The Surety system also offers a crop hail product, separate from the multiperil product. When a hail storm goes over, it takes Doppler weather radar information and compares it with all of the land descriptions that an agent has in his company's portfolio. Whenever it finds an insured field that the Doppler radar says may have been hit with hail, the system automatically e-mails a report to the agent, telling the agent who the policy-holder is, what the policy number is and which field or fields should be checked.
"They can go in and they can look to see where the actual hailstorm was and how severe it was," Hagert says. "Not only can he contact the farmer, but he can tell him what quarters he needs to go check."
Checking for hail damage among 3,000 acres, spread over five fields that may not be adjoining, can be an hours- or days-long task. With the hail report, the agent calls the farmer and tells him which fields to check.
"There have been a couple big hail storms that have gone 40 to 50 miles, but most of the time, they're pretty small," Hagert says. With Surety, "you can zoom down and look into a field."
An added advantage: The agent can quickly find out if farmer-reported hail damage matches the Doppler data.
Mapping the land
The Web-based system is intuitive and easy to use and has become so popular with crop insurance agents and their customers that Hagert has developed nine different reports. They all are generated from the government imagery and its corresponding data and all under the name, GeoLand Management L.L.C., the other subsidiary of AgriData Inc.
He says these customers fall into two main categories.
"The first is the real estate farm managers, the appraisers and those type people," he says. "They work with buying and selling of the land and renting of the land and use the soils map, the aerial map and the topography."
Each soil mapping report carries a visual map of the farmer's field, broken down by soil types. Below that, a chart describes each of the soil areas, including the soil type, number of acres, the percent of the field that soil type represents, the nonirrigated class, the productivity index and yield numbers for the crops grown there and the weighted averages.
The topography maps are built using information from the U.S. Geologic Survey mapping database, depicting elevations, rivers and lakes, field borders and buildings.
The aerial map is an aerial photograph, zoomed in or out to suit the client's needs, with crop field borders and Global Positioning System location data.
Hagert says his customers have called up more than 660,000 of these three mapping reports.
AgriData also offers a suite of mapping services for ag applicators that can help set up and track chemical, fertilizer, manure and aerial applications on fields. Each utilizes the latest aerial photography of a given section with one or more fields bordered and highlighted for application.
"The big thing for those people is, No. 1, they can go in and store their customer information, to make it easily accessible," Hagert says. "They can also fill in their pest and product information and all of that automatically with a click of a button so they don't have to type everything in each time."
The system keeps the information they and the government want to track. For example, aerial applicators can keep track of each job with their applicator's ID, wind speed and direction, cloud cover, the start and stop times over the fields and the number of acres sprayed.
"The biggest thing for them is it gives them an aerial map," he says. "It shows the exact acres and we have the latitude and longitude on all our maps (except the soils map), so in the airplanes, they can punch in the GPS coordinates and fly directly to the field."
Aerial applicators also can export the field border and save it to their GPS input card so that their GPS unit in the plane shows the actual field border and the proper heading to it.
"They love that because what they used to have to do was use plat books," Hagert says.
When navigating to a new field, they used to follow the roads and count fields in their plat books, often zigzagging their way. More than once, a slipup along the way meant a wasted trip or the wrong field being sprayed. With the GPS data plugged in, they can fly a straight line to the field.
"It's safer and it saves a ton of fuel for them," Hagert says. "It's very cost effective, and they pay for the program very quickly."
The same can be done with ground fertilizer applications.
"They can download it or punch in the number in their ground rigs, and as they drive in, they see it and know they're in the right field," he says.
For those who want to take a look at these maps, he says the Surety system -- at www.agridatainc.com -- allows everyone who signs up for a free account to get four maps, free of charge, and try out the system.
"They can go there and zoom around all they want," Hagert says.