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Grower Spotlight: Dave Petheram of Schuyler Farms Limited

In an effort to continuously spread awareness on how diligently the nation’s growers work to feed this ever growing world, we would like to shine some light on some of the growers that IntelliCulture has had the pleasure of working with. The farms that we are partnered with share a similar goal of not only running a tight ship, but also value the presence of innovative technology to ease day-to-day operations.


This week we will be featuring Dave Petheram, Chief Operating Officer of Schuyler Farms Limited based in Simcoe, ON, Canada!


Where it all began


Dave’s love of agriculture began as a child growing up on his family farm working alongside his father. One of his first jobs outside the family farm was working at Schuyler Farms in the sour cherry harvest, first in the processing plant, and later as a shaker operator. He pursued an Ag-Business degree from The University of Guelph and quickly launched himself into the industry working as a custom application operator for two summers and also spent time with John Deere Canada. After graduating, Dave began his career in precision ag with Premier Equipment – then Elmira Farm Service. During his 16 years with the company, Dave harnessed the energy of a self-described precision-ag junkie, and grew the precision ag division from the ground up. In mid-2020 the pull to return to primary agriculture and move back to Norfolk county led him to join the Schuyler Farms team as Chief Operating Officer. Since then, he’s been an integral part of the smooth sailing operations on the farm.


Early bird gets the worm

When we asked Dave about a day in his role, it was clear that passion and discipline laced his schedule. Dave’s success on the farm can be largely attributed to the fact that he has a disciplined routine that he follows every day to monitor the health of the farm, operators and fleet of machines. Dave mentions having an early 4:30am start to his day which he spends reviewing several sources of data collected on the prior day, including IntelliCulture reports, delivered to him overnight. Later in the morning, at around 6:15, he along with Brett Schuyler, lead several operational meetings with key employees discussing the activities and work of the previous day. This is an important meeting, because this is where Dave and the crew identify any issues that the reports may have detailed, before setting out the work for the current day. Dave believes that the IntelliCulture system gives them the information they need to drive efficiency and identify problems as the job is happening, rather than identifying them when it’s done too late to address.


At around 7:15, Dave settles in with what is likely his fifth cup of coffee to dig into the weeds of the plan for the remainder of the day and the week that follows. While reviewing the farm through his farm management software and live dashboards, he keeps tabs on the operational activities of the day. Like most farms, his day-to-day looks very different depending on the time of year. If it’s planting or harvesting season, Dave is sure to be found in the field keeping tabs and coordinating the show from his phone, making sure the crew is running efficiently and all orchard blocks are being tended as needed.


Dave’s job doesn’t just stop there, he does all of this all while having the farms’ vision in mind - to increase the efficiency of their production, and promote sustainable farming practices. The strategies to accomplish these goals are varying, but IntelliCulture has been a driver for helping Dave execute this vision: “IntelliCulture is right in my wheelhouse to drive decisions based on data. We are now leveraging coverage mapping to track our spray events, mowing operations, work crew progress, and the service tool to stay on top of fleet maintenance to optimize how we are running our operation”. Frankly, we believe that Dave uses all his resources to drive success on the farm and his dedication to his career is the biggest proponent for his success on the farm.


A pursuit of passion


Stepping back from the farm for a minute, we were curious to hear about some of things that excite Dave. He mentioned that coming out of a leadership position in the farm equipment business at Premier Equipment and assuming a hands-on executive role at the farm is very exciting for him. As you can tell, we didn’t step away for long, before Dave’s passion for ag brought us right back. Even having been in his role at Schuyler Farms for a year, the excitement and passion in his voice shone through as if he were new to the farm. He smiled wide when describing his excitement in “taking business practices I’ve seen and mastered elsewhere to an already progressive farm that is riding the leading edge of the wave of innovation curve is a whole lot of fun and an immensely satisfying challenge.”

“We are finally getting to a point in the agriculture industry where there are tools that can create actionable insights out of the data, and the IntelliCulture tools are a key part of that. It leaves me really excited for what’s to come”.

Actions speak louder than words

It's a bit of a cliché, but Dave’s actions are a true testament to how effectively he has used both the technology and data to drive efficiency at Schuyler Farms. We asked him about a mis-spray event that took place a few weeks ago, where the operators had missed spraying two blocks of Gala apples. The operators and supervisors in charge of the operations of that day believed all blocks were sprayed, but when Dave checked back on the automated spray logs, he saw that this was in fact not the case. Mistakes on such a busy and fruitful farm are nearly impossible to avoid, but Dave was able to confirm with data that a re-spray was necessary: “The IntelliCulture units on the machines have clearly tracked a missed spraying on those blocks. A grower knows just how costly a mistake like this could be if left unknown”. But because both Dave and Schuyler Farms have been leveraging technology on the operation, they were able to remediate the mistake. We were truly honoured hearing Dave’s testimony of the value of our software: “we wouldn’t have known otherwise if not for the logging. Historically, we would have looked at the time spent on the field and the amount of spray used and had a feeling for what should have happened.” But now Schuyler Farms doesn’t rely on guesswork but rather on the hard, action-driving data that would have never been possible if it were not for both the drive and innovative spirit of the entire Schuyler Farms team.