Farm Management Software

Part
01
of two
Part
01

Case Studies - Farm Management Software

Three case studies have been provided below that highlight the use of farm management software by farms to improve financial return. However, no specific financial results for the farms were found. Instead, the case studies focused on qualitative results, generalized company results, and predictions.

Alturas Ranches and AgWorld

  • Alturas Ranches, located in Alturas, CA, manages 100,000 acres for cattle and goats and 30,000 acres of irrigated cultivation for Alfalfa, grains and wild rice.
  • In 2014, Alturas Ranches implemented AgWorld for all its farm directors and supervisors in order to improve farming practices, decrease input cost, and realize the savings that come from precision.
  • The managers at Alturas Ranches wanted to implement a full farm management system in order to move to more precise data than field average, which was the leading metric they previously relied on and they found that very inaccurate without a more detailed tool.
  • One draw of AgWorld was the way it represents data: "The way AgWorld presents the information sparks inquisitiveness, rekindles memory and naturally creates discussion among my crew. When you can see a field that’s dark green and the yield per acre is high, you visually imprint that on your mind to say yes — that’s where our stronger soils are, that’s where we get a better irrigation, or that’s where we did a fertilizer study for example. Having this visible in AgWorld really makes us more aware of how we are performing and where we might have to adjust."
  • The implementation of the software also helped them improve efficiency, even across their 450 different fields and 40-80 person crew.
  • While no specific financial information was provided, the case study did say that "due to improved accuracy in field mapping through AgWorld, Alturas Ranches has been able to become more precise with their purchasing and realize instant savings."

Paul Talley & Growers

  • Paul Talley of Talley Farms grows 32,000 acres of commodity crops (mostly corn, wheat and soy), as well as raising turkeys for hatching eggs (they sell about 7 million hatching eggs per year).
  • Talley Farms implemented Growers, a farm management software that collects data from any and all precision agriculture equipment the farmer is already using and analyses this data, after being approached by many farm management software companies. Talley chose Growers specifically because they provided a way to make the data "click" — to make the data usable.
  • Talley stated that Growers helped him utilize the collected data to reduce input cost, like fertilizer, and tailor his planting rates to the specific soils found in different locations on his farm.
  • While Talley shared no financial data specific to his farm, Growers has shared some data for their solutions as a whole. Farmers that use Growers see a 3-5x ROI from input savings and yield increases, and as a whole, farmers using Growers have generated "$50 million more in incremental revenue", as well as "reduced the over application of 160 million tons of commercial fertilizer." Growers boasts of helping farmers, like Talley, see increased yield rates of 10%-20%.

Fruitmaster & SourceTrace

  • Fruitmaster AgroFresh is a controlled packing facility located in Kashmir, India that contracts with many farmers to purchase their apples. The facility has a maximum capacity of 5000 metric tonnes. It is one of the larger fruit operations in India.
  • Fruitmaster has partnered with Indian farm management software company SourceTrace, to implement the farm management software with their farmers in order to improve communication between the many farmers and the packing company, to improve yields, and to improve quality.
  • Fruitmaster began by implementing SourceTrace on some of their farms, although they intend to roll it out company-wide. They began with 25 hectares only, but plan to expand to 10,000 hectares in the next 5 years.
  • SourceTrace allows Fruitmaster to have real-time data in order to improve procurement efficiency, pinpoint flavor profiles based on field conditions, and manage diseases.
  • The data will also help Fruitmaster plan and design future orchards.
  • With SourceTrace simplifying data collection across all the farms, Fruitmaster will more easily be able to aggregate the data to share with government agencies, with banks, and to make their own company decisions.
  • By implementing SourceTrace, customers of Fruitmaster will have greater transparency into the company's growing practices, including being able to view chemical applications, which can increase trust between consumer and company.
  • By using the software with its farmers, Fruitmaster expects to see "a four times increase in the quantity of produce and a 65-90% increase in quality." Additionally, they expect farmers yields to increase and, as such, an increase in the incomes for farmers.
  • Research Strategy

    While the research team was successful in providing three case studies from around the globe on the implementation of farm management software, we were not able to provide any case study showing the rate of return or other financial metric before and after the implementation of the software. We believe this is due to two factors; one, that many farmers do not keep detailed financial records, especially not before the implementation of a farm management software, so that comparison of before-and-after implementation for financial figures becomes challenging, and two, that most farms are family-run or private businesses, and therefore do not release financial records to the public.

    We began our search for case studies by researching popular farm management software systems, thinking that they would publish case studies including detailed financial returns in order to showcase the benefits of their products. While they did publish case studies, none included specific financial details for the farms.

    Then, we moved to research and academic sources, like Research Gate and Science Direct to see if any academic studies with quantifiable results had been done on the implementation of farm management software. We checked these sources because a lot of academic research is done on new agriculture innovations, and these types of studies usually utilize hard data. While we did find some reports, they did not include hard financial data, instead focusing on qualitative insights, or they only included information on the need for these types of systems, and not the results of using them.

    Finally, we looked for interviews of farmers discussing their experience with agricultural technology and farm management software. We were hoping that these farmers, being the only ones with the specific financial details of their farms, would have shared some of those details of how farm technology has improved their financials. However, few interviews focused on farm management software and instead addressed other aspects of farm technology, perhaps due to the low adoption rates of farm management software.

    After exhausting the above strategies, we expanded the research criteria to include packing companies, like Fruitmaster, as the farm management program was being implemented on the farm level (just to multiple farmers at once through a coordinated effort) and this case study was one of the few that contained quantitative data about the expected results.

    Part
    02
    of two
    Part
    02

    Positive Effects of Farm Management Software

    Farm management software helps farmers manage their farms better, which leads to a greater return on investment and higher profits. Specifically, farm management software benefits farmers by decreasing input and labor costs, increasing yield, aiding in strategic planning, improving communication, managing risk, complying with regulations, and being more environmentally friendly.

    Decrease Input and Labor Costs

    • By providing a holistic view of the farm, farmers are able to more efficiently manage their resources and labor.
    • Farm management software can also help reduce the waste of inputs, which leads to reduced input use overall and increased profit.
    • Farm management software also helps reduce labor costs, for example by having real-time data, managers can move crews around in advance and minimize the time crews are sitting idle. Real-time data allows farmers to only have workers where and when they need them, eliminating the guess work in planning labor for harvest or other labor-intensive events.
    • By improving efficiency, thus decreasing input and labor costs, farms using farm management software can see an increase in their ROI and can increase their profit by 20%.
    • Some farm management software systems have provided a 3-5x ROI by decreasing the amount of inputs utilized while increasing yields.

    Increased Yield

    • By collecting real time, location-specific data and using it to inform crop choice, irrigation rates, fertilize rates, pesticide applications, and more, farm management software can help growers increase their yields.
    • Grower, a farm management software application, claimed that it has helped farmers increase their yields by 10% to 20%.

    Strategic Planning

    • By having a detailed history of each crop and each field in the farm management software, farmers can more easily make strategic decisions to increase profitability and ROI.
    • For example, seeing what pests were an issue in a specific field, and what was used to treat those pests, can inform crop rotation planning.
    • Farm management software can also allow growers to "easily view their costs of production, from the initial planting to field work, spraying, crews, harvesting, packing, and shipping." This makes it very easy to see which crops and fields were profitable, and which were not, in order to inform planning for next year and make the farm more profitable by only growing things with a positive return.
    • Having such detailed reports and financial information can also help farms improve their cash flow management.

    Improved Communication

    • By utilizing farm management software, growers can provide access to their records for their consultants (agronomists and other hired professionals). This improves the communication between the parties and deceases the effort it takes. This allows agronomists and consultants to better serve the farmers they work for and improve outcomes.
    • Farm management software, through their improved record keeping systems, can help decrease the time it takes for farmers to provide records to government officials when necessary, for example for tax purposes, food safety regulation, or grant applications.
    • Finally, having detailed records can help when asking for a bank loan or other financing.

    Manage Risks

    • Using farm management software can help growers reduce risk by providing real-time data on numerous factors in one place.
    • For example, farm management software can help reduce the risk of adverse weather conditions by providing weather forecasting, reduce the risk of disease by providing early detection so proactive measures can be taken, and reduce the impact of changing market conditions by tracking input costs so farmers can better cope with the changes.
    • Having all this data in one place in real-time by using a farm management software allows farmers to see potential risks and to take proactive measures, thus increasing yields and returns.

    Comply with Regulations

    • Farm management software makes it easier for farms to comply with regulations like Global Agricultural Practices (GAP), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), Good Handling Practices (GHP), the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and more.
    • Part of these regulations is traceability, or tracking the crop from field to sale, in order to have a record in case a recall for food safety reasons in necessary. In the event of a food safety issue, detailed and easy-to-understand traceability records, which are part of many farm management software solutions, allow the farmer to pinpoint exactly what needs to be recalled, thus decreasing the amount of product that needs to be destroyed and saving money.
    • Additionally, traceability can add a level of premiumization to a brand, as many consumers are very concerned with the safety of their food and desire more info about where the food they eat comes from. By using a farm management software that includes traceability, farms could better serve their customers and thus implement premium pricing and see higher profits.

    Reduced Impact on Environment

    Research Strategy

    Your research team used a combination of industry (the farm management software companies themselves) and academic sources to compile a list of the key benefits of farm management software, which all improve the profitability of the farm. However, we were unable to find hard data for many of the benefits. We believe this is because of two main reasons; one, that many farmers do not keep detailed financial records, especially not before the implementation of a farm management software, so that comparison of before-and-after implementation for financial figures becomes challenging, and two, that most farms are family-run or private businesses, and therefore do not release financial records to the public.

    In our attempt to find hard data, we first reviewed case studies and promotional materials from farm management software companies like Trimble, CropTracker, and FarmSoft. We thought that in order to demonstrate the value of their products, these FMS companies would publish financial data that shows the benefit of utilizing farm management software. Through this approach, we found multiple benefits, but were only able to find hard data for the benefit of decreased labor and input costs.

    We then moved to research and academic sources, like Science Direct, ResearchGate, and Semantic Scholar to see if any academic studies with quantifiable results had been done on the implementation of farm management software. We checked these sources because a lot of academic research is done on new agriculture innovations, and these types of studies usually utilize hard data. While we did find some reports, they did not include hard financial data, instead focusing on qualitative insights, or they only included information on the need for these types of systems, and not the results of using them.

    Finally, we moved towards agricultural media outlets such as Ag Funder News, Agriculture.com and Vegetable Growers News, among others, for information on the benefits of farm management software. Generally, these outlets report on any farming trends, so it was logical that they would provide information on farm management software and why farmers are using it (which we hoped would include financial benefit data). While these sources did contain information on farm management software, only limited hard data was found from these sources, such as the ROI of farm management software.

    Sources
    Sources

    From Part 02