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In today’s PrecisionAg email, I saw an article titled, “What to Consider When Selecting a Farm Management System.” With many more options in farm management software (FMS) today, growers can shop around. This is great news! Competition in this space will produce better software and more comprehensive systems for farmers. 2nd Sight was founded over five years ago, and in even five years, I’ve seen a significant increase in the number of labor data tracking options. This article outlines some important things to consider when choosing a system that will best fit the needs of your growing operation. Let’s go over the highlights and I’ll explain where 2nd Sight fits into this digital puzzle.

Finding one platform to do it all. I’ll explain why this is a tricky one. It’s impossible to be great at everything. It is possible to be great at a few things and good at a lot of things. The goal is to find a system that meets as many of your needs as possible, which might include crop marketing, traceability and food safety reporting, agronomy insights, crop yield analytics, inventory tracking, as well as HR and employee management. However, if the system falls short in one of these categories, the ability to integrate with other systems is crucial to automate and understand how the many moving parts of your operation fit together. An integrated platform allows for more informed and efficient decision-making.

Some farm data acquisition systems require specialized hardware and software and it is important to ask about how to integrate this information into the farm labor management system that you choose. The goal is to automate your operation and there should be options to set up exports and imports of data files (typically Excel or CSV file types) from one system to the other. The article also mentions platforms using API’s. API stands for “application programming interface” and is a means of communication between software programs. It’s more direct than importing. These are important questions to ask when shopping for both an FMS and your auxiliary data collection systems.

Understanding the needs of Ag: The article emphasizes that the farm software company should have an “Understanding of Agriculture – to know the ins and outs.” The Ag environment presents unique challenges, and the software you deploy must address these. For example, the urgency and time sensitivity during harvest. What does support look like when a report isn’t working, and you need the data to cut checks? Will you be able to talk with somebody who can help before you have an angry mob of unhappy workers knocking at your office door? Will you be able to use the system in fields where cellular or Wi-Fi is unavailable? Or, will your foreman be stuck needing to record data with what might as well be a paperweight? Depending on where you are, connectivity might be a critical question to ask. Is there an offline mode, does data sync through Wi-Fi or cellular? Where is the data stored?

If you implement a system that works across your organization, you must ask other questions…. Can you change the language to Spanish? Can it handle hourly and piecework jobs? How easy is the system to learn and use? Is it intuitive? Is it usable outdoors in bright sunlight where there’s dirt and dust?

So, where does 2nd Sight fit into this picture? I mentioned that collecting certain types of data may require specific hardware and software packages and that an FMS cannot do everything well. When it comes to implementing a labor data acquisition system, Ag presents some challenges. We focus on labor tracking so that we can do it really well.

  1. Rugged: Sturdy equipment is required because growing food doesn’t happen in an office. That’s why we design and choose hardware that will be used outside
  2. Simple: If you use an FMS across departments, everyone from the CFO to the first-year picker must be able to figure out how to use the system with little to no training. It takes time, testing, feedback, (and repeat) to develop hardware and software that is intuitive.
  3. Offline: We always add options to achieve real-time data. However, we build our systems assuming the worst regarding cellular or internet accessibility.
  4. Integration: Request a custom report for full integration of 2nd Sight data into your FMS.
  5. Support: Our 24/7 support line gets you in contact with someone no matter what time of day.

When you’re ready to start shopping, be prepared with a list of your operation’s goals and priorities. Know which questions to ask so that the investment will be worthwhile. I’ll end with a quote from the article: “Investing in solutions like an FMS today will propel efficiencies tomorrow and set the stage for a grower’s legacy to be easily transitioned to the next generation.”


Do you know where you fall on this curve? Do you wait in line for hours to get the newest iPhone, or, are you still holding on to your favorite flip phone? As an AgTech company, we must keep these “buckets” of people in mind. There was an article in PrecisionAg.com called, “InfoAg 2019: Farm Data Use Moving From Early Adopters to Mainstream.” In this article, the author states that, “The excitement about using all the data being collected, analyzing it using new tools powered by machine learning feels like it is starting to move from the early adopters experimenting with new tools to a broader swath of the market demanding proven, and tested solutions with a tangible return.”

At 2nd Sight, our first customers who implemented the FairPick Pro over three years ago were “Innovators.” What’s interesting, is that three years later, we are just starting to reach the cusp of “Early Majority” adopters. We’ve had to be patient because we understand that for many people, “proven, and tested solutions with a tangible return” is required to make the sale.

I have no doubt that most farmers are looking for better analytics and reports, ways to boost productivity, enhanced traceability, and improved digital harvest records. During a time with labor shortages and rising input costs, detailed and accurate information should help farmers make more informed decisions in order to increase profitability. However, not all are willing to take a risk to achieve these goals because what you don’t know could be worse than what you do know.

With a plethora of apps, imagery, sensors, automation, and other technology solutions available to farmers, I still wonder when we’ll be able to reach those “Late Majority” adopters with the systems that they need to stay competitive and profitable. Or, will they be left too far behind?

Another interesting note is that I recently compiled a list of our customers using one or more of our scales, handhelds, calipers, or apps. My goal was to define our ideal client. It’s more of a marketing exercise but made me think about this Product Adoption curve. What kind of farm does an Innovator have? How many acres, on average, does an Early Adopter manage? I was surprised to find that Innovators and Early Adopters come in many different shapes and sizes.

The first farms grew blueberries, but not far behind came cherries, and a few farms after that… kiwiberries. Our first season, the average acreage was close to 30, but the 2017 season rolled around and we had orchards with 1000 acres implement our FairPick and FairTrak systems. The same pattern can be seen with nursery size. Purchasing an InstaCaliper made sense for a nursery counting 10,000 trees a year and the nursery measuring 100,000 trees a year.

Geographically, our first customers were in the Pacific Northwest, but pepper growers found us in Ontario Canada and blueberry growers found us in Georgia. I thought maybe the age of the decision-maker would be a common theme. However, we had farmers in their 30’s up to their 70’s making the decision that it was time to implement precision ag tools to keep their operations moving forward.

So, what makes an Innovator or an Early Adopter? Our customers may not all be “tech savvy”, but they are all “tech-ready” and know that in order to come out ahead (or at least stay afloat) in an industry that continues to face more and more challenges, it requires new ways of doing things. Becoming more efficient, cutting costs, and saving time are priorities and how they will stay in business. Another common theme? We call them “product champions”. Each operation has a leader willing to put in that extra effort to implement the technology to ensure that the transition to a new system is a success.

At 2nd Sight, we value innovation. It's not too late. Dare to be an Innovator.


Thanks to the International Society of Precision Agriculture (ISPA), farmers and ag equipment and service provides now have a way to define Precision Agriculture:

“Precision Agriculture is a management strategy that gathers, processes, and analyzes temporal, spatial, and individual data and combines it with other information to support management decisions according to estimated variability for improved resource use efficiency, productivity, quality, profitability, and sustainability of agricultural production.”

This definition incorporates a lot, so let’s break it down by some of the key words and explain why capturing labor data electronically falls within the scope of Precision Ag.

“Temporal, spatial, and individual data”

This definition emphasizes the importance of knowing what, when, and where activities and processes are happening on the farm. Time stamps are a key data point that can provide useful information about trends over time. Information like how long it takes employees to perform specific tasks and how long it takes for pickers to hand-harvest a specific field of fruit can help a grower predict the labor needs for future seasons. The where is critical. Without data about where things are happening, you’re unable to evaluate the specific inputs, expenses, and profitability of different fields or blocks. Yield mapping relies on specific data points that are tagged with time and place. Every badge scan, weigh, piece log, or barcode scan with a 2nd Sight device is stamped with a date and time—the when. With the flexibility of lists, growers can input their fields, blocks, or even row numbers to pinpoint location. Behind the scenes, GPS coordinates are captured and ready for custom yield mapping.

Precision farming is about improvement.

Efficiency

Efficiency means minimizing waste of time, money, or resources and requiring minimum effort to perform a task. Becoming more efficient means doing more with less. In today’s ag environment, labor is a topic that is discussed frequently. Why? Because good labor can be hard to find and difficult to keep.
Implementing technology that allows one person to do two jobs is a huge labor savings. Do you still have a crew of checkers or office staff staying late after harvest to count and transcribe punch cards into a spreadsheet program? What if you could have only one person spending only 15 minutes at a computer reviewing harvest data at the end of the day? That’s using your labor resources more efficiently.

Productivity

It’s challenging to monitor and improve employee productivity if you don’t know how productive your crew is right now. This relates back to the necessity of having accurate “temporal” data to analyze. Collecting employee data and having the ability to monitor employee performance in hourly and piecework jobs is a powerful tool that can guide your decisions as a manager.

One of the stories we like to tell here is from the first year of testing the FairPick Pro in a cherry orchard in Mattawa. After a full day of picking Rainiers, data uploads from the scale via Wi-Fi to the online Customer Portal. Running the Daily Report quickly revealed the employees that did not make minimum wage with their piecework. The two employees under minimum wage were identified as new pickers. The ability to quickly see and analyze the data made it clear to the grower that these pickers needed to learn how to pick from a more senior employee. Over the next two days, productivity of these two employees increased dramatically.

The QuickPick was a result of needing to eliminate a bottleneck in the process of picking and logging tomatoes in California. The checker punching tickets was the bottleneck and often caused a line to form at the truck where the produce is dumped. Every second in line means a second that is spent picking. Implementing a system that increased productivity was an easy way for the contractors to maximize picker productivity. The QuickPick also increased efficiency since the machine removed the puncher job from each crew. They could manage harvest with one fewer body out in the field.

Quality

Unexpected feedback from a customer growing cherries in the Tri-Cities area of Washington was that the cherry bins were cleaner than they had ever been. Why did quality improve? Pickers knew that if they are paid by precise weight, branches and leaves weren’t very heavy and were just taking up space in their lugs. This space could be filled with fruit that would earn them more money.

Profitability

At 2nd Sight, our vision is to make farming more profitable and fun again. Profitability should be the end goal. To reach that goal, you need to implement everything that is outlined in the definition of Precision Ag including: temporal, spatial, and individual data, improved efficiency, and improved productivity. A profitable farm or orchard means a farm that is more resilient to the challenges that the future brings like rising input costs, uncertain markets, and increased competition. Gather, process, analyze, and make managerial decisions based on the wealth of information you can capture digitally. 2nd Sight offers a suite of hardware and software solutions that can get your business moving in the right direction.


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