Shopping Around for Farm Management Software (FMS)

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.”