Benefits of Digital Farm Records and the Cloud

Farmers often ask where the data is stored with our digital labor and product tracking systems. Many people guess, “In the Cloud?” with a tone of uncertainty. It’s hard to tell if the uncertainty stems from not trusting the Cloud or from not understanding what the Cloud really is. Google has the answer ready to go from when you type in the question, “What exactly is the cloud?”:

“In the simplest terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of your computer's hard drive. The cloud is just a metaphor for the Internet. ... The cloud is also not about having a dedicated network attached storage (NAS) hardware or server in residence.”

It’s understandable to feel unsure about the safety and integrity of your farm data when you can’t visualize where that information is stored. There is a feeling of comfort that comes from knowing your harvest records and payroll reports are filed away in that cabinet in your office. Software jargon doesn’t provide comfort when we’re talking about years of information critical to the successful operation of your farm. That is why it is an important question to ask a farm management software provider where the data is stored, whether the data is backed up, how frequently data is backed up, and how data can be recovered when something goes wrong.

However, I would like to emphasize the many benefits of using the Cloud. The PrecisionAg article, “5 Key Advantages of Digitizing Your Farm Records” does a nice job outlining positive outcomes of electronic record-keeping.

1. Improve collaboration between farm team

I recently spoke with a Florida berry grower using a labor data collection system that was state-of-the-art when purchased back in 1999. However, it has a huge limitation in that the data is only stored locally on the devices that go out to the fields. Harvest data must be pulled off manually from each scanner which makes it a challenge for this farm because fields are spread out with multiple farm offices. Collaboration requires that everybody has access to the information that they need to do their jobs. Cloud storage is key to providing the entire team a way to view, analyze, and generate reports from collected data, no matter where the office is located.

2. Provide Timely Decisions

Having the right data hinges on having it at the right time. The ability to push real-time information from the field during harvest can be key to making better decisions about processing and shipping capabilities. Having timely information can also greatly affect worker productivity. The faster you can catch an under-performing employee, or somebody trying to cheat, the quicker the issue can be resolved which can result in payroll savings. Running reports with the click of a button is “software magic” that your old filing cabinet just can’t do.

3. Have an Accurate Picture of Your Farm

Making year to year comparisons of yield per location, labor costs per crop variety, etc. is simple when the data is in one place and being collected and stored in a specific, consistent way. Comparing “apples to apples” has never been easier with electronic records! We’re excited to see how growers start using all of the data they’ve collected with our systems. This year, some customers will be going into their fourth season with their FairPick scales.

4. Improved Access to Information

With some outdated systems, it is too complicated for the foreman or crew boss to access pickers’ piecework counts in the field. Workers want this feedback. It’s important, and becoming even more critical, to be transparent with employees. With today’s software, the ability to pull up a summary screen for instant feedback could make all the difference between a content and disgruntled employee. We go one step further with our systems and ensure that our apps have the ability to print in-field receipts to prevent disputes that could cause your field and office staff a lot of grief come payday.

5. Saving Hours Back in Administration Time

Minimizing record-keeping tasks can be a huge labor savings. It could mean one fewer seasonal office staff member to hire at harvest, or your office crew can spend time performing higher-level tasks instead of mundane activities like counting punch cards at the end of the day--jobs that humans aren’t very good at after an already long day of work. With the potential of overtime pay coming into play in Ag, keeping days short will be important to minimize labor costs.

It is important to ask the right questions because your data needs to be secure and accessible. Don't let fear of the internet "cloud" your decision to digitize your farm.