Successful Precision Ag and Farm Tech Implementations Require a Solid Foundation

Adding a new coat of paint won’t prevent a dilapidated house from falling down. Implementing new precision ag technology will not prevent an already struggling farm from going under. Ag tech provides growers with new tools in order to become more efficient, optimizing the current processes in place. Good managerial skills, crop knowledge, financial know-how, and the right people on your team are all important components of a healthy operation that must be in place to build a solid foundation. A solid foundation is required to know which precision ag systems to purchase, how to best implement the new technology, and ensure that the results, or in many cases the data, are producing the desired outcome and making the farm more efficient and profitable.

At 2nd Sight, we’ve worked with 15-acre farms to 2,000-acre farms. The smoothest implementations are with farms that have a collaborative team, standard operating procedures already in place (and the employees are aware of these processes), management staff that can identify where the inefficiencies exist in the operation and understand that some processes might have to change, as well as have a clear goal for what our electronic labor tracking software or ag automation equipment will achieve. We’ve had customers who acknowledge that new tech is necessary to stay competitive but skipped a few steps. They bought the digital hourly and piecework tracking software before they bought a computer or installed a reliable internet network.

Over the last decade in the United States, the average farm size has grown, and the number of farms has decreased. The idea of an “economy of scale” can still hold true since a larger operation will typically have more capital to purchase state-of-the-art precision ag software, technology, and automation. However, the operation still must know how to maximize their financial resources. Good farm management still lies at the base of successful implementation of technology and is not always correlated to the total number of acres farmed. Therefore, our employee tracking software can make sense for both large and small farms.

There are a lot of exciting things happening in the specialty crop industry right now. However, my advice is to look inwards before looking outwards. Define clear goals (we’ve all heard of SMART goals, here’s a great video if you haven’t). Then, find the new tech tools that will help your farm reach those goals.

Quantifying Savings to Determine Whether to Implement a New Time and Piece Tracking System: A Case Study

I receive a daily email through Google Alerts with articles related to “ag tech”, “precision agriculture”, and “farm technology”. I clicked on an article from Successful Farming called, “Finding the Value in Ag Tech.” The author had my attention after the first paragraph:

“Like any consumer, farmers want a product that delivers on what it claims it can do. When a brand doesn’t meet expectations, trust is quickly lost. That’s especially true when it comes to ag technology. Because the path to adoption has been littered with empty promises, it has become difficult to have a meaningful conversation about how the latest innovations can maximize production and improve farmers’ bottom lines.”

It's true. Over the past five years, we’ve learned about many unsuccessful and incomplete projects for the specialty crop industry. We understand why it can be hard for a grower to trust somebody promising the same solution. From the article, Troy Walker, an agronomy field sales manager, says, “Farmers have to move away from the mind-set that technology is an expense, but rather an investment … it’s so easy to see the value in iron. It’s very hard to see the value in technology since it just doesn’t seem tangible.” That is why I enjoy receiving positive feedback from customers who are seeing results. When we find ways to save growers time and money, everybody benefits. I want to share this very tangible way that the FairTrak flexible labor tracking system has helped several greenhouses increase productivity.

Last week, I worked with a new customer in Alberta, Canada with setup and implementation of a FairTrak system. This is the fourth greenhouse operation to implement the FairTrak in the area. The grower shared his goal with me. He wants to keep employees more accountable in order to improve workforce productivity. The FairTrak is a simple and accurate way to track time, record pieces, and register weights earned per employee. I was pleased to hear that this greenhouse operation had two new employees that were no longer needed at our first customer’s site. They saw such a jump in employee productivity that there were two employees that could transfer to another operation that needed the help. Registering weights using employee badges hold each employee accountable for the work they perform—just looking busy is no longer enough.
This is a quantifiable way that electronic time and piecework tracking software can save growers money. Growers can quickly identify who is under-performing so that the issue can be addressed without wasting additional resources. Management will also be able to pull up reports to know how many pieces, pounds, or hours are being spent doing each job. This data can also provide insightful information about labor costs associated with growing each variety per location.

It is important to determine whether Introducing new tech at your operation will provide a return on investment that makes sense. It can be a challenge to quantify how software will save you money. Think about every stage of the process, from field or greenhouse up to HR and the executive team. I’ll continue to share stories about the benefits and savings our customers are seeing because success stories are why we’re “Engineering Better Solutions for the Ag Industry.”

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.


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


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.


We always add options to achieve real-time data. However, we build our systems assuming the worst regarding cellular or internet accessibility.


Request a custom report for full integration of 2nd Sight data into your FMS.


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.”