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.”

Are you an Early Adopter of Ag Technology?

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 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.