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Farm Software Increases Efficiency and Productivity, but at a Cost

After clicking through the slideshow in American Fruit Grower’s recent article, “Here Are the Top Mobile Apps for Ag in 2020 and Beyond.” I started to think about how many different software applications we use at 2nd Sight. Solidworks for designing parts, GitHub for software development, Adobe products for marketing material, Constant Contact for email marketing, QuickBooks for sales and accounting, Paychex for payroll, Microsoft 365 for email and Office products, Digital Ocean for data servers…. the list goes on. A sizable portion of our company’s expenses is dedicated to paying the fees to keep so many important processes of our business going. Monthly and annual software fees are part of the cost of running a business, including running a farm, in the 21st century.

Some of the types of apps included in the list for farmers include software for managing crop health and nutrition, soil sampling, pest and disease detection, field mapping, tracking equipment use, workflow analysis, weather monitoring, and yield estimation. All serve a purpose and aim to make farming more efficient, productive, and profitable. A new piece of software is often a tool to help reach goals which often include making somebody’s job easier, eliminating the job altogether, doing the job for less money, increasing efficiency, and providing information to make better, more profitable decisions. Economists will tell you that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. There is still a cost to making your operation more efficient and profitable. The benefits just need to outweigh the costs for software to make sense.

Sometimes it’s hard to put a value on something as intangible as software. We all complain (I do too) about the cost of a new iPhone. There’s not much to the hardware components, so why should I have to pay $1000 for a new phone every few years? It’s not about the hardware cost (other than more memory and improved camera, the iPhone itself hasn’t changed much). The cost is in the software. Creating good software takes quite a few people quite a bit of time. And as long as you want software that continuously improves, stays relevant, is supported, and provides you with the product support when you need it, there will always be a business behind the software that has employees on payroll and bills to pay.

Improved efficiency will have a cost. We must think about the tangible costs behind an intangible piece of software. However, that app should make your job easier, your operation more efficient, and help you achieve your long and short-term goals as a company. I’ll still complain about paying $65 every month for an email marketing software that I use every few weeks, but I know that it pays for itself every time we connect with a new customer.