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.



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.



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.”



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