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 PrecisionAg.com 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.
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Thanks to the International Society of Precision Agriculture (ISPA), farmers and ag equipment and service provides now have a way to define Precision Agriculture:
“Precision Agriculture is a management strategy that gathers, processes, and analyzes temporal, spatial, and individual data and combines it with other information to support management decisions according to estimated variability for improved resource use efficiency, productivity, quality, profitability, and sustainability of agricultural production.”
This definition incorporates a lot, so let’s break it down by some of the key words and explain why capturing labor data electronically falls within the scope of Precision Ag.
“Temporal, spatial, and individual data”
This definition emphasizes the importance of knowing what, when, and where activities and processes are happening on the farm. Time stamps are a key data point that can provide useful information about trends over time. Information like how long it takes employees to perform specific tasks and how long it takes for pickers to hand-harvest a specific field of fruit can help a grower predict the labor needs for future seasons. The where is critical. Without data about where things are happening, you’re unable to evaluate the specific inputs, expenses, and profitability of different fields or blocks. Yield mapping relies on specific data points that are tagged with time and place. Every badge scan, weigh, piece log, or barcode scan with a 2nd Sight device is stamped with a date and time—the when. With the flexibility of lists, growers can input their fields, blocks, or even row numbers to pinpoint location. Behind the scenes, GPS coordinates are captured and ready for custom yield mapping.
Precision farming is about improvement.
Efficiency means minimizing waste of time, money, or resources and requiring minimum effort to perform a task. Becoming more efficient means doing more with less. In today’s ag environment, labor is a topic that is discussed frequently. Why? Because good labor can be hard to find and difficult to keep.
Implementing technology that allows one person to do two jobs is a huge labor savings. Do you still have a crew of checkers or office staff staying late after harvest to count and transcribe punch cards into a spreadsheet program? What if you could have only one person spending only 15 minutes at a computer reviewing harvest data at the end of the day? That’s using your labor resources more efficiently.
It’s challenging to monitor and improve employee productivity if you don’t know how productive your crew is right now. This relates back to the necessity of having accurate “temporal” data to analyze. Collecting employee data and having the ability to monitor employee performance in hourly and piecework jobs is a powerful tool that can guide your decisions as a manager.
One of the stories we like to tell here is from the first year of testing the FairPick Pro in a cherry orchard in Mattawa. After a full day of picking Rainiers, data uploads from the scale via Wi-Fi to the online Customer Portal. Running the Daily Report quickly revealed the employees that did not make minimum wage with their piecework. The two employees under minimum wage were identified as new pickers. The ability to quickly see and analyze the data made it clear to the grower that these pickers needed to learn how to pick from a more senior employee. Over the next two days, productivity of these two employees increased dramatically.
The QuickPick was a result of needing to eliminate a bottleneck in the process of picking and logging tomatoes in California. The checker punching tickets was the bottleneck and often caused a line to form at the truck where the produce is dumped. Every second in line means a second that is spent picking. Implementing a system that increased productivity was an easy way for the contractors to maximize picker productivity. The QuickPick also increased efficiency since the machine removed the puncher job from each crew. They could manage harvest with one fewer body out in the field.
Unexpected feedback from a customer growing cherries in the Tri-Cities area of Washington was that the cherry bins were cleaner than they had ever been. Why did quality improve? Pickers knew that if they are paid by precise weight, branches and leaves weren’t very heavy and were just taking up space in their lugs. This space could be filled with fruit that would earn them more money.
At 2nd Sight, our vision is to make farming more profitable and fun again. Profitability should be the end goal. To reach that goal, you need to implement everything that is outlined in the definition of Precision Ag including: temporal, spatial, and individual data, improved efficiency, and improved productivity. A profitable farm or orchard means a farm that is more resilient to the challenges that the future brings like rising input costs, uncertain markets, and increased competition. Gather, process, analyze, and make managerial decisions based on the wealth of information you can capture digitally. 2nd Sight offers a suite of hardware and software solutions that can get your business moving in the right direction.
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There’s a great article on GrowingProduce.com called, “Ways to Keep Your Farm Data Safe.” It is worth a read for any farmer jumping on-board with AgTech. I’ll explain some ways that 2nd Sight ensures that your harvest labor data stays secure too.
The first and most simple way to keep your data secure is to keep your facility locked. This also applies to keeping your 2nd Sight products locked up or in a secure location while being stored or during charging. It is important to know that nobody can add additional badge scans while you’re not looking, or, tamper with the FairPick scale. The article made a great point: “Before you begin to think about digital security, it’s a good idea to make sure your physical facility is secure.” If you are concerned about employees adding extra badge scans during lunch, you can attach a physical lock to the FlexHub or FairPick Pro box to make sure that an employee cannot open the lid, power on the device, and start using it without supervision to cheat.
“Levels of security” is another way to prevent others, including employees, from editing or manipulating your farm payroll data. Not all your employees need to access the same amount of information. We addressed this concern by allowing a customer to create as many Customer Portal user accounts as necessary. A user can be assigned a different role which grants access to more or less of the Portal functions and features. If the user can add, change, or edit data, the “Event History” will always show the username of the person who made the changes. As stated in the article, it is important to “set up custom passwords and permissions about what they can see and what they can do with that software.” As a 2nd Sight customer, you can follow this advice.
If you use a system with the RHC (Ruggedized Handheld Computer) you can also add an additional layer of security by setting a password to unlock the device—just like you would on your personal cell phone. If you want to take it a step further, these handhelds have a feature called AppLock. Applock allows an administrator to “lock down” certain functions on the phone to prevent misuse. Even the field boss couldn’t start watching Youtube videos out in the field burning up your data or bogging down your Wi-Fi. With AppLock, you define which apps can open and run. Accessing the administrator section requires a password that you’ve set. This often makes operating the device simpler by automatically opening the 2nd Sight app whether it’s FairTrak, QuickPick, or FairPick Lite.
“Watch your system” is another recommendation in the article. We designed our standard Daily Report to make it easy to review uploaded employee data on a daily basis. Taking 15-20 minutes each afternoon or evening to skim this report will make it easy to identify outliers. Quickly see who may be cheating or manipulating data to boost their times or piece counts. Catching these situations early can save you a lot of time and money.
Another point in the article is to “Ask before you buy.” We would be happy to answer any additional questions you have about the security of your 2nd Sight data. Learn why your Customer Portal account is secure.
Finally, the article hits it home, “We shouldn’t let security be the fear factor that halts adoption, but it should be a part of the conversation about how we secure these smart devices so that they won’t cause a failure.” Think about how your data may be vulnerable and find a solution before it’s too late. Taking 10 seconds to login with your unique ID and password is worth it to keep your data safe, secure, and accurate.
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