How to Cut Through the Ag Technology Hype

Focus on the pay-off—and start with risk management.

Every day, it seems there’s a new gadget that promises to help you farm—and they keep on coming. Last year alone, there were a record 580 investment deals betting money on the next tech device or computer program.1 As a producer, how do you weed through all the options for those worth your time and money?

For answers, we talked with Mark Frank, a farm consultant for many years who, in 2008, decided to develop and offer farmers software called GrainBridge.

 

Q. When should a farmer jump in and adopt a new ag technology?

Mark: If they can look at a technology and see how it can contribute to the bottom line, I’d say that’s the area they need to be investing in. There’s a lot of hype out there around technologies that talk about providing a good return. Farmers are still scratching their heads, saying, ‘I’ve got a lot of neat data and a lot of neat equipment, but I’m still not sure how it’s providing a return.’ I think the key is to pay attention to those technologies that provide a return, versus being the first guy to incorporate something into their farm.

 

Q. What technology is a priority for a farmer to learn and use first?

Mark: With the economic times we’re in, it’s a struggle to keep afloat. Monitoring your financial risk and knowing where you are at all times while the market moves is critical. I would definitely use that kind of tool as one of my first choices. If I’m not doing a good job of accounting or managing risk with software like GrainBridge, I would incorporate that into my business. On the agronomics or operational side, I would talk to their partners and find out what’s paying off and what isn’t. It can be difficult to get started in things like precision farming because it can be costly up front. Dollar for dollar, farmers are going to have some of their best returns if they’re focused on managing the financial side, which may well provide the opportunity to experiment with other emerging technologies

 

Q. What should a farmer look for in software that manages financial data?

Mark: Go beyond accounting functions to work on a real risk management tool. Accounting is looking back—what actual expenses and income were. What’s important for a farmer today, and what we’ve built into GrainBridge, is the ability to look forward. It allows a farmer to build a budget, then look at current market prices and project what they mean for his operation. And also know what estimated crop insurance indemnities would be under certain scenarios. We call what we do financial risk management.

 

Q. What’s the next big leap coming in farm management technology?

Mark: Integration. All the data generated by different devices is daunting. Long-term, to work for the farmer, you need to have software applications that have the ability to communicate with other applications—and it should really be the farmer who’s able to control this.

 

Q. Is there anything coming to help a farmer manage grain transactions more easily?

Mark: Soon! We’re working on a new application with ADM—separate from GrainBridge—that will let their facilities post bids right on the app. It will be a lot easier for farmers to get local ADM bids and information. They’ll also have the ability to locate their ADM rep, and communicate directly with them using convenient call buttons and email direct from the app.

In the not too distant future, we’ll also have the new ADM app set up so if a farmer sells grain to an ADM location, that transactional information can be automatically imported into their GrainBridge account, if the farmer has one. The upcoming app will be more user-friendly and intuitive, and provide drastic time-savings by transferring data right away to where it needs to be, so the farmer can see the financial impact. It will be private and secure, so only they can see their account information.

 

Q. How will the new ADM app help a farm’s bottom line—your “acid test” for technology?

Mark: The real value, from where we see it, is a producer’s going to find that doing business with ADM will be really easy. The app will help them manage their risk without a lot of extra work because of all the integration we’re providing. A year from now, a farmer using GrainBridge to manage their risk and doing business with ADM will basically log into his GrainBridge account to see how things are looking in his operation. There won’t be a lot of double entry or manual entry. And time is money.

 

Q. Any closing predictions?

Mark: I think we’re in a time where technology is going to allow producers to grow more. It’s also going to allow producers who utilize risk management tools to be more profitable with the production they are growing.

 

At ADM, we aim to help you organize that sometimes-chaotic business of farming with simpler technology and helpful relationships with your ADM representative. Stay tuned for information soon on the new ADM app described in this article! In the meantime, we encourage you to use this package of excellent information technology tools to manage production risk and price risk:

    • Agrible, agronomic and operational intel and forecasts to guide efficient, sustainable production practices. Subscribe for free at this special link for ADM customers. Ask your local ADM Representative for your promotional code.
    • GrainBridge, a platform to help you plan budgets and manage risk, including your market positions. Access or download the app free at grainbridge.com.
    • ADM Offer Management, a mobile app to make and manage grain and fertilizer offers with ADM. Find out more at ADM Offer Management. Download the app free from iTunes and Google Play.


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1 Bob Potter, AgWeb.com, Feb. 22, 2017

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