New software programs helping farmers navigate tough times

What kind of year is 2016 shaping up to be financially? If you don’t already have a good idea how 2016 will turn out – and hopefully on a field-by-field basis –the answer to that question may not be a good one.

Recordkeeping and accounting have never been strong suits for farmers, who typically would rather be in a field than sitting behind a desk at a computer. Fortunately, more help is becoming available for farmers in that area, some of it from familiar names.

“When times are tough like they are now, growers look very hard at working with a company they know and they trust,” says Reagan DeSpain, AgriEdge Excelsior lead for Syngenta’s Southern and East Coast Business Unit. “They know and they trust Syngenta, and they trust AgriEdge Excelsior.”

DeSpain says AgriEdge Excelsior has helped growers to look not only at their farm entity but down to the field level. “This gives the growers a better understanding of profit and loss, return on investment, yield and which fields are doing well and which are not, which need to be in the production of cotton, which in corn or soybeans.

“A grower can understand a lot about his farm and its operation by taking the time to make sure this information gets in, and, as time goes on, as companies like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s start asking more questions about where this food is being sourced from, growers will be able to trace it back to those farms and fields and be able to see exactly what was applied to those fields, when it was applied and what was produced.

Project Yield

AgriEdge Excelsior was started 15 years ago as a cotton program called Project Yield. Project Yield, an acronym that stood for You Identify Every Last Dollar, was designed to help growers get a better picture of the profitability of cotton production on their farm.

“It has evolved over time and, as we got into the later 2000s, we developed that into a whole-farm recordkeeping approach, which is now called AgriEdge Excelsior,” said DeSpain. “Ag Connections has been working with us during all of that timeframe and has been our third party provider for the software.

“They house all of the grower information on their servers at Ag Connections. That data belongs to those growers. That’s been part of our strategy with AgriEdge over the last 15 years. It’s helped us to be a very proven, very trusted and secure program, and Ag Connections has helped us maintain that and will continue to do that for years to come.”

Rick Murdock and Pete Clark, two growers from Murray, Ky., started Ag Connections in 1998. It was one of the first firms to provide ag-specific software aimed at helping growers and farm managers operate their farms more efficiently.

The partners first began working with the company that became Syngenta through a consulting contract with Novartis, one of Syngenta’s legacy companies. That continued with Zeneca and then Syngenta.

Ag Connections acquisition

Ag Connections’ Land.db is secure, cloud-based farm management software that helps growers organize their farm data and conduct field-by-field analysis of their profitability. It also creates crop plans with a grower and his consultant and helps manage on-farm inventory.

After 14 years of working with Ag Connections on a contractual basis, Syngenta acquired Ag Connections, making it a wholly-owned subsidiary last October. Ag Connections remains headquartered in Murray and continues to work with AgriEdge Excelsior.

“AgriEdge Excelsior works off four pillars, and the four pillars not in any particular order are Syngenta’s branded portfolio of products – crop protection, seed, seed care – the technology component, which is Land.db; thirdly, what we consider to be the best group of you men and women in the industry, the AgriEdge specialists; and, finally, the risk management component.”

The AgriEdge specialists work closely with Syngenta’s area managers, sales representatives, technology specialists and farmers “to make sure we deliver on the promise of helping farmers operate their farms more efficiently.”

In the risk management component, DeSpain said, “We know growers are going to spend money making a crop and at the end of the day we hope they will spend that money with Syngenta as we’re helping them with the recordkeeping, and the Land.db helps them with those management decisions.

Beneficial process

“It’s a large process to go through, but it’s certainly one of those processes that we believe over the last 15 years has helped growers in our area and our region become better managers and better stewards of their farm and their farming operation.”

The collaboration between Syngenta and Ag Connections, meanwhile, will remain focused on providing growers better tools within their farming operations to help with better decision-making, Syngenta and Ag Connections representatives say. That will include security for grower data.

Pete Clark, co-owner and president of Ag Connections, said becoming a separate subsidiary of Syngenta simply means more support for driving the growth and innovation required to deliver on grower needs.

“Ag Connections has built its reputation around protecting grower data,” Clark said. “We know Syngenta shares that principle and the policies we follow to be certain growers maintain control of their data. Our priority is to ensure growers have the information they need to make the best decisions possible for their farms.”

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