There are many variables affecting a farm’s profitability that the farmer has little to no control over: like the changing patterns of the weather, a war on the other side of the world or a sudden labour strike. But there is one variable that is constant: 24 hours everyday, and how one manages it, is within one’s control.
Precision farming and along with it, constant monitoring of the performance of your crops, can ensure that a competitive market’s requirements are met. Increasingly, farmers are moving away from a pen-and-paper system to embrace digital technology in the form of a farm management system to keep track of the day-to-day activities. By tracking performance in real time, such a system can effectively increase the productivity of not only your employees, but also equipment and fleet while minimising the risk of human error. Still, there seems to be a hesitancy with some farmers to take the leap away from a manual system.
If you are still contemplating whether or not to make the switch, the following scenarios will show you how archaic manual methods can rob you of your most precious commodity.
Time and attendance
The manual clock-in of 20 or more seasonal workers at a central location on the farm can cause you to spend an unnecessary amount of time on paperwork and attendance alone. However, the amount of hours logged may not be a true reflection of productivity. With piecework, farmers need concrete evidence that the worker has indeed worked the number of hours logged or filled the number of bins claimed at the end of their shifts. Furthermore, inputting the data into Sage, Pastel, VIP, Pay Space or Xero may take forever if it has not been captured digitally earlier on.
Imagine the amount of time saved if the workers directly go to the field and immediately start working, instead of losing an hour in the morning, just to be driven to the other side of the farm? Or, capturing live data from activities in the field as the work progresses? This would enable immediate capturing of tasks performed by every worker, saving you the time to transfer data that was captured from a pen-and-paper system into a digital format. Instantly you have data on performance ready for Siza. Sounds too good to be true? Have a look at the time and attendance module on the Agrigistics app to find out more.
If you currently plan and monitor your crop rotations using pen and paper, you may want to read further. Do you need to know which field produced the highest yield, or, what your input costs per field are? Maybe you want to compare yields over time, or keep track of the type of crops that were planted in the different blocks? Or get an accurate reflection of piecework production?
For rotational farming practices to optimally perform, the farmer needs to keep track of the produce that was planted at different dates and in different blocks. They also need clear evidence of the expenses incurred on each block to inform future decision making in the different blocks. Only accurate harvest data can paint a realistic picture of where the profits and losses occur. Therefore, there are multiple reasons why you need crop management software to replace unorganised paperwork and provide accurate data that is easily accessible from a phone, tablet or laptop.
It is peak season. The farm is bustling with activities. Throughout the day you receive deliveries from across the entire farm, and you need to process multiple pack lines. So much to do: where do you start, and how do you keep track? Has everything arrived from the fields? Which block did which delivery come from? How will you be able to track and trace it in the packhouse? How can you track the productivity of individual employees? How can you prevent theft from the fields? You pay for overtime day after day, but not entirely sure where the money is going to?
A packhouse is the hub between the farm and the market: the place where quality assurance meets market requirements. It is also the place where large losses during transport and distribution to markets can occur – or be minimised – if well managed. Monitoring and tracing products ensure that a quality product reaches the market – at a cost profitable to the farmer. The packhouse module on the Agrigistics app can help with monitoring and tracing produce, as they follow the value chain from the fields to the packhouse to the market.
Chemicals & fertilisers
You have just spent hundreds of thousands of rands on chemicals and fertilisers, and days planning and preparing instructions, hoping that the operator applies the chemicals according to your instructions, to the entire area: not missing a row. All that is left to do is prepare for the GLOBALG.A.P audit (a headache on its own). Just to get the paperwork in order for certification takes days, and then, if you are lucky, you may pass by grace. But how does the actual application compare with your initial planning? Did the operator follow your instructions? Did they definitely cover the entire area? Why did you have to stock up when you were so sure there was still thousands of rands worth of product in the packhouse?
Chemicals and fertilisers are some of the biggest expenses that are incurred during the lifetime of a crop that can significantly affect the profitability of a farmer’s crops. To keep a close eye over these expenses and comply to GLOBALG.A.P requirements, farmers need a reliable record keeping system. However, many farmers still do this record keeping manually, which not only affects the accuracy, but also makes the process prone to manipulation – just to pass GLOBALG.A.P certification. If you spend days stock taking for chemicals and fertilisers, and even more to prepare audits to comply with GLOBALG.A.P standards and certification, you may be in need of a farm management system. Read more about how Agrigistics can help with your chemicals and fertilisers here.
Has the increase in fuel costs also caused your farmer heart to skip a couple of beats? How will it affect your outputs, the markets, your profit, your livelihood? Many farmers have not one, but multiple diesel tanks on their farms. These are necessary to serve the fleet of tractors, bakkies, brush cutters and other equipment used to keep your farm operations going. But how do you keep track of the amount of diesel that is issued to each piece of equipment? Can you identify which equipment’s usage is too high? How can you be sure that it is the increase in diesel prices and not theft that explains the extreme expenses every month? When is the fleet of vehicles’ next service due? And do the SARS logbook reports simply take up too much of your time?
Fuel expenses make up a significant cost component of farming operations, and therefore requires proper planning and budgeting in advance. To make good use of a diesel rebate, you need a simple but reliable record system, something like the diesel monitoring module on the Agrigistics app. This module helps farmers to monitor fuel consumption, analyse the data, compare performance of vehicles and equipment over time, and make informed decisions on how to optimise fuel usage and costs. Ultimately, this could help improve fuel efficiency, lower fuel costs and actively manage fuel consumption.
Precision farming is becoming increasingly common. Yet, there is still an ongoing debate to justify investing in hardware and software that can automate the process of accounting for work hours. If any of the above scenarios relate to you – it is a sign that it is time to invest in a farm management system, and increase the productivity of your operations.