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Taking your farm to the cloud

01/15/2014 @ 10:13am

As Kerry and Angela Knuth traveled along the information superhighway, the path was lined with roadblocks. For years, the couple, who farm near Mead, Nebraska, have been navigating on a road that prevented them from seamlessly gathering and sharing data.

“In the past, for example, the person doing the field action would take the paperwork order, fill it out, and bring it to the office. I’d then have to enter it into our crop-management/accounting software system. It was a double-entry situation, where they were writing it on paper and I was entering it into the software,” says Angela. “We are trying to get to the point where our data is entered once.”

The Knuths also wanted the ability to generate easy-to-read reports that would show which areas of their operation were making money and which areas were costing money.

“Over the course of about eight years, we came up with a number of decent spreadsheets to track the people, inputs, and equipment used in a field operation. But again, we would come in at night and have to sit down and enter all of that information into the computer. We wanted to be able to manage more in real time rather than always trying to play catch-up,” notes Angela. It was also a stand-alone system, so sharing critical data with trusted advisers or collaborating in certain areas hit a wall.

Changing Direction

Notebooks and spreadsheets have been a way of life on the farm for decades. You gathered information in the field and brought it back to the office to be input into software. Yet, the software oftentimes fell short and was shelved in hopes that a better option would come along.

“Many people are frustrated with systems that can’t talk to one another,” says Jack Makowski, vice president of channel sales, Conservis.

“We refer to it as ‘shelfware’ because so many people buy software and it sits on the shelf, or they get 5% of the potential out of the software.”

As the next stage in agriculture’s evolution, cloud computing has the ability to streamline the gathering and delivery of that data wherever and whenever it’s needed. Software as a Service (SaaS) through the cloud allows you to better track every aspect of your operation to ensure you are as efficient as possible.

“Data is already being generated on the farm. The next challenge is capturing it easily so you can pull it into a smart database and see things in real-time accuracy,” says Makowski.

The concept of SaaS is fairly new to agriculture, and calculating the return on investment is an unfamiliar one, because you are not used to buying these types of services.

Conservis users pay a one-time setup fee. After that, there is an annual per acre charge for service and software. “This costs you from less than 1¢ to a few cents per bushel based on what you use,” notes Makowski.

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