Blending Gets Better

Kahler Automation control system

Last year’s drop in fertilizer use could have been detrimental to software companies; instead, dealers took the opportunity to make their businesses better.

“Our dealers continue to look for ways to lower operating costs and be more efficient,” explains Judy Warf, communications coordinator, Software Solutions Integrated (SSI).

Organizations have grown due to mergers and acquisitions, Warf says, and to effectively manage that growth, retailers need the ability to integrate their blending operation into the sales process and business flow.

“Accessing real-time inventories and accounts receivable, connecting with automated blenders, and implementing logistic tools to improve communications between dispatchers and applicators is giving dealers more opportunities than ever to work more efficiently, improve ROI, and maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace,” Warf says.

When agronomy sales did not follow normal trends last year, some ag retailers were caught with high-priced inventory, says Keith Bangasser, product development manager, E-Markets. “Ag retailers did not have adequate business information systems to match sales projections to inventory purchases,” he explains, describing an increased need for “improved agronomy sales management and up-to-the-minute inventory information.”

Dave Junge, president, Junge Control, says: “When inputs are so expensive, it’s more important to be accurate. Customers that think that way have a desire to be agronomically perfect. Others don’t think that way; they think, ‘We’re losing money, so we’re not going to spend any money.’

“So many people don’t exercise until they have the heart attack,” he continues, adding that last year, more people thought: “‘Something’s gone wrong, we’re losing a little money — let’s do something to fix this.’”

Automating Perfection

Software plays many roles beyond ensuring the accuracy of mixing and blending. Part of the adjustment is keeping up with changing industry needs.

“Software has played an integral part for multi-site fertilizer dealers looking for a more centralized approach to their blending operations,” says Warf, explaining that such dealers are purchasing a higher percentage of their seasonal needs in advance, resulting in longer lead times and the centralization of inventories, facilities, and equipment. “The ability to blend and distribute higher volumes of product to a larger territory requires software to effectively track sales and margins of inter-company activity along with blending for third-party companies.”

Bangasser agrees. “Blending software linked to ‘across the company’ order systems are critical for centralized blend plant operations,” he says. “These systems create efficiencies, increase accuracy, and allow for reports to be generated detailing the transactions.”

Recordkeeping is vital for keeping track of who did what, when, and where. Managing such details by hand increases the margin for error, and the possibility of losing important documents is too risky.

“If we made some fertilizer or chemicals for a truck, there’s a record that goes along with it that we save in case something’s wrong,” says Junge. “Or we export it back to an accounting system. Those records are very important.”

It’s also safer for employees, Junge adds. “There’s less shrink; they make fewer mistakes – they just make more money, because they’re better,” he says. “If something’s wrong in a certain spot, we know it from the yield monitors. If they forgot to put nitrogen in one of the loads of fertilizer, that’s going to stick out like a sore thumb. We’re beginning to see so much uniformity in our yields as farmers that a mistake will be found agronomically. Your inputs had better be right.”

“Blending software must link to both ag retail business software and crop planning software,” says Clyde Martin, president, AgWorks. “In the future, blend orders will be generated directly from crop plans, [which] will flow directly to order cues for blending and application at centralized facilities.”

Getting Smarter

Not only do software systems make fertilizer businesses more accurate, but they make work easier, as well. Junge Control’s touch screens, for example, have increased ease of use so almost anyone can use them.

“I’d have thought pretty much everyone on the planet would have been mouse and keyboard savvy by now, but they’re not,” says Junge. “That touchscreen — well, everyone can run an ATM.”

According to Warf, the next generation of Agvance will leverage the latest mobile technologies and the power of the Internet. Retailers are using sophisticated automated equipment used to blend both dry and liquid products.

“Most of these systems can communicate with the blending software so that work orders entered in the office are automatically sent to the blender and the adjusted quantities sent back for accurate inventory updates and invoicing,” he says. “Inefficient, smaller plants can be replaced with those that service larger areas and maximize the use of custom application equipment.”

New SSI software, Agvance 5.0, is due out later this year “with a new look and host of new features throughout all of the integrated products,” Warf says. “There will also be several new modules introduced that will integrate with our popular Agvance Blending and Dispatch modules.”

AgWorks’ newest offering is a hand-tool that “completes the ‘order-blend-delivery-application’ cycle,” Martin says. “AgWorks Smart Guns record pertinent information about timing, placement, products, applicators, drivers, and regulatory compliance activities. This data is linked back to the order system recording ‘Done Data’ and creating application logbooks.”

Investing In Accuracy

It seems self-evident that fertilizer robots that make transactions easier, increase accuracy, and help to maintain precise records are becoming not just helpful, but necessary.

According to Junge: “We had one customer with a $70,000 machine who added two of something to make it a $100,000 machine. He said that one mistake they could make was worth more than the $30,000 the second computer would cost. They’re spending money to become more efficient, more accurate, and more professional.”

This trend is becoming a market need. Steve Swift, product manager, fertilizer and chemical equipment division, Kahler Automation says: “Software is the key to any large facility. It allows a high level of daily production, documentation, and inventory control. The demand for plant equipment has remained at a very high level. Companies with long-term plans are still investing in plant facilities. There has been a big trend to get the product to the field in a more efficient manner than in previous years.”

Leave a Reply

Software Stories

SoftwareBlending Software To Address Every Need Of Ag Retail
March 3, 2014
This year’s packages cover more facets of dealer businesses than ever. Read More
SoftwareNew Crop Scouting App Now Available For Ag Retailers
September 3, 2013
AgraScout is a data management and communications tool used by retailers, consultants, and others to track and report conditions in a particular farm location. Read More
SoftwareWinfield Launches New Mapping Capabilities For R7 Tool
August 29, 2013
Winfield has announced the addition of a Field Response Map and a Profitability Map for its R7 Tool at 2013 Farm Progress Show. Read More
SoftwareTrimble Launches Connected Farm Dashboard
August 29, 2013
The company claims its new dashboard enables better decision making by putting key data at growers’ fingertips. Read More

Trending Articles

MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More
ManagementExpert To Discuss Farmland Value, Rent At Farm Science Review
August 18, 2014
While cropland values in Ohio increased in the past two years, they have remained flat in 2014, declining in some cases, according to an Ohio State University agricultural economist. Read More
EquipmentAdvance Your Technology IQ At MAGIE
August 13, 2014
The Midwest AG Industries Exposition (August 20-21) is the place you need to be to see, study and evaluate how new advances in the equipment, operations, crop protection and fertility sectors can help your business prosper. Read More
HerbicidesScouting Key To Next Season’s Soybean Herbicide Program
August 12, 2014
When growing soybeans, growers need to think ahead to stay one step ahead of weeds. That means examining weed threats and evaluating which herbicides work best. Read More
StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Acquires Lemon Ag Services
August 4, 2014
The acquisition of Lemon Ag fits BRANDT’s aggressive corporate strategy of providing superior agronomic advice and services for customers in central Illinois. Read More

Latest News

Seed/BiotechBerendes Joins Verdesian Board Of Directors
September 2, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences announced that Robert Berendes has recently joined the company's board of directors. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires East Kansas Chemical
September 2, 2014
Ranked 82nd on the CropLife 100, East Kansas Chemical will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
WebinarsWebinars On Demand
September 2, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches Performance Agriculture Brand
September 2, 2014
Performance Agriculture complements Pinnacle’s existing brands, including Sanders, the company’s flagship farm input retail brand. Read More
Webinars5 Key Benefits Of Attending A Webinar
September 2, 2014
Webinars can provide ag retailers with a convenient option for gaining knowledge on the latest industry issues and solutions. Read More
Crop InputsBASF Is Betting On A Bright Agricultural Future
September 1, 2014
The crop protection products giant is gearing up for a busy time in agriculture by investing in both product production and development over the next couple of years. Read More
Eric SfiligojAn Erie Feeling For Ag
September 1, 2014
Plenty of water issues have been in the news lately, including the continuing drought in California. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires California-Based Retailer
August 29, 2014
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings will acquire Kerman Ag Resources, Inc., which will operate under Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
Allied Cooperative Grain Plant
ManagementArcadia Co-op To Merge With Allied Cooperative
August 28, 2014
Allied Cooperative has announced that members of Arcadia Co-op voted in favor of a merger with Allied Cooperative, paving the way for the consolidation which will be effective on December 1, 2014. Read More
InsecticidesBioinsecticide VENERATE Now Registered In California
August 27, 2014
Marrone Bio Innovations' VENERATE is a new tool to help California growers control crop-damaging insect pests, fight the development of insect resistance and reduce pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables. Read More
CropLife 100Two Iowa-Based Ag Co-ops To Merge
August 27, 2014
The Board of Directors and management of United Western Coop, Missouri Valley, IA has completed a merger with Heartland Co-op, West Des Moines, IA, effective September 1, 2014. Read More
FertilizerKoch Expands AGROTAIN Nitrogen Stabilizer Portfolio
August 26, 2014
Koch Agronomic Services, LLC has added two new innovative nitrogen stabilizers to the AGROTAIN product family – AGROTAIN ADVANCED and AGROTAIN DRI-­MAXX. Read More
Seed/BiotechDuPont To Build Two Seed Treatment Centers
August 26, 2014
DuPont has announced construction on two state-of-the-art centers dedicated to developing and testing seed treatment formulations, applications and seed handling techniques in an important step toward bringing new solutions to growers. Read More
Seed/BiotechLoveland Products Acquires A Controlling Interest In Ag…
August 26, 2014
Loveland Products, a subsidiary of Agrium , has announced the company has acquired a controlling interest in Agricen, a Dallas-area agricultural biotechnology company delivering biochemical-based products for efficient and sustainable plant nutrition. Read More
StewardshipUp Close Look At The 2014 Environmental Respect Award W…
August 25, 2014
The 2014 Environmental Respect Award winners were honored recently at the 24th annual event in Wilmington, DE. Read More
Eric SfiligojAg Science Rejection Carries Consequences
August 25, 2014
As innuendo and fear dog the regulatory process, agriculture can’t get the new tools it needs to combat world hunger. Read More
LegislationFarmers Dismayed As New Farm Bill Dumps Direct Payments
August 25, 2014
The threatened end of cash subsidies to the nation’s row crop farmers dates back through at least the last two iterations of national agriculture policy legislation. Read More
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More