Software: Connectivity Reaches Beyond Fertilizer Blending

Ag Retailer at ComputerThe fertilizer plant control and automation business is brisk — in fact, Steve Swift at Kahler Automation, would go further. “I’ve never seen it this intense for this many years consecutively,” he notes. And no wonder. Not only are strong crop prices spurring purchases of all things ag, technology recent innovations in software and systems are truly breakthroughs. The developments extend beyond the plant, to even growers’ fields and “The Cloud.”

One example? Cultura Technologies has released a mobile version of its iView online customer account access portal —  which ag retailers use to provide their customers 24/7 access to their account information including sales orders, payments, statements, and other transactional data.

Judy Warf, communications director with SSI/Agvance, reports that dealers are looking for an integrated software system that can blend the product, dispatch delivery and communicate information to in-the-field technologies. She believes that using such a system, retailers can create new products to deliver increased efficiency and profit.

The new enhancement from SSI that allows this kind of connectivity is called Agvance Mobile Job Manager. It gives users the ability to receive blend jobs from a dispatcher as well as access and edit blend ticket data while in the field. The Mobile Job Manager application will be available for Android systems this spring and for IOS systems this summer.

And in a development project with SST, Cultura will soon be piloting a work order integration module that links SST Summit and Cultura’s AgroGuide formulation and blending software. This will allow recommendations from SST to create a formulation directly in AgroGuide which can then be blended, shipped and invoiced without having to manually key in information. Tim Roberts, senior product manager for AgroGuide, reports the integration will be generally available this summer.

Kahler’s new plant system, called Streamline, ties all businesses within a multi-faceted operation together — everything from grain through to chemicals, seed and fertilizers. So far, demand for the grain side of the package has totally taken off and needed attention. Swift’s team is currently developing the applications for dry and liquid fertilizer plants, using the same software to monitor RFID on trucks, weighing equipment and more, as for grain.

Manufacturers are also modifying their blending programs to handle the growing variety of products, such as micronutrients, that need to go in mixes these days. Roberts points out seed has become more prevalent in the formulation process, and the range of additives to enhance product effectiveness is expanding. He admits such items have brought new challenges since they don’t meet the traditional N-P-K nutrient paradigm.

Inventory A Key Concern

Beyond the blending of nutrients, a key part of many systems now is inventory tracking. AgOS Operations is the module in AgWorks’ extensive software that handles live inventory tracking. It manages inventory positions across salesmen, locations and regions — including product moving in anhydrous tanks, custom application tenders and chemical shuttles. One part of this module, called Mix Plant Manager, connects orders to a retailer’s automated blend controls to eliminate double entry of application information. Other facets of the AgOS system cover Mapping, Grower Access, Planning and Compliance.

On the liquid side, Kahler has a Web application — accessible by smartphone — for tank level monitoring so buyers can see how much product at a given site is available, then time purchase decisions accordingly. Information can also be made available via e-mail.

Following Containers, Customers

Tracking software is targeting more than fertilizer inventories. For instance, because of new EPA regulations governing the re-use of minibulks, retailers have faced a challenge handling the containers, and a number of companies have stepped up to offer solutions. Kahler Automation developed the Container Tracking application to log valuable data on individual units keyed to their bar codes. Swift explains that dealers simply scan the code to call up a container’s history — such as whether it’s been inspected, what chemical is needed for refill, etc.

“I think dealers thought tracking was a good thing but have struggled with it. Now they have to jump on it,” he says.

AgWorks also brought its new container tracking product to the market in 2012. Called AgTank Tracker, “it’s a Web-based offering with a mobile handheld that has the ‘letter of the law’ built right in,” says Greg Duhachek, president.

In August 2011, Cultura Technologies added the Durable Goods Tracking option to the AGRIS system, which allows for managing and tracking durable goods, including chemical and seed containers as well as equipment such as anhydrous tanks and application equipment, to improve regulatory compliance and inventory control.

The move to increased connectivity is happening at other, new levels. SSI’s Warf says it’s exciting to see the industry itself come together to promote the sharing of data. “Organizations such as AgGateway are opening the door to collaborative efforts within a wide variety of companies and industry segments which strengthens the ability to share data within the vertical market,” she describes. “In order for a blending software program to be fully integrated, we must leverage the work being done within these organizations and make the benefits available to our customers.”

Throughout the industry more and more organizations (from grower to retailer to supplier) are requiring access to data, which makes a fully integrated software system more vital to operations, says Warf.

Some of that data is being maintained in The Cloud, notes Cultura’s Roberts. In fact, he’s been surprised at the growing adoption of cloud-based applications. “Not too long ago, the idea of allowing customers data to get to the Internet was viewed as too great a risk,” he says. “Now it’s required in many organizations.”

Marti Kirsch, director of marketing with E-markets, emphasizes the importance of that customer information. “Our buyers are looking for a competitive advantage,” she says, and one way her company provides that edge is by giving retailers a complete view of their customer – including their buying habits — using E-Markets’ Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution. Retailers can present those customers with thoughtful, meaningful solutions that have excellent return on investment.

“Our buyers are using information to drive more sales and build strong, long-lasting relationships with their customers,” she explains.

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Software: Connectivity Reaches Beyond Fertilizer Blending

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

FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More
EquipmentNew Holland Acquires Miller-St. Nazianz
September 3, 2014
The assets of Miller acquired as part of the transaction will become part of New Holland Agriculture, a CNH Industrial brand, building on a successful four-year partnership between the two companies. 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
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

Latest News

Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
Equipment2014 Farm Science Review Crowd Tops 2013 Show
September 19, 2014
The 52nd annual Ohio State University Farm Science Review welcomed more than 130,000 farmers, industry professionals, FFA students and agricultural enthusiasts during the three-day event. Read More
Seed/BiotechUSDA Approves Enlist Following Rigorous Review
September 18, 2014
Dow AgroSciences now awaits EPA registration of Enlist Duo herbicide, the companion herbicide to the Enlist traits, which is expected in the near future. Read More
BlendersYargus Appoints New Plant Manager
September 18, 2014
Steve Shaffer will direct and coordinate daily operations at the company’s Marshall, IL, manufacturing plant, where the Layco line of material handling equipment is produced. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires Kansas-Based Cedar Ridge Supply
September 16, 2014
Cedar Ridge Supply will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
StewardshipSecretary Vilsack Highlights Innovative Conservation Ef…
September 15, 2014
Nearly $16 million in Conservation Innovation Grants (CIGs) will be awarded to 47 organizations to help develop cutting-edge ideas to accelerate innovation in private lands conservation. Read More
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Responds To Cargill Lawsuit
September 15, 2014
Syngenta believes that the lawsuit is without merit and strongly upholds the right of growers to have access to approved new technologies. Read More
Equipment2014 Farm Science Review Launches Mobile App
September 15, 2014
Smartphone and tablet users planning on attending the 2014 Farm Science Review can now download this year’s customized mobile application. Read More
CropLife 100Southern States Coop Grower Sets Georgia Soybean Yield …
September 15, 2014
Georgia farmer Randy Dowdy's soybeans yielded an astonishing 110.66 bushels per acre, crushing the previous record of 82 bushels-per-acre. Read More
NIMITZ Treated vs Untreated pepper plant
InsecticidesNIMITZ Nematicide Approved By EPA
September 12, 2014
NIMITZ is a novel, non-fumigant nematicide with simplified application features, user safety and an active ingredient with a unique mode of action. Read More
InsecticidesMarrone Bio Innovations Receives Patent For Chromobacte…
September 11, 2014
The patent is the first step for MBI in developing a commercially viable product to inhibit infestations of corn rootworm larvae across America and other regions. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences: Keeping The Pipeline Stocked
September 11, 2014
Dow AgroSciences is embracing product diversity to drive the company’s future. Read More
CropLife 100CHS Is Official Partner Of New St. Paul Ballpark
September 10, 2014
The new ballpark in St. Paul, MN, officially became CHS Field with Twin Cities-based CHS Inc. revealed as the naming rights partner. Read More
EquipmentHagie Honors Farming Stewardship Leaders
September 10, 2014
The Iowa Farm Environmental Leader award recognizes Iowa farmers as environmental leaders that are committed to healthy soils and improved water quality. Read More
Precision AgPlantBeat: Your Plants’ Pulse In The Palm Of Your Han…
September 10, 2014
A new agronomic monitoring and recommendation service from Phytech could rewrite the book on real-time plant health status monitoring. Read More
StewardshipCCAs Making Headway With 4R Program In Lake Erie Wester…
September 9, 2014
Certified Crop Advisers are implementing the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification program in Lake Erie's Western Basin to improve water quality. Read More
MicronutrientsMicronutrients Going Macro
September 9, 2014
Between 2014’s fantastic growing conditions and a heightened awareness on plant nutrition, the major players in micronutrients are gearing up for another big year. Read More
Crop InputsFMC Announces Cheminova Takeover
September 8, 2014
FMC Corporation today announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Cheminova, a wholly owned subsidiary of Auriga Industries. Read More