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

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