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
Top 100 Articles
Milan Kucerak, president/CEO, West Central
CropLife 100West Central Cooperative And Its New President Are A Match Made In Deviation
June 29, 2015
To appreciate just how unique West Central Cooperative is in the world of ag retail, an observer need only consider Read More
Winter Wheat
CropLife 100South Dakota Co-op Member Owners Vote No On Unification
June 26, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have announced that member-owners have voted Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Acquires South Dakota Plant Nutrient Manufacturer Kay-Flo
May 20, 2015
The Andersons, Inc., ranked No. 22 on the CropLife 100, has purchased Kay Flo Industries of North Sioux City, SD. “This Read More
CropLife 100AgGateway’s Barcoding Initiative Progressing Nicely
May 8, 2015
According to legend (or Wikipedia), the first step towards modern bar codes came back in 1948, when Bernard Silver, a Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
Latest News
Agworld Apple Watch Farm Management
EquipmentAussie Data Management Software Company Making Its Mark…
July 4, 2015
Zach Sheely, vice president of sales and operations, says that several large, well-known U.S. cooperatives (Stanislaus Farm Supply, Wilco-Winfield and Read More
Topcon AGI-4 on MF Planter
EquipmentAutosteer: Compatibility, Accuracy Remain Top Of Mind
July 3, 2015
The world of automatic steering solutions in agriculture has evolved rapidly in the last few years. From after-market add-ons that Read More
ManagementUnited Suppliers/Land ‘O Lakes Merger & Crop Update
July 2, 2015
CropLife’s Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the reasons behind the United Suppliers/Land ‘O Lakes merger and USDA’s recent Read More
Industry NewsBioSafe Adds To Sales Force
July 2, 2015
BioSafe Systems has announced the hire of two new members for its service team. David Britt recently joined the team Read More
Chesapeake Bay
ManagementChesapeake Bay Clean-Up Gets Renewed Attention
July 2, 2015
The Chesapeake Bay has been called one of the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world. It’s also one of Read More
Measuring Bulk Tanks
ManagementBulk Pesticide Compliance: Top 10 Areas Of Improvement …
July 1, 2015
  In honor of the 33-year run of David Letterman’s Late Show, the American Agronomic Stewardship Alliance (AASA) is happy Read More
Industry NewsArysta North America Hires Midwest Sales Manager
July 1, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the hiring of Brian Battles as the Senior Technical Sales Manager for the Midwest Read More
Farmer on tablet
Eric SfiligojThe Never-Ending Battle Against Modern Agriculture
July 1, 2015
In the world of comic books, the character of Superman often refers to the fight to save the world as Read More
Retail FacilitiesBuilding Up Ag Retail
July 1, 2015
In the oftentimes unpredictable world we live in, it’s nice to know some things can be reliably countered on to Read More
Retail FacilitiesMaple River Grain And Agronomy Phases In Site Developme…
July 1, 2015
Marcus Construction helped Maple River Grain and Agronomy in Casselton, ND, with the design-build of its dry fertilizer, liquid chemical/seed Read More
Retail FacilitiesA&B Welding Builds A New Liquid Terminal Hub For Br…
July 1, 2015
To build its new hub facility, Briggs Crop Nutrients enlisted the help of A&B Welding. The result, an efficient facility Read More
Edon Farmers Co-op
Retail FacilitiesNew Marcus Facility At Edon Farmers Co-op Provides More…
July 1, 2015
Edon Farmers Co-Op in Edon, OH, needed a new facility to consolidate outdated locations. Marcus Construction was able to design Read More
Retail FacilitiesKinder Morgan Expands Its Storage With A New Dome Barre…
July 1, 2015
Kinder Morgan wanted additional covered storage at its Dakota Bulk Terminal on the Mississippi River in St. Paul, MN. With Read More
Retail FacilitiesHeartland Tank Protects Fertilizer From Extreme Cold At…
July 1, 2015
The Arthur Companies in Harvey, ND, enlisted the help of Heartland Tank Companies to develop a new liquid fertilizer facility Read More
The McGregor Co. fertilizer loadout
Retail FacilitiesThe McGregor Co. Partners With Kahler Automation To Cre…
June 30, 2015
Kahler Automation helped The McGregor Co. expand its Clarkston, WA, operation with unstaffed loadout technology that enables customers to pick Read More
Dry and Liquid Plant
Retail FacilitiesKahler Automation Helps CHS Dakota Ag Cooperative Build…
June 30, 2015
CHS Dakota Ag Cooperative in Mooreton, ND, wanted a liquid/dry blender system that could meet the needs of its customers Read More
Crop InputsLand O’Lakes, United Suppliers To Merge Crop Inpu…
June 29, 2015
Land O’Lakes, Inc. and United Suppliers, Inc. of Ames, IA, today announced their intent to merge their crop inputs businesses. Read More
FungicidesHelena To Distribute Unique Summit Agro Fungicide
June 29, 2015
RANMAN 400 SC fungicide, the only fungicide with a FRAC group 21 designation, is now part of the innovative Summit Read More