Tracing Success!

Over the last few years, the Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) has hammered out some of the components needed for an industrywide product tracking system and 2007 was the season to start testing their recommendations.

Three dealerships volunteered to give the ideas a try: Cooperative Supply, Dodge, NE; Vogel Agri Service, Hamburg, IA; and Reddy Ag Service, Stitzer, WI. “These dealers were very positive and were willing to work with us and do anything needed to make the project a success,” says MACA’s Carl Bartenhagen.

The goals of the trial runs this year were to 1) maintain up-to-the-minute (real time) inventories; 2) record incoming shipments from suppliers in real time; and 3) track product shipments to the farm or field.

The three retailers started with a program called Delivery Doc, computer software supplied by AgWorks of Eldridge, IA. Delivery Doc can track shipments and deliveries and can be teamed with the company’s SmartGun or BBGun handheld units to gather data at field applications.

Change Brings Challenges

But shifting to a new computer business system is no small undertaking, as participants found. AgWorks’ training at dealer sites got employees started.

“Then we found our best training was taking the demo version of Delivery Doc and trying to mess it up, put it to the test, challenge it,” says Mike David of Reddy Ag. “At first everyone was scared to touch it because they didn’t want to break it.” He reassured staff that if they ran into a problem or error, they could just call him and he’d fix it. “They became comfortable with the software because they weren’t scared anymore.”

Greg Warden at Vogel Ag Service says his staff was used to doing everything by hand and going strictly to computer was a quite a change. “We also needed a few more scale hook-ups to monitor some of the other products that weren’t tied into the system,” he says.

Clear Benefits

Darwin Franzen of Cooperative Supply believes the project this summer “forced us into being more responsible about our inventories. It’s going to make us more profitable, to be as accurate as we can.” Indeed, he believes his company probably had less billing errors and unbilled product. “If we were short of something, we could go back and say, ‘Who bought this product and who didn’t get billed?'” he says.

“I think it kept very close live inventories,” agrees David. “If we were missing 5 gallons of something, I would know.”

In the field, applicators using the SmartGun and BBGun technology became fans within a few weeks. The units capture time-coded data including start and finish of a spray job, the temperature, wind speed, etc. Applicators also type in the amount and types of product applied and where.

“Normally when they got back from a day’s worth of spraying, they’d have to spend another hour doing paperwork and might forget something,” says Franzen. Now before a job, they punch identifying information into the handheld. Upon return to the office, they just download the day’s work into the computer system.

Franzen sees great value in the next step his company will be taking with traceability. “We can help customers identify the costs and the returns on all of their acres by field,” he says. This will be a service and sales tool in the future. He does admit that gathering and inputting growers’ field data and maps — including such details as GPS coordinates — into the computer can be time-consuming and tedious. But as Bartenhagen points out, “Once you do it, it’s done.”

Project participants do have some advice for others who want to try a tracking system. Reddy Ag’s David emphasizes the importance of drawing up a companywide routine to run the new tracing system. “We set up a process of ‘where does the paper go, who’s doing what,'” explains David.

Franzen adds that dealers should “start early as far as installation of the software so you have time to experiment with it.” He suggests retailers try the programs in phases, starting slowly and learning them well before moving to the next option or module.

All three dealers are upbeat about continuing the work they started this year. “We’ll be more efficient with the system next year,” says David. “We’ve gone through the learning process, the growing pains.”

Looking Ahead

For true manufacturer-to-field traceability, growers need to participate in the process, Bartenhagen points out. The project’s dealers found grower-customers reluctant to share information on how/where product sold to them would be used – and only 10% to 25% of delivery tickets (depending on the retailer) had farms identified. The industry will have to define benefits for farmers to encourage them to participate, says Bartenhagen.

Also needed is a better warehouse management system for dealers that includes handheld scanners, plus more use of bar codes or RFID (radio frequency identification) chips. “Many products currently do not have i.d. capabilities,” Bartenhagen says.

Leave a Reply

Management Stories
ManagementMACA 2014: The State Of The Agricultural Industry, And Then Some
October 9, 2014
The trade association’s annual gathering featured speakers from across agriculture and beyond. Read More
StewardshipA Multi-Layered Approach To Water Quality
October 6, 2014
Illinois event highlights research and technology designed to better monitor and improve water quality — and the benefits of cooperative, coordinated effort. 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
ManagementRussia Bans U.S. And EU Ag Product Imports In Ukraine Sanctions Battle
August 7, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin has banned the import of agricultural goods from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia. Read More
Top 100 Articles
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
CropLife 100GROWMARK Acquires Missouri Refined Fuels Terminal
April 2, 2015
Bloomington, IL-based GROWMARK and Magellan Pipeline Co. have entered into an agreement in which GROWMARK will acquire the refined fuels Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Acquires South Dakota Retailer
April 2, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co.’s Agribusiness Division, a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution and marketing of plant protection, seed Read More
CropLife 100The McGregor Co. Closes Smith-Kem Acquisition
April 2, 2015
The McGregor Co. — ranked No. 16 on the CropLife 100 list of largest U.S. ag retailers — has completed Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Latest News
Syngenta
Eric SfiligojWill Monsanto And Syngenta Combine This Time?
May 4, 2015
Under the heading of “never say never,” it sounds as if crop protection/seed giants Monsanto Co. and Syngenta are once Read More
Dr. Bryan Young, Southern Illinois University, shows tour attendees a female Palmer amaranth plant.
Crop InputsPurdue Weed Scientist Publishes Weed Resistance White P…
May 4, 2015
Resistant weeds, the appropriate use of herbicides and integrated weed management strategies are highlighted topics in the new white paper, Read More
Industry NewsMonsanto-Syngenta Mega-Merger Would Drive More Deals
May 4, 2015
A combination of Monsanto Co. and Syngenta AG would set the stage for even more mergers and acquisitions, reports Brooke Read More
InsecticidesAgrian Announces New California Feature
May 4, 2015
Agrian announced today that it has developed a feature within its recommendation writing program that will support the California Department Read More
Storage Tanks at Nachurs
FertilizerNachurs Alpine Solutions: Liquid Fertilizer With Precis…
May 4, 2015
When it comes to fertilizer options in 2015 and beyond, ag retailers are taking a long, hard look at liquid. Read More
West Central Sac City growers
StewardshipIowa Lawsuit Challenges Ag’s Water Quality Efforts
May 3, 2015
Nutrient problems in west-central Iowa’s water supply made national headlines in March when the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) filed Read More
Tim Hassinger Dow AgroSciences President and CEO
Crop InputsDow AgroSciences: Always About Agriculture
May 2, 2015
When you consider their respective backgrounds, it’s little wonder why Dow AgroSciences and new President/CEO Tim Hassinger ended up together. Read More
Nozzle spray close-up
AdjuvantsSpray Drift Enters More Complex Era
May 1, 2015
Off-target movement of crop protection products has been a problem for decades. The issue got more contentious when glyphosate-tolerant crops Read More
Crop InputsTop 10 Twitter Pics For #Plant15
April 30, 2015
Growers and ag retailers are working feverishly to plant this year’s crop. Fortunately, many of them still have time to Read More
ManagementIowa Retailer Sticks Up For Agriculture and New Spray D…
April 30, 2015
Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about how one Iowa ag retailer is working to defend agricultural practices and an Read More
Dow AgroSciences Logo wall
Seed/BiotechNew Soybean Trait Agreement To Use Dow AgroSciencesR…
April 30, 2015
Dow AgroSciences LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Co., Arcadia Biosciences, Inc. and Bioceres, S.A. have formed an agreement Read More
Confluence of St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers in Minnesota
StewardshipAgricultural Runoff Among Causes Of Water Quality Issue…
April 30, 2015
A new report released April 29 by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency provides additional evidence that agricultural and urban runoff Read More
EquipmentTop 30 IRON WORKS Cartoons Of All Time
April 29, 2015
When CropLife IRON first started publishing more than a decade ago, long-time Publisher Al Strohmaier decided to start a cartoon Read More
StewardshipCPS-Hillsboro Becomes First ResponsibleAg Certified Fac…
April 29, 2015
Unlike a race where the first finisher takes home a medal or blue ribbon, safety and regulatory compliance doesn’t often Read More
HerbicidesWeed Scientists Offer New Definition For ‘Superwe…
April 28, 2015
The Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) has joined with six sister organizations to recommend a new definition for superweed Read More
Crop InputsValent Announces “Relentless As You’ Contes…
April 28, 2015
Valent U.S.A. Corporation today announced the winners of its national “Relentless As You” contest, which recognized the relentless spirit of Read More
HerbicidesSyngenta’s Acuron Secures EPA Federal Approval
April 28, 2015
Growers looking to control difficult weeds like waterhemp, giant ragweed and Palmer amaranth will have access to Acuron corn herbicide Read More
FertilizerSimplot’s Gal-XeONE Technology Moves West
April 27, 2015
The J.R. Simplot Co. remains committed to creating customer value through technology. In 2013, Simplot purchased the Gal-XeONE controlled release Read More