Five Reasons to Farm Beyond Spreadsheets

When it comes to managing the wealth of information that comes with farming every year, many in ag have been using Excel spreadsheets for decades. However, with the increasing complexities of farming, dynamic decisions are required —and numbers are continually changing. And so the question becomes: can you make the best decisions for your operation based on static data in spreadsheets?
Due to Excel’s static nature, many industries have evolved from spreadsheets to more robust cloud-based business software. Construction companies have adopted software like Procore, the aviation industry has adopted IBM, and many others have adopted Salesforce. The agriculture industry is evolving as well, with more farms gradually understanding the potential return that can come with using real-time data. If you’re considering a move beyond Excel, here are five considerations to keep in mind.

1. Time Savings

Farmers know that achieving their yield goals often comes down to timing. With that in mind, capitalizing on good weather is critical, which often shifts priorities to in the field vs. managing cumbersome spreadsheets in the office. This means that when you’re in the office, your time is usually better spent planning and evaluating strategy vs. digging up field notes, spending hours doing manual data entry, and syncing different data sources.
Software is improving the way farms are operating to increase efficiency. In particular, Granular is automating data collection and organization, and putting the information farmers need to make decisions at their fingertips in real-time. This equates to more efficient and fact-based decision-making, and more time spent with your family. Without being hamstrung by spreadsheets, you can also use additional metrics and information to make the best business decisions for your operation possible — not just the ones you have time to update in Excel.

2. Real-Time Data

Spreadsheets limit the ability to make accurate, real-time decisions. In an article by The Progressive Farmer, Danny Klinefelter suggests making technology decisions By The Numbers and says: “I think delaying the implementation of real-time, site-specific business software is very short-sighted. To stay in business over the long haul, it’s something you’re eventually going to have to do.”
As an example, you may be creating a budget every year, but struggle to keep it updated as plans change unexpectedly, often due to factors out of your control. Granular allows farmers to track the cost of production by managing costs, tasks, inventory, and profitability at the individual field level. Tracking inventory in real-time gives you a way to monitor yields accurately, know your crop breakeven, and see your bottom-line field-level performance. Even Agronomic decisions, such as whether to switch to a shorter-day corn hybrid, are easier to evaluate and manage.

3. Communication and Alignment

Excel makes it difficult for multiple users to update and act on data being collected, and challenges can exist with users having different versions of the same document. Through Granular’s mobile app, teams can quickly communicate and coordinate activities while out in the field. There are even turn-by-turn field directions included, so new and seasonal workers don’t need to waste hours each day trying to locate where they need to be. Giving access to employees, partners, and the FSA keeps everyone involved in your business, up-to-date, and aligned. “We’re growing six different crops,” said Jeremy Jack, who farms 12,000 acres near Belzoni, Mississippi in an article from the United Soybean Board. “I sometimes find it impossible to remember what I did yesterday, much less three months ago. Granular helps me stay on top of things.”

4. Year-over-Year (YOY) Comparisons

Great farms continually analyze trends and review operational shifts, making farm data ever-more valuable over time. As one example, Granular’s seamless integration of data science and historical data allows you to analyze field-level data over the span of multiple years. In Excel, it’s difficult to look at years of data spread out across numerous sheets. Granular easily presents this information so you can compare YOY, and even measure variances in your actual and forecasted numbers.

5. Ability to Scale

Separate aspects of the farm such as crop and input planning, inventory management, operations and financials could potentially have separate managers as well, creating the potential for multiple, separate spreadsheets.
Pieced together, spreadsheet data does not work together cohesively, inhibiting your ability to access the right information to more easily scale and grow. The farms of tomorrow need consolidated data they can trust to help them quickly make decisions and keep growing.
Spreadsheets have been used for decades and still have their place, but they aren’t the future of farm data management. In fact, Rabobank’s Kenneth Zuckerberg believes adopting technology to better manage farm data will be a key determining success factor for many farms soon. “Ultimately, the pain associated with delaying adoption will reach a catalyst,” said the senior farm inputs analyst in a recent Successful Farming article on farm data. “Growers will be faced with the reality that, in order to survive, they either have to take an aggressive, assertive effort to really adapt or face a precarious future.”
Granular incorporates planning, operations, inputs, and financials to reveal your most important insights. Your farm is producing information that can guide you to make the best business decisions for your operation next year. Isn’t it time to use your data in a tool that’s as dynamic as your business?

Learn More on How Granular Can Modernize Your Farm

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Jolene Brown, CSP, CPAE, December 27, 2019