How an analytics app is helping farmers grow crops into larger profits

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Posted: Friday, April 4, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 1:50 pm, Thu Jun 5, 2014.

When a group from Gothenburg, Neb., called Crop Tech Solutions dropped a stack of spreadsheets in Bryan Thompson's lap, he was intimidated, but also intrigued.

This, he said, would be fun.

In those spreadsheets: hundreds and hundreds of data points from farmers' fields around the region. 

The goal: make those data points useful. 

Thompson, vice president of Lincoln dev firm Market Interactive went about taking Crop Tech Solution's ag knowledge and paired it with his tech knowledge to create a web app, also called Crop Tech, that's been rolled out slowly this year.

Crop Tech's website says it strives to provide producers with value-based economical decisions in an evolving agricultural world. In short, they want to give farmers the analytics tools to get more bang for their buck.

"The farmer in 2014, their business is crazy," Thompson said. "They have humongous expenses. It's not absurd to think they're spending a million a year on herbicide and fertilizer. But the average farmer flies by the seat of their pants and compares to last year to see if they're spending roughly the same amount, getting similar yields and earning the same amount."

Thompson was surprised that the average farmer, who maintains around 800 acres in Nebraska, didn't easily know their profits or the effect a market price change would have. 

So Crop Tech set up a data management system to harness and integrate all sorts of data, including costs like field treatment, harvest, insurance and irrigation. Then they tied in information like grain prices and contracts and came up with formulas to calculate field productivity.

One formula, Thompson said, was 130 pages long.

"We monitor and provide customers with their real-time financial data and information as inputs and market prices change, helping the producer make more profitable decisions. Find yourself strategizing to better utilize your resources and further extend your operations limits," the website states.

Thompson and Market Interactive built a rudimentary version a few years ago, but released the complex version in February. 

You can look at a whole farm, specific fields, zones in those fields and crops in the zone. 

Crop Tech is a web-based app that has responsive design that's tailored for an iPad Mini, which every Crop Tech customer receives. The app can be used without Internet in the fields and then synced and updated once it connects. 

Some data is imported automatically though a data port, similar to ports in cars, that track live data of planting and harvesting. Other info, like receipts for seed or fertilizer purchases, can be mailed in to Crop Tech, where they will enter the info and categorize it for the farmer, who likely doesn't want to do it themselves after 12 or more hours in the field.

But have farmers actually used the technology?

"It's interesting, farming is generational and the older generation knows about the new tech but for the most part doesn't want to change it up at the end of their career," Thompson said. "They let the young guys figure that part out."

Among the product's features: inventory tracking, field mapping to see fertility and average for cost of production, automated EPA reports, expense tracking and even a hail storm alert to notify you of potential damage to your crops.

Crop Tech serves some of the Midwest, including Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Illinois. Thompson declined to share Crop Tech's pricing, but did say it's subscription based and increases based on the size of a farm. 

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