Post-harvest decision-making is made a little easier with the help of The agrē Solution.
Over the next four issues of The Communicator, we'll be following an agri-retailer and examining how they use agronomy data throughout the year in their operations. In the first part of this five-part series, we check in with Blair's Family of Companies on how they leverage post-harvest data for pre-season decisions.
Harvest may be over, but the work never is, and now is the time that agri-retailers and their customers are taking a look at the data they have collected over the past year, and using it to make plans for next spring.
Blair’s Family of Companies, a multi-location agri-retailer specializing in crop and livestock solutions, custom services and agronomy, uses The agrē Solution from Tronia Systems Ltd. in every area of their operations.
“We use it for everything. We use it for our inventory control, for our accounts payable, accounts receivable – it’s totally integrated,” says Noreen Gemmill, corporate services manager at Blair’s. “Every module links to the other.”
One of those modules is an agronomy package that Gemmill says they added to their system this fall, which Blair’s agronomists use to track customer’s soil samples and results.
“It collects a lot of great information and when we sit down with our customers in the fall to start buying their inputs for the following season, we base those requirements on a lot of those soil samplings,” she says. “They want to know what’s needed for next year.”
The agronomy component is a fairly new addition to Blair’s agrē system, but the agronomists are beginning to utilize it in the workplace after only a couple of training sessions, and they are excited about the possibilities. “I can see it’s going to be very valuable in the future,” Gemmill says.
In addition to soil testing, the integrated agronomy package also allows retailers to track and trace different activities for their growers in regards to crops, fertilizer and chemical application.
“To be able to have that data tagged right to their files, especially on a by-fields basis, is going to be great information,” says Gemmill. “We’ll be able to sit down with customers and allow them to do their pre-buys based on what they actually need, instead of just averaging it out over the whole farm. They can actually pick and choose and be a little more precise with their money.”
Blair’s has been using all of the features that The agrē Solution has to offer for the last five years. Anita Marghella, business development coordinator at Tronia Systems Ltd., says agrē is a full financial management system that is specifically geared towards the agri-retail industry. The system handles standard accounting-type functionality, as well as inventory management and prepayments.
The software's accounts receivable module has a work order and prepayment module that is critical for Blair’s salespeople, says Gemmill.
“It does things like commit products when a customer commits to purchasing it. The work order is created and it commits the product in our system so that our buyers can see what the people are out there selling,” she says. “It’s ideal for our salespeople to know when that product is coming in or being delivered throughout the winter. It’s important that we see if the customer ordered 200 tonnes of a product: we can see it deplete, being delivered, what’s there and how many tonnes are left to be delivered.”
Marghella agrees that the fall season is both a busy time and a planning phase for retails from the accounting and agronomic perspectives.
“Since our system is able to track prepayment deposits as well as prepayment planning, fall is a really critical time for retailers and growers alike to be able to set up purchase plans for the following year,” she says.
“This is the time of year when a lot of retails are doing crop planning with their growers. It’s the time of year when retails will review what happened in the past year; perhaps a review of the harvest, how profitable the year was for their grower and perhaps make some decisions as to what they might want to do in the next year.
“(agrē) has a few other features about it that make it very unique to this industry,” she adds. “Some of those unique features include an integrated blending module, as well as other functionality to handle chemical and manufacturer rebates.”
Then vs. Now
Blair’s started to convert to a digital accounting system in 1996, moving from their paper-based ledger system to Tronia’s legacy software system, The Edge. Blair’s moved to the next generation agrē system in 2011 which Gemmill describes as “incredible.”
“Everything is based under tabs, it’s very easy to access and all the modules are fantastic,” she says. “The accounts receivable is nothing like I’ve ever seen on any other system that I’ve worked on; the detail that’s provided to us and to our customers is huge. It’s fast, it’s quick, it’s all integrated.”
Blair’s grew from 25 employees to over 100 over the last 20 years, and it was ideal for them to switch to a digital solution because of the growth they were experiencing, says Gemmill.
A large group of independent retailers are also using agrē which makes things convenient when they’re all on the same system. Feedback from these agri-retailers helps shape the development of the system, says Gemmill.
“Tronia is very quick to listen to our needs,” she says. “If something is not quite working the way we need it to, they very readily address it as part of the next upgrade. They’re always making it bigger and better, and that’s important to us.”
For more information on The agrē Solution and how it can help your agri-retail business, please visit www.tronia.com
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