In part four of our five-part series, The Communicator looks at how Blair’s Family of Companies is integrating The agrē Solution’s agronomy module into their operations.
Managing orders, inventory and delivering product is just about all retailers can think of during the spring busy season. But once the product leaves the yard, retailers often have no record of what field it ended up on or how much was used.
Having this information on hand is critical when working with customers on next year’s nutrient management plans. But many retailers rely on their producers to bring their records in, if they have any records at all.
Switching to Digital
With the constantly-improving quality and accessibility of technology over the years, more and more retailers are collecting and recording this information throughout the season using digital means, rather than relying on customers to provide it.
While Blair’s has been using software programs from Tronia Systems Ltd. for over 20 years, they only just started using The agrē Solution’s agronomy module last fall. When their agronomy team had the opportunity to change software programs, Blake Bergen, director of corporate services at Blair’s, was the one who suggested they look at Tronia’s agronomy module.
It’s like anything else in the world, really – you get exactly what you put into it. If you take the time and do the crop planning and the field scouting and everything like that, it’s an amazing tool.
“We feel really comfortable using this agronomy module: we’re very happy with Tronia as a company and they’ve always been at the forefront of our business,” he says. “Since the agronomy module already integrates into the accounting module that we’ve been using for over 20 years, switching just seemed like a no-brainer.”
The module shows retailers which products were used, where they went and in what quantity, tracking things like fertilizer, chemicals and even services like soil testing and labour. But it also allows retailers to upload third-party documents into the software, giving them instant access to Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and photos, all of which can be tagged to a specific customer, field or activity.
“It’s like anything else in the world, really – you get out exactly what you put into it,” says Bergen. “If you take the time and do the crop planning and the field scouting and everything like that, it’s an amazing tool. All the information is available quickly and I can access it on my phone and see what’s happening.”
Anita Marghella, business development coordinator at Tronia Systems, says they saw the need for this feature when they noticed many of their retailer clients still had hard copies of their customer information stacked in bookshelves, filing folders and cabinets.
“You’re getting into a position where things can get lost or misplaced,” she says. “Our software is starting to extend itself into the data management territory, so they’re able to upload and store everything electronically. All your data is in one place – you don’t need binders of information on your growers.”
This particular feature of the agronomy module has been a great help to Amy Grindeim, director of AgIntelligence at Blair’s, and her agronomy team. The team is able to take pictures while out in the field and then attach those pictures to a particular scouting report.
They’ve also been using it for crop planning with their growers throughout the spring season. By completing soil testing with the module last fall, the necessary information was available to them when making crop plans this spring.
“When we go out and do any soil testing, what we do is write a detailed plan for the grower based off their goals, what they need and what they want to achieve that year,” says Grindeim. “We’ll write those goals in the agronomy module and give the grower a detailed plan with it.”
According to Marghella, the agronomy module is instrumental for retailers when it comes to navigating chemicals with cropping restrictions.
It’s just one more management tool that we have to help our customers.
“With certain crops that can’t be planted or grown after certain chemicals are used, there have to be certain rotations in place. So, it’s really important that a retail keeps accurate records for their growers to make sure they know what was grown where, when and what chemical applications were made,” she says. “If you don’t have that information and you make the wrong decision, that could be very costly to the grower.”
It’s features like this and the module’s record-keeping ability that Bergen says helps Blair’s provide their customers with the best possible customer service.
“We can have the whole year’s crop plan available and if a customer wants to do hail insurance, we can give them information on their fields, legal land descriptions and seeded acres. It’s all in a very nice, concise report,” he says. “It shows another level of detail that we can provide for the customer by helping them run a more efficient farm and keeping track of things as farms get bigger. It’s just one more management tool that we have to help our customers.”
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