It’s ag in the sky
Farm technology now includes cloud-system software, which is fast becoming the newest hired hand for the nation’s agricultural producers.
The U.S.Department of Agriculture’s MIDAS Modernize and Innovate the Delivery of Agricultural Systems a Farm Service Agency initiative, serves as one example.
Karen Rawson, an FSA agricultural program technology specialist in Des Moines, said FSA’s goal is to improve delivery of program benefits and services.
“MIDAS is not only providing us with improved access and convenience for producers and field office employees,” she said, “but also gives us a means to rapidly develop and deploy new farm programs.
“This in turns aids us in achieving program compliance with improved oversight, management and accountability for administering our FSA farm programs.”
As government agencies board the improved technology software bandwagon, the number of commercial vendors offering the new services is on the increase.
This includes Denver, Colorado-based Aspect Enterprise Solutions, working with Schneider Electric in Omaha. They joined on a Jan. 20 webinar on ways specialists with the two firms see their services benefiting production agriculture.
Sheshieda Davis, vice president of American sales for Aspect, said the risk management benefits of their system developed for agriculture and/or petroleum commodities offer “a cutting-edged software solution aimed at improving productivity, decreasing the room for humor error and makes production more profitable and interesting.
“Both crop and livestock entities can literally manage their businesses from anywhere,” Davis said, “at the truck dump, in a bin, at the sale barn, in the field or on the road.
“They can see their profit and loss, value at risk and (counterparty) exposure statements at any time, from any device.”
Reports are established once and run automatically.
Customers can see exactly what they’ve bought and what they’ve sold from any mobile device-smart phone, tablet, laptop or desktop.
Those involved in the physical movement of crops and livestock can, for the first time, see from any location with a cellular signal what their ownership is, including both their physical purchases and sales and their hedges, Davis said.
She said one example is an elevator which buys grain from a producer, with the trades recorded in AspectCTRM.
When the purchase grain is delivered, that load is appropriately applied to the contract, the producer gets paid and inventory levels are increased.
The AspectCTRM system then automatically updates the contract totals and corresponding prices.
As grain is sold by the elevator, those trades are also captured by the same system, which follows up to also show a reduced inventory of the grain and corresponding balance on the sale contract when the grain is shipped out.
Livestock trades and inventory levels, Davis said, are captured in a like manner in that cattle received for processing purchase contracts are automatically reduced and the customer’s inventory and overall position is updated.
In both cases she the customer’s counterparty credit is automatically updated.
Taking this to another level, Davis said AspectCTRM will actively monitor the amount of money the organization owes to other entities.
If a counterparty is getting close to a limit or guideline, the system automatically sends email warnings to the customer’s management team.
She said in addition to recording purchases and sales the program has the capability of tracking how these trades compare to the market and updates the customer’s profit and loss statement to provide added transparency, precision and documentation for the on-farm production program.
John Baker, U.S. territory manager for cloud services with Schneider Electric, said the Aspect system can be an effective tool for producers.
“Agri-businesses have traditionally relied on spreadsheets to track their positions, manage inventories, track freight expenses and monitor their counterparty credit,” Baker said.
“Spreadsheets are easy to use, but they can be difficult when running reports with the need to look back and see who did what, when and why.
“They typically must be manually updated.
“The Aspect program provides a cost-effective way to assure data is not entered more than once, that the data is right, that it can be quickly presented in a meaningful way and providing a record of who did what and when.”
Baker said commodity advisers are potential users to benefit from Aspect’s system.
“We’ve seen a lot of interest on their part in using the solution to allow producers to see their inventory, grain or cattle on hand, and their corresponding obligations (physical sales) and futures, options and hedges.
“The solution supports commodity businesses with only a handful of users to those with hundreds of users highlighting its expandability and giving commodity advisors an added help as the volatility of commodity price increases, accompanied by increased regulatory oversight.”
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