Canadian Farmer Sees Big Benefits from Granular
Ben Cavers is a 6th generation Canadian farmer, operating more than 20,000 acres of grains with his father and uncle. Since Ben returned to the farm about a decade ago, the operation has expanded a lot, doubling in acreage and growing to include seven employees and multiple businesses.
Through all of that growth, careful management and communication between the farm’s partners, lenders, and vendors was crucial. With transition planning on his mind, Ben started to worry about staying on top of his dad’s various spreadsheets and files.
“We were kind of trying to find a program to more or less centrally locate everything,” he says, which brought him to Granular. Getting all the farm’s financial and planning information “under one roof” was the original intent, but since the farm has started using these tools, they’ve seen valuable benefits in inventory management, understanding the cost of production, and other recordkeeping activities. Plus, Granular pulls Ben’s data straight from his My John Deere system, making all of the data his equipment is creating and collecting available and easy to use without any painful data entry.
“It takes some time to get there,” Ben says, describing the initial setup of the system, “but we’re kind of to the point now where you can just log on there, and you can see the crop plan for the 2021 season, you can see exactly what we’re looking at for inputs, and then you can run a report, and you can see what we have delivered on hand. Everything’s in one place.”
Negotiating Land Rents
Ben’s operation has been able to take advantage of the extraordinary level of data when negotiating rents. Especially when sitting down with landlords who are looking to raise rents, he’s been able to calculate exactly what he can afford to spend, based on years of information on what particular acres can produce.
“We have the full cost of production over the past years, and it’s down to the dollars and cents really, and with the lease costs in there we can break it out.” It’s not enough to know the average for the whole farm when making these decisions, Ben says, because really high producing acres might be compensating for acres where he’s actively losing money, and the only way to identify those acres and deal with them is to know costs at a per field level.
Grain and Input Inventory Management
Ben’s dad has really taken to Granular’s grain inventory tools, and being able to get online for a few minutes every day has made him a more careful and successful grain marketer.
“As the yields start to get put in this year, he’s able to kind of go and see that last year we projected a 60 bushel an acre wheat crop but we’re actually pulling off 70, and that he was 30% contracted on 60 bushels. Now he can check what we have in inventory so he can make quicker sales decisions. He just pops on there real quick for five minutes in the morning to refresh his mind on the numbers and where he was at.”
Ben has found the inventory tracking features useful as well, in particular recently when searching for some missing fertilizer.
“I was kind of pulling my hair out because we were short a load. Where did that end up? So we popped back into Granular and ran a report. And we realized yes, we were X amount of chemical shy…the numbers were there, down to exactly what we were missing.”
Ordering and Sales
Another big benefit for Ben’s operation has been on the ordering side. With his crop plan in place, he can easily access exactly what he needs in terms of chemicals and quantities for the coming year as well as a complete list of prices he’s paid in previous years, putting a tremendous amount of information at his fingertips when negotiating with his retailer and streamlining the process overall.
On top of that, Ben has also seen some real money returns when tracking grain sales.
“We have our guys take pictures of the elevator receipt and enter every load that they haul, where it came from, and where it went, and then my dad or my wife will go through and settle all the loads of the contracts. We’ve had instances where we’ve been a load or two short, or the elevator says no we don’t have a ticket for that.” In this case, Ben was able to prompt the elevator to look again, because he was able to track and pull the record from his system. “They came back and said, ‘we apologize, we dropped the receipt behind the counter.’ So whatever that load would have been, like 44 tonnes of lentils, it saved us.” This kind of savings, he says, makes having Granular more than worth the expense.
Granular has also helped the operation fine-tune their input inventory to prevent carrying too much product from year to year.
“We didn’t have a lot of clarity in the past, we’d just do a very quick, rough estimate and then figure it in your head and then order it, and we’d forget that we have 25% of the product on hand.” Being able to quickly and easily check Granular for the exact quantities of inputs has improved the farm’s efficiency.
Today, Ben says, even for his dad, the main source of truth on his farm comes from their Granular system. And despite the effort required to set up the system initially, it has since become a serious time-saver, and has helped both Ben and his Dad spend less time in front of the computer, crafting reports, doing manual data entry, or trying to find missing information.
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