3 Ease of Setup,
Data-In & Integrations
The “hassle factor” can make or break the success of FMS in a farm operation. Digital ag companies know this which is why they all promise their program will be “seamless.” Yet frustrated reviews still abound.
Farmers new to digital ag should be realistic, there is a certain learning curve to even the most user-friendly FMS.
Just like learning to operate a new tractor or implement. That said, there can be a world of difference between a platform that is easy to use and one that isn’t.
An effective FMS program should excel at several core components that will ease the set-up and the learning process and facilitate farmer use. These are outlined below.
The simplest place to start is with the ability to upload files.
Can the FMS “talk to” other data-gathering tools you already have (like in-cab planting and harvest data) and upload things you’ve already set-up in other services, like field borders, historical tractor information and telematics?
The ability to batch, or populate data, is an extension of a program’s ability to upload files. The FMS automatically “fills in” the data points where farmers need it (meaning they don’t have to take the time to do it).
This could be something as simple as populating agronomic tools with general information, such as the average cost of crop production for farmers in your state. Or, instead of having to enter the yield for each field of corn one at a time, you can batch them all together. The user can always go back and reconcile final figures (and some of the best programs help you do that too), but starting off with some basic data population saves plenty of time and headache especially in initial set-up.
UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) are one of those catch-all phrases that software designers talk a lot about but probably don’t mean much to a farmer. Until they have to click a button 13 times to find the information they want or wait five minutes for their program to load.
Farmers are just as busy as an urban CEO, arguably more so. A seamless UI and UX should be part of the package. FMS that don’t excel in this area will have a distinct disadvantage.
API’s (application program interface) are the collaborative partnerships between a FMS program and others working in the digital ag space, whether that’s equipment manufacturers, crop protection solutions, seed dealers or even other FMS software programs.
In some cases, a FMS is offered via a large agricultural company which naturally favors cross-functionality. (For instance, Granular is owned by Corteva Agriscience and Climate FieldView is owned by Bayer). Even so, a FMS platform should be able to show that not only do they have API’s in place, they actively pursue collaboration.
Otherwise, a farmer risks their data being stranded, unable to interact with the other programs, solutions and equipment they use on a daily basis. Since the goal of a FMS is, ultimately, to help make more informed decisions, stranded data leaves farmers with a poor ability to do anything with it and greatly reduces the value proposition of a FMS platform.
Not every farm operation will need data input services but when they do, it is a nice option to have.
Larger operations may find they rely heavily on data input services, especially with initial setup or depending on their ability to assign data management to a farm team member. Ask whether there is a back-up option if you get behind on data management mid season. Farming is nothing if not unpredictable, having a plan B in place is always a good idea.
If you plan to have employees or farm consultants working with your digital tools, make sure the FMS you choose offers multiple log-in abilities. Some programs restrict log-ins with their “free” or “basic” versions, pay more and you have the ability to add more team members.
Viewer capabilities for log-ins can also be important. Your office team may function just fine logging in on a desktop or laptop, but your field crew will likely need mobile log-in capabilities.