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Build a competitive advantage in a modernizing farmland market with Granular’s FMS and AcreValue

Three years ago, Mike and I set out to build farm management software (FMS) to help farms make better business decisions by making better use of their farm data. We realized early on that while farms were using Granular FMS to optimize their existing operations, they also wanted tools to help them grow their farms.
Helping Farms Grow Bigger with AcreValue
Our customer had to make a big land related decisions. These are just a few examples of the hard questions farms had to answer:

What rent should I pay for my existing land?
Do I have the right profit margin and management controls to expand?
If so, what ground can I add to my operation and at what price?
How do I market myself effectively to prospective new landlords and capital partners?

That’s why Granular acquired AcreValue and launched it as our second product in January 2016. Patterned after Zillow and similar tools in residential real estate, AcreValue aggregates real estate and agronomic data on every parcel of farmland in the U.S., offers valuation estimates and publishes comparable sales.
Farms commonly use AcreValue to foster relationships with their landowners. When they are looking to rent or purchase land, they come to the table with professional AcreValue reports on the value of the land, soil ratings, crop history, sales data and more. This puts them in a much stronger position to market themselves to a new landowner or a capital partner and have a successful negotiation.
Launching New and Powerful AcreValue Features
AcreValue has taken off in the last year, attracting not just farmers, but also landowners, brokers, appraisers and bankers. AcreValue’s 30K+ registered accounts visit the site over 100K times each month and usage has been doubling every six months.

Over the next few months we will be adding valuation estimates in more states, water rights data, custom mapping tools, and sale listings. We will also be launching a paid version of AcreValue, called AcreValue PRO, with powerful search tools that allow users to prospect for land nationwide using screening criteria like owner, valuation, size, soil quality and more. With both its FMS and AcreValue products, Granular is working to give its farm customers a competitive advantage in the modernizing land market.
Integrating AcreValue with Granular FMS
The farmland real estate market and the farming market are both professionalizing and consolidating. Both markets are becoming less local, less relationship-driven and more business-oriented. We believe that the relationship between landowner and farm operator is going to become more professional, more transparent and more data-driven over time.
Granular FMS already helps farms share production data with landlords, calculate share rent, and analyze rental rates relative to yield history. Using our relationships with large institutional land investors, Granular has brokered many introductions that have helped our FMS customers connect with institutional capital partners interested in their geographic area. But this is just the beginning.
In the coming months, we will launch advanced AcreValue features that are only available to farms using Granular FMS. These features will allow Granular farms to market themselves on a confidential and pre-qualified basis to landlords and get early notification on land coming up for sale.
We believe Granular FMS and AcreValue together give our customers the right tools to manage better (profit per acre) and bigger (more acres) farms.

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With the 2016 harvest season all wrapped up, it is time to think ahead and start planning for the 2017 season. Mike Preiner, head of Granular Data Science, breaks down his team’s most recent land rent analysis, and shares practical tips for data-driven rent negotiation. He is joined by Justin Durdan, Managing Partner at Durdan Farms, and Christopher Lee, Director of Sales at Granular.
In this webinar, they discuss the following:

1. How to more accurately forecast yield for each of your fields and compare it to land costs

2. How to objectively evaluate each of your land agreements

3. Identify the analyses you need to run on your farm to become a more effective negotiator and improve your land rent costs

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How a Potato Grower Found 11% More Profit Using Granular

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What would you do if your agronomist told you that planting your crop at 1,000 ft in elevation was a sure way to increase your yield by 5 bu/acre? You’d probably step back and wonder if you’re getting your money’s worth from your consultant. What if, instead, the benchmarking program you pay for told you that? For many farms, that is exactly the kind of results they’re spending money on.

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.18.19 AM
Example 1. Judging by the red “error bars”, this analysis suggests that someone is very confident that yield changes dramatically by changing elevation by 300 ft.
In the last few years, a lot of time and money has been spent publicizing the benefits of cross-farm comparisons and analyses. “Benchmarking” has claimed its spot in ag’s top buzzwords, and while a lot of benefit can come with understanding how your operation stacks up against peer farms, conclusions need to be drawn accurately and carefully. Poor benchmarking can encompass many problems, ranging from data quality (such as aggregating incomplete or mislabeled data) to inaccurate analysis. Many readers will probably be familiar with “as planted” files that have the wrong hybrid listed, but there are also many examples of incorrect analysis that are harder to catch.
Issues with analysis methodology and visualization are often the easiest to spot. Here are some more examples we’ve seen in the market – we’ve recreated the original data to preserve the anonymity of the companies involved:
Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.20.25 AM
Example 2. This suggests that yield goes up at 130k and 170k seeds/acre, but somehow 160k seeds per acre is bad for your field.
Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.20.34 AM
Example 3. This plot suggests that a) yields go down after you reach a soil productivity index of 0.3 and b) some people are farming ground that has a negative productivity index – something that doesn’t even exist in reality!
Most farmers looking at the charts above would realize this issues and not make a decision based on the visualization output. However, it is difficult or often impossible to judge the methodology or the data quality that went into the analysis. For example, one of the most common analyses published is a ranking of yield by variety, which typically shows up as a table like this:
Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.20.46 AM
Example 4. Yield by Variety Analysis
In this example, the farmer typically has no way to tell if the data or analysis used to make the table was sound. They thus need to trust that the data they are are using is high quality data that has been analyzed properly…a trust that is sometimes misplaced. Here are some practical takeaways to keep in mind when you are looking at benchmarking data:
1. Find companies that you trust. Finding bad data is like finding a mouse: if you spot it once, there is probably a lot more that you haven’t noticed.
2. Make sure the results you see pass the “common sense” test: do the results make logical sense? Hint: several of the conclusions you could draw from the examples shown above don’t.
3. Understand the sample set and make sure you are looking at data that is representative and relevant for your particular operation. “Yield by variety” that includes irrigated land in Nebraska, for example, isn’t that helpful if you are a dryland farmer in Kansas.
4. Remember that the value of benchmarking can be positive or negative: making a poor decision from questionable analysis can be a lot more expensive than what you paid to subscribe to the benchmarking service
5. Correlation is not causation. Here is a simple example: people plant slower on hills. If yield is lower on steep slopes, an analysis of yield vs. planting speed will make it look like planting slower is bad for yield. Also, adding more farms to the sample won’t fix the problem, so don’t fall for the line “more farms average out potential errors”.
6. Make sure you understand why the company is providing you benchmarking: is their business based on providing accurate data, or do they have another way of making money? Good benchmarking takes a lot of work and focus – it shouldn’t be a company’s afterthought.
Despite the preceding examples, we think that benchmarking is here to stay, and that it can provide a lot of real value. There is a lot of well analyzed, useful benchmarking programs out there (you can read about some of our at work at Granular here and here). However, the quality of data in the marketplace currently varies tremendously, and benchmarking as a whole runs the risk of ending up with a bad reputation. Before you make important business decisions based on a benchmarking or cross-farm analytics program, look closely at where the data comes from and how it was analyzed – not just where you show up relative to others!

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2016 is here, and with the new year comes a whole new set of financial, operational and agronomic decisions to be made for the next growing season. With the economic environment expected to continue to be tough, 2016 also seems to be the year when farmers will truly begin to look at their farm’s data as a way to make better business decisions, get a tighter grip on their margins, and build a competitive advantage with Farm Management Software.

This is where all the talk about Farm Management Software (FMS) comes in. There are countless options for investing your limited time and resources in technology, but before you jump into evaluating features, price, and other product-related aspects, make sure you have the right mindset. In our experience, successful implementation and use of FMS comes when farmers exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Have an ability to recognize and act on opportunities, even during hardship. Growth historically happens during challenging times. Farm management software can help you manage more acres as you expand, but recognizing this means having a longer term perspective on the future of the farm business and making an investment for the future.
  • Be open to change. FMS should transform how your farm operates, for the better. But transformation implies a willingness to do things differently. You may have relied on paper work orders for generations, and implementing FMS may require you to apply that same discipline to using a mobile app instead. While good FMS should be highly customizable and reflect your particular farm’s workflow, you will inevitably have to change your processes to get the most out of these tools.
  • Even if you’re the one writing the check, recognize that it’s a team decision. You may be the one evaluating options and deciding to implement new software, but if everyone on your team isn’t bought in and committed (see point above), you won’t be utilizing the software to its full potential. Include your ops manager, bookkeeper, and operators in your decision making process.
  • Believe in shared information.   With good FMS, everyone on the team will have access to the information they need to do their jobs in the field and in the office (this is what makes the operation work more efficiently). Not everyone is okay with this – some farmers still want to control the flow of information and decide who should know what, and when.
  • Measure ROI in your own terms. Every farmer we speak with wants to understand what is the ROI for FMS. There is not a single answer to this question: operational efficiency, better understanding of where profits come from, talent attraction and retention, succession planning, etc. are all benefits from FMS (and some are easy to quantify, some are not). Know what you are looking for in the short, medium and longer term.

Implementing Farm Management Software on your farm is an investment, and like any good investment it may take a bit of time to get full value. But the sooner you start, the sooner you will reach your goals.

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Learn how Granular helped a real farm discover that their variety choice was costing them $800 per acre

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While quality has been long understood as a critical driver of profitability in specialty crop operations, it’s been overlooked from a planning and tracking perspective on the commodity side—until now, when margins are so thin. In today’s market, it can be just as important driver of revenue as yield.
Some farmers track quality metrics in spreadsheets, which can make it difficult to draw any conclusions and formulate plans. As a result, quality metrics are generally regarded as nice to have. Why? Because it’s very hard to draw strong correlations between specific operational practices and improved quality.
You can only really start doing anything about crop quality once you have the full picture of what’s going on in your operation—at crop, field and farm levels. Here’s a start:
1. Systematically collect and organize data. The first step is to collect all of the relevant weather, soil, and operational informational for a particular field in one single place so that data is easy to access, compare and manipulate.
2. Look for meaningful relationships. When trying to figure out what drives the highest quality for a particular crop, it’s critical to take into account all of the possible variables and evaluate them separately. Then, look for correlations and create different scenarios that represent your operation.
3. Isolate the biggest drivers of quality and build your operational plans around them. Perform operational analysis to identify practices that increase quality. If a particular practice does not drive performance, it is important to think about saving that expense and switching focus to higher value activities.
Planning for and predicting quality metrics begins with a solid data set and relies on having the ability to understand the financial implications of agronomic decisions at a field level. Understanding what drives quality, can become an important decision-making tool in your arsenal during a time where every small decision matters.

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Finding the right land at the right price is something our customers talk about often, and understandably so – in today’s market, the ability to access new land on favorable terms is a huge source of competitive advantage. As some of you may know, back in April we launched a test version of our farmland analysis site, AcreValue, in 3 states (Iowa, Illinois and Indiana) and we quickly learned from our customers that easy access to this data is invaluable to assessing new ground and negotiating rates on existing ground. So we’ve been spending the last six months dramatically redesigning and expanding AcreValue nationally to make it awesome and more complete, not just for farmers, but also for landowners, investors, bankers, brokers and other industry professionals. The new and expanded AcreValue is finally here.

One of AcreValue’s most important features is its Automated Valuation Model (AVM), the first AVM specifically built for the agriculture industry. AcreValue’s AVM analyzes terabytes of public data about farmland to automatically estimate the value of each field (you can think of Zillow’s “Zestimate” as a relevant example). While we will never be able to fully predict what a parcel of land will trade for, we want to help professionals in the market have an unbiased starting point, and to be able to easily compare across different parcels.
Before joining the team at AcreValue, I helped develop web and mobile products for the 50 million home shoppers using Trulia every month for their home search. Trulia was the first site to bring together home listings, comparable sales, crime maps, school ratings and other neighborhood info so that you could do all of your research in one place. What excites me about AcreValue is bringing together all of the critical data about farmland into a single site, a one-stop shop. AcreValue is not only the first to bring farmland data together in a single site, but to also offer a simple and intuitive user interface and to make the data accessible for free. There is no shortage of public data around farmland – parcel boundaries, characteristics about soils, expected productivity ratings, crop history, yield history, sales, etc. The problem is that this data, up until now, had been hard to find, hard to collect, and hard to summarize.
Visit AcreValue, play around and let us know what you think.

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How a Potato Grower Found 11% More Profit Using Granular

Learn how Granular helped a real farm discover that their variety choice was costing them $800 per acre

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I worked in the Farm Credit System from 1982 to 1987.  Looking back, one of the things that struck me the most was that many farmers remained profitable during this significantly bad period for agriculture. Their market value net worth may have declined as land values fell by half, but their Earned Net Worth (ENW) kept increasing. So after I came back to Texas A&M, I decided to conduct a study of the factors contributing to the changes in ENW between the top 25% and the bottom 25% of producers over the six years between 1982 and 1987.  

The results that surprised me most were the differences in production (yield), prices received and cost of production; they were smaller than I expected. The top 25% of farms were only about 5% above average in these measures, while the bottom 25% were about 5% below average (the really low performers weren’t included in the study because they didn’t remain in the database throughout the period). Significant differences in financial performance were driven by only 5% differences in yield, prices and costs.
In 2013, Dave Kohl stated “the biggest surprise is the widening gap in Net Farm Income from the top 20 percent to the bottom 20 percent. In 2012, the average net farm income was $859,000 for the top 20 percent compared to -$14,000 for the bottom 20 percent. When analyzing the data since 2003, the financial extremes have become greater each year.”
This sheds light on an important point: the top producers tend to sustain their advantage over time, and these gains compound themselves in the form of accumulated equity.  The multimillionaire future Hall of Fame baseball player with the .300 lifetime batting average only gets 1 more hit every 20 times at bat than the .250 hitter. The incremental difference may seem small, but what makes him great is his ability to do it over and over again.
Consider the following scenario:

  • Average corn yield: 200 bushels / acre
  • Average price: $4.00 / bushel
  • Cost per acre: $700.00
  • Net income: $100.00 / acre

What would be the impact per-acre net income beating the averages by 5%?

Factor(s)Impact on Per-Acre Net Income
Yield only (210 bu / acre)$140.00
Price only ($4.20 / bu)$140.00
Cost only ($665 vs. $700)$135.00
Yield and Price$182.00
Yield and Cost$175.00
Price and Cost$175.00
Yield, Price and Cost$217.00

 
Conversely, the per-acre net acre impact of being 5% below average would be:
Factor(s)Impact on Per-Acre Net Income
Yield only (190 bu / acre)$60.00
Price only ($3.80/bu)$60.00
Cost only ($735 vs. $700)$65.00
Yield and Price$22.00
Yield and Cost$25.00
Price and Cost$25.00
Yield, Price and Cost-$13.00

 
Some question the ability to generate higher yields and at the same time have lower costs.  However, it occurs frequently: Producers can rent the same quality ground in the same area and pay significantly different rent. Some achieve lower rents by providing additional services to their landlords.  Others achieve lower costs through economies of scale, by sharing resources with other farmers or simply by making more efficient use of their resources.  Several TEPAP participants share equipment and even labor with producers in other parts of the country.  The examples are endless, because there are always ways to do better and it comes down to management and being willing to change.
Using technology like Granular can often increase yield and reduce costs by turning data into information and information into knowledge.  Variable rate precision planting and varying rates of inputs can yield big dividend, but by tying in cost accounting and drilling down to the individual farm and enterprise/field level, farmers can know exactly where their 5% gains can come from.

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How a Potato Grower Found 11% More Profit Using Granular

Learn how Granular helped a real farm discover that their variety choice was costing them $800 per acre

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September 11, 2017

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Our Continued Committment to Independence and Data Privacy

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Granular was featured in a recent Wall Street Journal article about farmers profiting from data generated on their farms. I wanted to expand on the ideas explored in that article and Granular’s perspective on the applications for farm data. Before co-founding Granular, I was an executive at Nielsen, a $6 billion global company that sells data across a wide variety of industries. Nielsen collects and sells information on TV viewership (the famous “Nielsen Ratings”), grocery store purchases, website traffic, radio listenership and many, many other things. In my role at Nielsen, I learned a lot about how data can help certain industries operate more efficiently.

When I look at the opportunity for data in the agriculture industry, I see three main applications:
1. Data For Better Management Decisions
The best use of data from any individual farm is to help that same farm operate more profitably. Our goal at Granular is to make sure every customer measures their business accurately and uses their data to make better decisions, every day and every season. Furthermore, we believe the operational, financial and agronomic data that Granular captures is each farm’s intellectual property (IP), and one of its most valuable assets. The best farms in the business understand this already and are using Granular to share, protect, and enhance their IP.
2. Data to Learn from Peers
Farmers have historically shared experiences and learned from each other. This back-and-forth knowledge sharing has traditionally been done informally and, more recently, through structured farmer peer groups. By bringing together the best (most professional, growth-oriented) farms in North America on a common software platform, Granular is creating a technology-enabled peer group. Through the Granular software platform our customers are able to accurately and anonymously benchmark their performance against peer farms every day. Granular customers don’t have to wait for a winter meeting to learn from peers or travel somewhere else – they can do it every day from their office by comparing anonymized metrics collected in the software (e.g. What is the average number combine days needed to complete harvest?, or What’s the average price paid per bag of DKC43-46 this season?).
3. Data in Supply Chains
Granular is also helping its customers profit from sharing data off the farm and beyond the Granular peer network. Professional farms understand that access to capital and land is critical to their success and are using Granular to share timely, accurate and complete information with lenders and landlords. By providing a professional interface to access their data, Granular customers make their businesses more competitive (e.g. accessing land at the right price, getting better rates on operating lines). Over the longer term, Granular also sees an opportunity to license data to industry suppliers on an aggregated and anonymized basis (e.g. What is the Monsanto vs. Pioneer hybrid market share on 7,000-10,000 acre farms?). Granular is the only company in the industry that has committed to share the profits from this type of data licensing back with its customers.
Ultimately, nobody can fully predict how data and analytical tools will change farming in the future. However, it is important that farms choose technology partners that they trust to help them navigate this new landscape. Many ag technology companies are giving away their products for free (or at a very low price) today in the hope of discovering a viable business model in the future. This puts them at high risk of needing to do something bold with your data or sell their companies to input suppliers in order to survive. From day 1, it’s been my priority at Granular to make sure we have a business model that works – we build great farm management software and sell it to hundreds of leading farms at a fair and consistent price. We are excited about the future of farm data, but we will pursue those opportunities in very close coordination with our customers because ultimately it’s their data, and they are the foundation of our business.

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How a Potato Grower Found 11% More Profit Using Granular

Learn how Granular helped a real farm discover that their variety choice was costing them $800 per acre

Karl Wozniak, Role
  |  
September 11, 2017

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Our Continued Committment to Independence and Data Privacy

Karl Wozniak, Role
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September 11, 2017

Our Continued Committment to Independence and Data Privacy

Karl Wozniak, Role
  |  
September 11, 2017

Our Continued Committment to Independence and Data Privacy

Karl Wozniak, Role
  |  
September 11, 2017

Industry Insights

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Events

Grow 2018

Granular's Annual Customer CEO Summit

March 21-33, 2018

California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, CA

All Posts

Show All (50)
Industry Insights (6)
Granular Suite (12)
AcreValue (12)
Company News (1)
Specialty Crop (4)

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Granular’s Chairman of the Board of Advisors Kip Tom was featured today in the New York Times.  The article, written by Quentin Hardy, profiles Tom Farms and describes the way in which technology has helped the operation grow and adapt in a rapidly evolving ag industry. We are proud to have such an innovative leader as Kip on the Granular team. Read the full article  (and watch the video) on the NYT site by clicking on the link below.

Latest

How a Potato Grower Found 11% More Profit Using Granular

Learn how Granular helped a real farm discover that their variety choice was costing them $800 per acre

Karl Wozniak, Role
  |  
September 11, 2017

Company News

Our Continued Committment to Independence and Data Privacy

Karl Wozniak, Role
  |  
September 11, 2017

Our Continued Committment to Independence and Data Privacy

Karl Wozniak, Role
  |  
September 11, 2017

Our Continued Committment to Independence and Data Privacy

Karl Wozniak, Role
  |  
September 11, 2017

Industry Insights

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Events

Grow 2018

Granular's Annual Customer CEO Summit

March 21-33, 2018

California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, CA

All Posts

Show All (50)
Industry Insights (6)
Granular Suite (12)
AcreValue (12)
Company News (1)
Specialty Crop (4)

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest