Three Ways to Run a Successful Harvest

Kari Wozniak | September 11, 2017

What makes a successful harvest for Granular growers? As a Customer Success Manager, it’s my job to know the answer to that question. Over the summer, I helped prep more than 50 farms for the upcoming season, many of whom have already begun their harvest. Although every farm has a unique combination of crops, acreage, and labor, in my experience the most successful farms prioritize the following three principles to ensure a successful harvest.

1.) Train and coordinate the team to run a more efficient operation

“We win on efficiency.” That’s a phrase I hear all the time. In today’s environment, it pays to reduce costs anywhere you can. From Danny Klinefelter’s Sweat the Small Stuff blog, 5% differences in yield, price, and cost will drive significant increases in financial performance. The top 25% of farms were only 5% above average in these measures, whereas the bottom 25% were 5% below average. To be in the top 25% in efficiency, all aspects of the operation must prepare for the tasks at hand. Growers test equipment and technology before the season begins. Managers train employees that are less skilled and cross-train other employees so that there’s extra bandwidth on the team. The most prepared growers develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) that they issue and reuse each year, making jobs easier to assign and complete. Some managers go further here by uploading their SOPs on tablet devices and placing in farm machinery, so instructions are always on hand.
These managers are highly focused on keeping the team in sync in order to buffer against the multitude of variables that they see in a given farming season. Successful teams maximize performance by communicating efficiently and controlling against operator fatigue and risk. Teams keep radio chatter to a minimum so that operators can focus on the job at hand. Managers enforce safety rules, such as no texting while driving, to protect operators from accidents. They also collect daily work summaries to root out any sources of inefficiency, and if necessary, adjust their processes mid-harvest.

2.) Track the most accurate yield source throughout harvest

It is hard to keep track of yield without the right tools, and successful farms develop fast, easy ways to aggregate their data. They track yields digitally and eliminate hours logging tickets, while also automatically generating custom yield reports. They often go further and collect moisture, quality metrics, and other activity costs to understand the full picture of their harvest season.
When it comes to harvest, these farmers think carefully about their sources of yield data, be it the combine, grain cart, or truck scales (read the recent blog about the Pitfalls of Inaccurate Harvest Yield Data, which outlines the main benefits and drawbacks of each source). Whatever the source, successful farms know it pays to have accurate yield information.
These farmers have a leg up on ordering seed, and share their hybrid performance data with vendors as soon as it’s available. They negotiate next year’s rents with landowners that may even ride along in the combine cab. They share information with external partners such as banks and landowners to maintain sound business relationships. Specifically, one Granular customer has a landowner that receives professional year-end reports from two of the 50 operations they work with (both Granular customers), and they love them!

3.) Monitor crop inventory balances and contracts in real-time

Manually checking inventory during the thick of harvest is not an efficient use of a grower’s time, nor does it guard against errors or theft. Successful farms actively manage their inventory to increase their earnings potential. With a clear, accurate understanding of the farm’s inventory position, growers and operators can market crop more confidently. By monitoring key quality metrics like test weight and protein, and managing storage based on those metrics, growers are able to sell their crop to the customer offering the highest premium. For example, growers in the wheat belt can fill contracts at a +$0.50/bu premium because they know exactly how much high protein inventory they have on hand and where it is.
Contract details vary quite a bit by date, volume, price, and status. Mistakes happen when delivering crops against contracts. For example, elevators may incorrectly spot a delivery or attribute a load to the wrong contract, which can result in thousands of dollars in losses. Successful farms reconcile throughout the season to save time unwinding messy mistakes down the road.

Working Hard or Working Smart?

Every farm must plan their operations, track accurate yield sources, and stay in tune with their crop inventory balances to be successful. Top growers sustain their advantage over time, and these gains compound themselves because they find ways to keep improving efficiency. Harvest season has so many moving parts, and successful farmers prioritize those factors that most acutely affect their bottom line.
Using Granular can help improve your efficiency by turning data into actionable insights. Learn more about how Granular can help you run a more efficient operation.

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