Farmers in the target market, i.e., the ones who have many acres to manage, adopted mobile technology because they are often on the move and do most of their work remotely.
Zimmerman explains: “Combines basically run themselves these days so what do you think the farmer is doing in the cab while it’s running? It’s production time; they are in there working, managing the farm and making decisions while on the go in the field.”
The customers of feed mills and grain elevators, the farmers, are the same as the average mobile consumer: They want to access information immediately via a reliable service.
“In the precision area and livestock industry, information management on an instant basis is what [producers] are becoming dependent upon to make quick decisions,” Zimmerman says.
From a customer service standpoint, consider how a custom mobile application could better serve the clients of grain houses and feed mills?
While localized co-ops, elevators and mills may not be on this level, it doesn’t mean their customers aren’t ready for it.
“Producers are impatient and frustrated the rest of agribusiness is slow to recognize that they don’t want to sit at the box anymore,” Gredig says. “If your website, your newsletter, your communications — the customer’s account information — isn’t mobile, if you’re not paying attention to that, you’re missing the producers who have moved over to the mobile mind-set.”
Mobile aids in ensuring regulatory compliance
An increased emphasis on regulatory compliance has agribusinesses looking for new technologies to streamline inventory management and traceability. Bar and lot code tracking is probably most prevalent for wireless devices, but the use of mobile applications is on the rise, for example, in the streamlining of data gathering and record keeping.
“We do believe the future will bring more suppliers to our customers who supply a bill of lading for bagged ingredients containing lot codes and associated bar codes for scanning and identification,” says Alan Berndtson, director of sales, WEM Automation. “The demand from the feed industry for its suppliers to implement that type of technology ties directly into track and trace requirements from the initial supplier right on through the manufacturing process. This will reduce manual data entry errors and allow for both tracking the ingredients coming into the mill and then used in the manufacturing process.”
Duey Yliniemi, vice president of product strategy and development with FMS, agrees: “The potential for mobile systems to help customers keep track of specific ingredient lots and quantities in a particular feed order is a huge advantage when it comes to FDA compliance. This is a growth area in agribusiness.”
Real-time decision making = productivity gains
The most obvious uses for mobile applications are news, weather and prices — helpful, but ubiquitous. The future of the technology in agribusiness will focus on real-time, direct decision-making capabilities.
“Mobile applications will continue to move more toward production and improving efficiency,” says Ernest Bollinger, president at WEM Automation Inc. “When you look at RFID and mobile devices — the ones that allow users to acknowledge plant alarms and things — that makes for good business.”
There is a growing interest in mobile applications that allow the user to give simple approvals based on direct notifications. Events, for example, when a new formula needs approval or the cost variants are higher than expected, would trigger a notification.
“Customers want to view the quantity of grain in a bin on their hand-held device; they want to be able to make decisions remotely that are delivered back to the ERP; and they want it to automatically update in inventory — it’s what people think their software companies should be offering today,” Harner, FMS, says.
Employees do not necessarily need to have mobile access to their company’s entire database. Harner insists a data dashboard, featuring key components and functions that allow the user to dig as deep as they want, better serve the end user.