At barchart’s Grain Merchandising & Technology Conference in Nashville on September 10-12, I got to see up close how merchandising technology providers and agribusinesses are working alongside each other to solve the biggest challenges facing the industry today. Conference speakers from agriculture cooperatives coast to coast each shared similar challenges they’re experiencing, like data management and integration, labor shortages and time scarcity.
They each also addressed how the adoption of new technology and collaborative partnerships can improve the efficiency of grain operations.
Data Integration and collaboration among industry players
Agribusinesses often use multiple software programs and platforms, creating a major need to integrate their data into one system. This focus on enabling seamless data movement between platforms is increasingly bringing technology providers together to collaborate on making agribusiness operations more efficient.
Industry collaboration on data integration was addressed at barchart's Grain Merchandising & Technology Conference in a panel discussion featuring Pam Rincker, president and founder of AgVance; Duey Yliniemi, general manager of Greenstone Systems - a Cultura Company; and Ernie Chappell, president of Ever.Ag Agribusiness.
“We wouldn't have seen a panel like this five years ago,” said Chappell. “Look who's on the stage -- we all know and talk to each other. This is how we're going to make a difference to ag retailers and grain elevators.”
Kevin Clausen, principal of John Stewart and Associates, spoke on another panel at barchart’s Grain Merchandising & Technology Conference, emphasizing the value of networking and collaboration within the industry.
Clausen said openness to learning from peers and building relationships with other companies can lead to more efficient solutions and help avoid the pitfalls of trying to build tech solutions in-house. Reinventing the wheel isn’t necessary if you can rely on the experiences of others in your network.
“If I had these types of relationships with people in this room 10 or 15 years ago, I wouldn’t have made some mistakes,” Clausen said. “I've learned a lot just in a few short hours about some things that we're doing as traders and there are probably some people in this room that are better at some things than I am.”
Making connections with those who possess the skills and knowledge your organization needs can make all the difference.
Solving problems with smarter technology
While the speakers acknowledge that technology won't eliminate the need for human involvement, they believe that it can make human operators smarter and more efficient. By providing access to data and engaging technologies, agribusinesses can empower their personnel to make better-informed decisions and operate more effectively.
For example, the use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) is a crucial technology for facilitating data exchange and integration among different software systems. The speakers mentioned that API technology allows for real-time data exchange and has played a significant role in improving data flow in the industry.
Panelists also agreed the data management software, Tableau has played an important role in improving efficiency within agribusinesses. Clausen called Tableau a game-changer for data analysis at John Stewart and Associates and urged agribusinesses to seek similar partners that can help streamline data collection and presentation, allowing them to focus on more valuable tasks.
“[Tableau] was one of the biggest advancements over the last six months,” he said. “We used to spend our time gathering data together to put it in a format that customers want to consume, but we found better ways to do that and spend more of our time analyzing data — our true consulting work — rather than plugging away at data. I urge you to analyze what you do and find a partner in this room that can help you pull data together more efficiently and in a user-friendly format.”
Data management, integration and analysis present issues for companies across the agricultural spectrum. For grain merchandisers and their technology providers, collaboration and technology adoption are helping them reach solutions faster to overcome these.