Paper Records Begone! Startup’s Organizational Software Helps Farmers Go Digital
December 3, 2012 | Ron Russ
You would think the only cloud a farmer would be interested in would be one that brings rain. However, with the start-up software company FarmLogs, farmers can now look to cloud-stored software to help organize, manage, research, and increase profitability on their farms. Co-Founders Jesse Vollmar and Brad Koch aim to change the way farmers keep and view their data, in the simplest and most effective way possible.
Based out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Farmlogs was founded in January of 2012 by Jesse (CEO) and Brad (CTO) a year after the two graduated from Saginaw Valley State University.
Jesse grew up working on his family’s 1,200-acre organic farm in Caro, Michigan. It was there that Jesse learned the ins and outs of the farming business, the importance of organization and the challenges that come with it. Although Jesse speaks with fondness as he describes working on the farm, he knew that at a certain point, “I needed to move into the technology space. I knew it was something that I just had to do.” After his jump from crops to computers, Jesse founded an IT consulting company with his business partner Brad before they ever received the inspiration to create FarmLogs.
“We started developing software for a local organic grain elevator and while we were building that, people in our community began to reach out and ask us when it would be ready. They thought we were building farm management software!” This is when the light bulb went off in the minds of Jesse and Brad. They witnessed how interested people were in organizational software, “stepped back and realized that this is a huge industry that doesn’t have great software, and with our background in farming and technology, we realized that we were the perfect people to solve this problem.”
Wanting to make sure the initial interest wasn’t a fluke, Jesse and Brad spent months speaking directly with farmers to ensure that there was a real demand for this type of software within the farming industry. The common consensus was that most farmers simply used a pen and paper to keep records and that they would be very interested in software that would help make the process simpler and more manageable. Jesse clarifies that “not only did we feel that it was a great opportunity to create something that had high value and impact, but it’s also a great way to give back to our communities and help people in the process.”
How FarmLogs Works
Upon signing up online, FarmLogs users are prompted to enter data about their farm including acreage, crops grown, tractors and implements used and more. Farmers then can access this data via either a Smartphone or web-browser. Within FarmLogs, users can navigate the software’s multiple tabs appearing on their personal dashboard including: Farm Data, Map, Resources, Reports, Calendar, Market and Weather. The FarmLogs software automatically updates market prices, weather, and local/regional news for its users. Your personal farm data is sorted and calculated based on the information that you input into the system on a daily basis. For example, if you have 30 acres of farmland and yesterday, you tilled 3 acres and planted sugar beets; you will click on your “Farm” tab and add the “New Activity” into your database with any applicable numbers. This information provides the user with a living record of his activity that he can then sort, print, share, and analyze against past farm production, or however the farmer sees fit. Think of it as the “Turbo Tax” of farming data – instead of you writing and calculating your numbers by hand, you input your numbers into the automated web-based software and the math and filing is done for you.
Jesse clarifies that they want to help “make it very clear where the farm’s performance is coming from. Farmers put a lot of attention in their crops and there is a lot that goes into getting great results. They need to keep track of what worked and what didn’t work.” A lesson learned the hard way by a Midwest farmer who explained to Jesse why he needs this software – “[the farmer] planted seeds that were [defective] and when he needed to be reimbursed, the company that sold him the seed asked for his records and receipts. The farmer couldn’t find his records and was ultimately out $30,000. With FarmLogs, that wouldn’t have happened.”
As for how they create a revenue stream, Farmlogs’ income comes from a subscription-based model. Currently, users are primarily row-croppers (corn, soybean and wheat) located in the “Corn Belt” of the Midwest. However, Jesse explains that they also have product farmers, vineyards, and urban gardens using their software in both the United States and abroad. Knowing that they need to build a sustainable company that’s profitable, Jesse and Brad are looking to increase their services beyond row-croppers to reach everyday family farmers as well – “We don’t want this to be exclusively for larger farms. We want to find ways to make this affordable so that we don’t have to turn people away because of funds. That’s what we’re working on now as well.“
When asked where they’re looking to take the business, Jesse seems to be focused on current improvement and feedback more than anything else. “We’re really trying to get as many people to use the software and give us feedback as possible. We want farmer’s to have everything they need to simplify their business and to increase profitability as well.”