Croatian Startup Offers Cloud-based, Data-driven Dairy Farming Tool
March 28, 2014 | Helen Weatherall
Years of observing and assisting his father on his family’s farm in Croatia informed Matija Kopic about the intricacies of running a dairy farm. The problem Kopic identified is not a shortage of data, dedication or diligence – but time. After leaving the farm and gaining information technology expertise, Kopic set out to remedy the problem with powerful software and a start-up he named Farmeron.
Founded in Osijek, Croatia, the capital of the country’s well-known farming region Slavonia, Farmeron is a cloud-based comprehensive management tool for dairy farmers.
Farmeron’s American presence includes a headquarters in Palo Alto, California and offices in Columbus, Ohio and Minneapolis, Minnesota, with plans to expand into the southeast and southwest.
Launched in 2010, Farmeron allows farmers to manage all aspects of their dairy or beef operations remotely, in real-time. Conceived and designed to serve all farmers, from those with small herds of 10-12 animals to farmers running operations with dairy cows or beef cattle numbering in the hundreds and even thousands, Farmeron provides its service through a monthly or annual web subscription. The cost is calculated per animal and is set as a flat fee. All services such as setup, customer support and maintenance are included.
Dave Saunders, Farmeron’s sales director, stresses that the company seeks to accommodate farmers of varying circumstances and to be equitable.
“With small producers, every animal matters and with them we are able to offer incentive deals to help them grow,” he says.
Upon subscribing, farmers receive access to a data management system that allows them to store information on individual animals, feed, finances and more. And besides tracking a cow’s food intake, milk production, veterinary records and fertility—all important information for managing the here and now—Farmeron’s algorithms are also able create projections using actual and hypothetical data. Costly inefficiencies resulting from guesswork can therefore be avoided. Farmers are able to set targets and build models that serve as guides to achieving them.
“If you set your targets and define your resources accordingly, the system will immediately recognize “gray zones” and “black zones”, which are the zones where some kind of overlap or deficiency exists,” says chief product strategist, Ana Herman.
“Sometimes it indicates a need to rethink the entire business model,” Herman adds.
Farmeron’s cloud computing capabilities benefit farmers and associated business communities in three ways, according to Herman.
First, farmers do not have to be physically present on the farm to know what’s happening in real time.
Second, farmers can collaborate with people or firms external to their farm. Farmeron’s system includes authorizations so farmers can, for example, decide to share feed material nutrition facts ups with his nutritionist, or share future material requirements with his vendor, or to share some other parts of system with his accountant.
Third, Farmeron’s system allows for the seamless sharing of information between members of groups such as farming cooperatives.
“This eliminates the need to generate reports, and adds to clarity and transparency, as well as facilitating coordination and, possible, synergies,” says Herman.
Farmeron addresses sustainability through building efficiency and self-sufficiency, according to Herman.
“If one would devotedly pursue efficiency and sustainability one would be truly profitable,” she says. “When we mention sustainability, we should not forget to incorporate the concept of self-sufficiency. One who is not self-sufficient cannot be truly sustainable.”
In its current form, Farmeron is exclusively devoted to dairy production, but a program geared to beef will be made available to subscribers within months.
“We are developing crops modules as well,” says Herman. “From the very beginning we were thinking of entire agriculture, not just some particular segment, such as dairy. It would be a huge waste of knowledge and insights if we would not deliver the benefits not only for agriculture, but also for the entire food supply chain.”
Looking to the challenges ahead Kopic, Herman, Saunders and the rest of the Farmeron team maintain optimism. Saunders acknowledges that other management tools exist to compete with Farmeron, something he sees not as a drawback but a boon.
“John Deere is a good example, they sell farm management software, but we can add value to what John Deere offers,” says Saunders. “And we can integrate with any company that has a cloud system. The cloud is the future.”
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