How to Survive the Ag Industry’s Holiday Hangover

Agriculture combine harvester

Are you feeling it? The holiday hangover that left a warpath of stress and anxiety?

The gift-shopping, dessert-baking, party-hosting, nut-cracking craziness of December is enough to make most people want to hide alone in a dark corner until winter has officially thawed and spring has officially sprung.

We all feel it. Now, add the increasing stress, anxiety and overall demand of your job; December is supposed to be a time when everyone takes a little break, setting their automatic out-of-office reply to “See you in the New Year!” But if you work as a commodity trader or on a feed mill in the ag industry, that might not be an option. Production is year-round, and even though we tell ourselves “we’ll plan ahead next year” or “that new staff member will lessen the burden,” the reality is we don’t always have control over those things; we’re often just trying to keep our heads above water and figure out how to do more with less.

Instead of being conditioned to merely survive the busy holiday season, it’s time to find an effective and efficient solution that will help you thrive in it.

Workflow Management and Automation

In order to balance your time and schedule (and sanity!), utilizing workflow management and automation technology is your best bet. The first benefit you’ll notice is the drastically reduced amount of errors that routinely fall through the cracks.

Feed mills continually order different products from different locations at different times in order to prepare their feed. That’s a lot to keep track of, and having the capacity to manually check these orders is unreasonable. Feed mills will benefit by using technology that gives them full insights into their milling operations, whether they operate independently or are a part of a cooperative. They’ll save time when it comes to product management, expediting processes by automatically generating billing and batching documentation or notifying milling operations on manufacturing requirements and recipe usage.

And commodity traders need access to the position of their product, where and when it is being transferred and the profitability of each product at all times; if a customer calls, the trader is in charge of knowing exactly what requires immediate action and what can wait. Dashboard technology that supports workflow automation and management gives traders a quick panel view of all alerts and notifications of events that require action as well as access to purchasing and sales contracts to make sure they’re on target.

Michael Dix, founder of Intentional Futures, shares with Tech Crunch:

Agricultural technology is beginning to force industry-wide digitization that could usher in an era of more sustainable production. The ubiquity of smartphones and fast mobile internet moves market information about input costs, commodity values and inventories across the agricultural ecosystem. Maybe it’s taken longer than it could have (or should have), but agriculture has become the latest industry to be unbundled by technology.

In order to close the gap between shrinking resources and increasing demand, commodity traders and small to mid-size feed mills must optimize technology resources in order to keep the cracks sealed shut.

FSMA and VFD Compliance

FSMA

First, let’s start with the Food Modernization Safety Act (FSMA). In 2011, the U.S. government shifted its focus from responding to food contamination to preventing it altogether. FSMA regulations now require comprehensive and prevention-based controls across all food suppliers; the specific number of times the FDA should inspect food producers; and that foreign suppliers also have adequate preventative controls in place. This allows the FDA to be able to reinforce mandatory recall authority for all products at any time.

If you work as a commodity trader or at a feed mill, you know first-hand that recalls are expensive, costing American farmers millions of dollars every year. Currently, food safety is challenged by multiple recall reporting procedures that are time and resource consuming. Add to the challenge the ability (or inability) to trace products; currently, there’s not enough data traceability (including ingredient lots and supplier sources) in the reporting of food- and feed-related problems to determine the cause.

A SaaS platform that automates recall problem reporting and provides system inquires against known contaminated products at the ingredient lot level not only eliminates these challenges, but it operates instinctively, freeing up a user’s time and allocated resources.

Feed manufacturing systems now have the capability to readily identify and trace adulterated ingredients and prevent further feed production inclusive of that ingredient lot, providing improved food security in feed manufacturing.

VFD

The Veterinary Feed (VFD) has also made headlines recently becoming a critical component of animal feed-grade antibiotic use. All feed mills and distributors are now required to have a completed VFD form to accompany all feed with qualifying medications.  Having a vet phone in the form is no longer sufficient; an email or paper trail is now required, and veterinarians and producers are required to keep a copy of the VFD on file for two years.

For many mills, this new rule could be a major thorn in their side with hours of manual paperwork occupying employees time. Implementing a technology platform gives feed mills the capability to:

  • Create and store VFD agreements between customer and veterinarian for controlled ingredients and feed.
  • Manage record keeping requirements and provide controls to prevent distribution of any VFD-controlled substance without the proper VFD documentation.
  • Identify and trace all feed and resale products that include the controlled substances.

Sprout Solutions is the solution

The idea of expanding on efficiencies, minimizing waste and maximizing production is the foundation of our agriculture technology systems, Milling Station and CommodiTrade. We believe that technology has the ability to better serve the agriculture community and that by making these improvements, traders and mill operators will see increased efficiency, agility and profitability year after year.

Avoid next year’s holiday hangover and limit your stress to the gift-shopping, dessert-baking, party-hosting, nut-cracking craziness like the rest of us.

 

Gretchen Henry is the co-founder and CEO at Sprout Solutions, a full-service software platform that provides mills and merchandisers in the agricultural industry with accurate, Web-based tools and systems to ensure the food they produce is not only safe, but traceable. Connect with Sprout Solutions on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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