There is a common misconception about farmers that Farm At Hand cofounder Kim Keller wants to wipe out.
“[Farmers] are just people like everyone else,” said Keller, who grew up on a 12,000-acre farm in Saskatchewan and continues to farm to this day. “They use their phones for banking, news, Facebook and Twitter. They are on all of that everyday, because they obviously have lives outside of farming.”
Farm At Hand sprouted from the idea that farmers needed a new solution for managing their inventory, field activities, calendar, deliveries, contracts, equipment and storage. But the problem was that there wasn’t anything out there. So the farmers resulted to the primitive solution: pen and paper.
“On the farm each piece of equipment will have a notebook where the person operating it will have to write everything down,” Keller explains the complications that farmers deal with. “Chances are they didn’t write it down, or if they did write it down it doesn’t make any sense to the person who actually has to read it. Notebooks get lost, get covered in water, coffee, whatever. It’s a matter of not having information for record keeping and it ends up costing a lot of money in mistakes.”
The goal for Farm At Hand is to streamline the management process by creating a single point of data entry for the famers and a single point of access for agriculture businesses. Whether the farmers are tracking the growth of a potato or the pesticide spray in an acre of crop, the optimal results can only be reached when the work is communicated and tracked effectively.
“We have a lot of record keeping and data that comes into the program,” said Himanshu Singh, co-founder of Farm At Hand, “but actually turning it around and supplying summary of the data, providing summarized report of the end of seeding and things like that is what makes the application valuable.”
“When farming operations gets large with so many different people around, farmers need to make sure that task are completed,” added Singh. “[Farm At Hand] is just a better way of visualizing that information.”
Farming jobs change depending on the seasons and so does the way farmers use Farm At Hand features. During the growing season, the field planting and spraying features are used predominantly. Then as farmers approach the harvest season in the fall, they begin to use the storage features. In the winter, the equipment, contracts and sales features are used. Farm At Hand is built with farmer’s various workloads in mind, understanding that at any given time of the year certain jobs will shift and so must the usage of the application.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations by 2050 farmers are required to produce twice as much food to feed a growing population. It might seem like a long time from now, but the day is fast approaching. While more farmlands and farmers may seem like a plausible answer in the next 35 years, Farm At Hand believes that the real solution is in managing and organizing the system we already have for increased efficiency.
“I’m not sure if things are changing quickly,” said Keller, “or if people realize how important their food source is now, but agriculture is earning a lot of interest and farmers know they need something better.”