While it is important to know the where and when an issue occurred when managing a fresh produce operation with technology, the true solutions are in understanding why it happened and how to address it. Trimble, a technology firm whose agriculture products and solutions span the globe, is among the few that answer many of these questions along this entire spectrum.
“There are many companies that can tell you where something occurred and the issues you are facing, like lower yield in a section of the field. But, there are fewer that can tell you what is driving the yield variability. And even fewer that can help you find ways to remedy it,” Matt Denninger, Director of Customer Success, explains to me as we discuss the vastness of Trimble’s offerings. “Many can show you relative vegetation index across fields, but fewer can show you specific soil attributes with what I call our ‘four-foot MRI of the soil’ and provide guidance on how to address what was found. Each step is critical.”
Matt joined the Trimble Ag team in 2014, and in those few short years he has watched how rapidly the company transformed and grew to fit the demands of its audience—which is exactly how it has become a vast pool of technologies, industries, and offerings.
“In agriculture alone, Trimble solutions are being used across 125 million acres worldwide, as well as in more than 250,000 displays in tractors. Our guidance displays enable a broader spectrum of available labor to execute farming operations and collect as-applied coverage maps for record keeping,” Matt says. “My primary function in Trimble is to ensure customers have an excellent experience with their Trimble Ag Software.”
The numbers seem to show that he and his team are succeeding: Trimble has offices in 35 countries and a portfolio boasting more than 1,200 patents. The company itself says that, though best known for GPS technology, it integrates a wide range of positioning technologies, including GPS, laser, optical, and inertial technologies with application software, wireless communications, and services. Touting the motto “transforming the way the world works by delivering products and services that connect the physical and digital worlds,” its integrated solutions look to allow customers to collect, manage, and analyze complex information faster and easier. The result? Better productivity, more efficiency, and better return on investment (ROI) for its partners.
“ROI, in my opinion, is a key factor after understanding ‘how to address.’ Farmers are using ROI on a regular basis, and it is critical to know the cost-per-unit of production (CPUP) as part of the decision-making process,” Matt clarifies, explaining that while most have solid yield projections and access to market prices, some might not know on a per unit basis what their cost of production is for any given commodity, field, or management zone.
TRANSFORMING THE WAY THE WORLD WORKS BY DELIVERING PRODUCTS AND SERVICES THAT CONNECT THE PHYSICAL AND DIGITAL WORLDS.
“One of the more frequent topics of conversation we’ve engaged in when discussing ROI is without knowing their CPUP. Not having this information creates a challenge in judging whether a decision is more likely to create higher or lower gross income. The farmer, or someone they trust, has a significant opportunity to identify specific fields or sections that have less profit potential on a CPUP basis, potentially enabling them to avoid over-applying inputs and reducing profits,” Matt shares.
To get to how Trimble became the solutions provider it is today, we need to take it back to the steps it took to match those needs in the industry, and what it is about fresh produce that necessitates a versatile tech partner.
The latter is a bit easier to grasp, especially as we are plenty familiar with what Matt has to share about stewards of the land. “Our software and solutions are broad because each farmer uses different practices and cultures,” he says.
In addition to this very simple rule of farming, any number of variables can come into play. From the soil and crop market conditions growers live within, to cultural practices they were raised implementing and, of course, the weather, all are contributing factors to what call Trimble might need to answer. Or, as Matt describes them, ‘guard rails.’
"IN AGRICULTURE ALONE, TRIMBLE SOLUTIONS ARE BEING USED ACROSS 125 MILLION ACRES WORLDWIDE, AS WELL AS IN MORE THAN 250,000 DISPLAYS IN TRACTORS."
–Matt Denninger, Director of Customer Success
“On top of that, each farm operator has their primary operational decision driver. It might be yield, delivery, quality, or equipment/labor utilization. Growers approach their priorities and pain-points from unique directions, and our broad portfolio offering helps them better serve their customers,” he explains.
Then there is Trimble’s own evolution from a geospatial positioning company founded in 1978 to what it is today. Now involved in land survey, construction, agriculture, transportation, telecommunications, asset tracking, mapping, utilities, mobile resource management, even government, Trimble has become a technology solutions force.
The key to spreading anything, from stories to business strategies, is the ease of networking. So, Trimble’s virtually painless implementation has primed it for global growth.
“Our software is not designed to replace ERPs. It is easy to use and modular. You only use what suits your operations without needing to know the entire solution,” he shares. “Many users of our solutions tell me that they spend considerable time looking at data already. They do not want to look at more data; they want to be directed where to look.”
To keep from giving you or your partners more work, Trimble’s software provides larger farms and food processors with “management by exception” functionality, meaning you can quickly see results and items that fall outside of your control limits.
“This way, you can spend a few moments reviewing a report, recognize there are no new fires, and can go back to the critical priorities of the day,” Matt describes. “Our customers come back to us saying, ‘I am shocked at what we have been tolerating all this time. I could have been spending my time on more valuable tasks and priorities.’”
Those, Matt says, are the aha moments that help companies embrace software and the change it brings.
“For those who want to further understand what is causing variability to maximize profitability, we can help,” Matt answers when I ask what his bumper sticker message for the produce sector for such a comprehensive company might be. “We can also help those facing increasing FSMA and GAP compliance demands by managing your information in one place, with easy access from your phone, freeing up more time.”
As it becomes increasingly important to be at the cutting edge in our industry, and to save every minute, Trimble seems like a good partner to have in your pocket.