“Dad got me into computers,” says Tom Freeman, who grew up on his family’s arable farm in Worcestershire before building a career in web and software development. “He’d always been into computing and had one of those Amstrad computers back in the 80s.”
But over the years, Tom saw his father struggling with a complicated Excel document he’d created to plan his crop plantings and forecast his profitability.
“He’d used old accounting packages before,” he recalls. “But the problem with them is that they are designed by software developers, not farmers. They’ve gradually got more and more features and become cumbersome, and so my dad got left behind maybe five years ago.”
Tom spent time with his father to understand what he was trying to achieve with his calculations - and then decided to build an online tool for his 70th birthday present.
“He likes it, he thinks it’s great,” says Tom, who plans to roll it out to other growers.
Crop Farmer helps growers plan, forecast and track their crops from year-to-year, alongside quick and easy record-keeping.
The online dashboard allows a grower to add a crop and input data, such as cropping acreage, timing of plantings, expected costs such as fertilisers and spraying, expected yield, and expected or actual price received per tonne.
It then runs a calculation and produces a figure on profitability. Figures can be tweaked as costs and other data become clearer, giving the farmer a valuable tool to plan ahead for cash flow, or to make alterations to increase profitability, including what price they need to sell at.
Ultimately, they are able to see what yield and price they need to achieve to make a profit on their crop.
“It will save time trying to learn complicated packages. Bigger packages are often aimed at bigger growers, but smaller farmers often just want to know how profitable their crops will be. This is a quick and easy tool and not too onerous.”
“It can also be used on the go as a mobile app, so if someone is on a tractor, they can just quickly add the data.”
Tom hopes if used over multiple cropping seasons, the records will also help farmers with future decision making, including what to grow.
Crop Farmer can also be used as an accurate record keeping tool to help farmers pass their annual grain assurance inspections.
The dashboard has been designed with wheat, barley and oil seed rape in mind, but Tom says it could be used for other crops too, in the UK and abroad, since the tool is generic.
“I’d like to make it as cheap as possible for people, if not free, so that cost is not a barrier as it is with many of the existing accounting packages” he says.
“I’m thinking it could be free to start with and then people could pay for an upgrade, perhaps so they can add more crops.”
The next stage is to test it out with other growers, and then refine it, he says.
“I think it could be fantastic for smaller farmers who might not want to pay for expensive and complicated farm accounting package.”
He would like to partner with a farming organisation that could offer the tool to its members.
For more information visit cropfarmer.co.uk
Finalists will be invited to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges at Farm491, Cirencester, on November 21, 2019.
For more information, visit AgInnovationDen.com