Founded in 1993, Sproule Farms is located in the Red River Valley of North Dakota. Founder, Paul Sproule grew up near farm country and became a first-generation farmer simply because he wanted to be one. Earlier, Paul worked for Frito Lay as a potato buyer and now, as a GLOBAL G.A.P. certified farmer, he is a supplier to Frito Lay.
Community is key to Sproule Farm’s vision, and they partner with organizations that fight poverty. Their team hosts an annual food drive where guests donate canned food in exchange for fresh sweet corn. Sproule is constantly striving to increase yields and improve profit, so they looked to Conservis to proactively manage field data.
At a glance
Headquarters: Grand Forks, ND
Crops Grown: Corn, Edible Beans,
Hard Red Spring Wheat, Hemp,
Potatoes, Soybeans, Sugarbeets
Spread over thousands of acres, Sproule Farms has 17 employees who are often moving in different directions. “The challenge was knowing what you were doing in each spot and the traceability of everything,” said Partner, Mike Sproule. With an eye towards profitability, a desire surfaced for one software system to hold all Sproule’s input and output data, and to be accessible to many workers, both on and off the field. Administrative Assistant, Carla Vigen said, “Just working with FSA for the tracking of how we produce and how much we produce, we figured that there had to be an easier, more accurate way of doing it than by hand. And Conservis was it.”
When Conservis came along in 2011, Sproule immediately began using the harvest module and in 2012, implemented input tracking. Mike surprisingly found it to be a very easy transition. “I found myself always looking back to it to see what we did in each given field,” said Mike. “Just to trace what we were doing and how efficient we were being with the way that we were spending money.”
Mike remembers back to a time when he had to guess what had done on any given field. He’s grateful that guessing game is over. “We might have a plan in place, and then we might obviously deviate from the plan,” he said. “So, when you've made changes, you have a footprint that's there with Conservis that you can go back to look and say, ‘Yes, this was the decision that I made.’ Whether it's a month from now, or two months from now.”
Paul is a GLOBAL G.A.P. grower, meaning he’s certified for his commitment to advancing good agricultural practices. “The food companies that we supply are GLOBAL G.A.P. certified, and if they have a recall or question, in a matter of minutes I can get back to the day that we planted that crop, the day we stored it, the day we shipped it, the truck that it was on… and all the inputs we put into that crop, be it any chemicals or anything, it’s all in that report, and I have it within minutes.” Sproule receives better pricing for their GLOBAL G.A.P. certified crops.
“Conservis helps me because I've got quick historical data that I can use, and that's very important in our environment today for food safety,” said Paul.
Recordkeeping & Historical Data
Recordkeeping has been a huge benefit for Sproule Farms. “The biggest thing is we have historical data on our fields now that we've had for a number of years,” said Paul. “We can go back, we're not only looking at rotations, but we can look at our yields, inputs, and everything that we've done on that particular field.” This insight helps Sproule review their land processes to determine if their practices are worth continuing.
“Basically, when you farm, not every year is the same,” Mike said. “Sometimes products change, sometimes your way of thinking changes. Maybe that practice is no longer working, but it's your way electronically to look back at what you've done, what you're going to do, and where you want to be.” Mike often goes back to review input records, whether it be spreading, planting, or spraying. During harvest season, he enjoys knowing what their yield is from the moment the last truck leaves the field. Conservis helps Mike where his memory falls short. “It's the proof right there at your fingertips that this is what you did,” Mike stated.
“With Conservis, you always have the footprint of what you did last year to the next year, and the year after.”
Carla thinks back to a time when excellent recordkeeping really benefitted the farm, causing them to catch missing loads. Carla appreciated having the Conservis team watching, serving as another set of eyes on their farm. She recalled a missing load. “We figured somebody had entered it twice instead of once, and then when the elevator’s numbers came out a little different than ours and we talked to someone at Conservis, they were able to look back and figure out what happened,” said Carla. “They've called me sometimes, too to say, ‘You have a load out there that's sitting unattached.’
It’s no secret that the Sproule Farms is excited to work with a software company that’s rooted in farmer input. “One thing that interested me was that Conservis came to their customers asking what we wanted,” Mike said. “Conservis was never the company that was trying to tell the farmer what they needed. They were trying to build a platform that would help the farmer make better decisions with information that is created in their platform.”
“Conservis was never the company that was trying to tell the farmer what they needed. They were trying to build a platform that would help the farmer make better decisions.”
Mike elaborates on how impressed he was when Conservis looked to farmers to develop new technology. “When it came to Work Orders… Conservis took some of the customers from different locations, brought them in, and we sat down for two-three days, and hashed out what we're looking for as individuals,” Mike said. “Within the next year, Conservis had it and it seemed like they took a little bit from everybody's perspective to create the product.”
Paul chose Conservis farm management software because he found it very easy to adapt. “It wasn't one way of doing things,” Paul said. “If you had an idea or a thought, you'd present it to the team and within a couple days, they get it edited and give us the data or the platform that we wanted to use on our farm.” Paul’s daughter feels the same. “They're great about coming out and doing field days, visiting the guys and asking us what we want,” said Mollie. I feel like they're very innovative and helpful.” The Sproule team clearly knows that Conservis originated from farmer input.
“Over the years, as Conservis has grown, they’ve put together some fantastic data,” said Paul. “It can respond to a customer's needs. It's not a boilerplate software. If you have a specific need, they'll see if they can work it into what you want.”
Real-Time Data & Informed Decision Making
Paul chose Conservis because he desired fast, hard data that would lead to improved yields and cost-saving efficiencies. Paul uses real-time present and historical data to assess Sproule’s yield and productivity. This helps him plan and benchmark against himself. “One of the biggest things I look at is yield,” said Paul. “And how it performs overall as far as by soil type, by fields, by region, and plant population.”
“The reason I pursued technology is I wanted information and I wanted it quickly, and that's the caveat that Conservis provides.”
Another Conservis feature that Paul values is the ability to manage his input costs in real time. “That platform has gotten very, very good,” he said. “Then, when we look at our yield data… what it comes down to is, what is your ROI? Are you making the right decisions, right timed decisions, and are you doing the right things?” Paul asks these very important questions that can mean the difference between just getting by and managing a profitable business with high-performing, cost-efficient yields.
The instant, accurate data that Conservis provides is clearly appreciated by Paul. In fact, it’s his favorite part of the farm management software. The time-saving, instantaneous data sets him up for success. He raves about getting the yield data of each field before the last trucks even make it off the field. “I've got that yield data before all the trucks are dumped,” Paul said. “It gives you real-time data at your fingertips within seconds.”
“Conservis puts me into a position of knowledge,” Paul said. “Timing knowledge, which gives you intelligence, because intelligence is what makes good decisions.”
Communication Between Field & Office
Administrative Director, Mollie, enjoys using Conservis to plan and communicate to the farm. “Conservis has really helped us with planning,” said Mollie. “We can put our plans into Conservis, and then shoot work orders out and the guys know exactly what to do, at what rates and what their job is in certain fields.” It prevents her from having to reach out to field workers throughout the year.
“It's been huge for communication and that link between the farm and the office.”
“It's been a great communication component between us in the office and the guys in the farm,” said Mollie. “I can easily log in, see what they've been doing, how far they got (like seeding rates and all things like that) without having to bug the guys when I know they're busy. It's been huge for communication in that link between the farm and the office.”
Mollie sees great value in having one system that she and other employees can use from the office and connects her to the activities that occur in the field. “Knowledge is power,” said Mollie. “By knowing every aspect of what's going on in our fields, what the yields are coming off, just really being involved and having knowledge of every aspect all year long is very powerful.”
Reports & Crop Insurance Claims
The team appreciates that Conservis reports are customizable and can be filtered in different ways, depending on what you’re seeking. “They've always had a ton of different reports, but everybody wants their report to read a little bit differently,” stated Mike. “What works for me, maybe does not for somebody else.”
“We hit the report, give it to them, and it's golden for federal crop. That saves a pile of time.”
Mollie primarily uses harvest reports to share in house, or to leverage externally with 3rd parties for crop insurance. The ability to quickly pull accurate, organized data helps her look and feel prepared, even for unexpected inquiries. “Conservis has saved the day when we'll have a third party come in and ask us a question that I may not know off the top of my head, such as the seeding rate, or chemicals and whatnot,” said Mollie. “And they will be amazed at how quick we can pull our data and print reports on what exactly happened on this field on what day. It just kind of blows them away.” Administrative Assistant Carla uses the yield reports most often and is grateful that the records stand up seamlessly for insurance claims. “When we've had a year where we didn't see the outcome, yield-wise, those [Conservis] reports are fully accepted by our insurance company as accurate.” Volatile weather is tough enough on farmers, so being able to readily pull and filter existing data is a real asset. “The data I get from Conservis is now acceptable for our federal crop,” said Paul. “When they come in, they want us to prove our yields and prove our data regarding where our fields are at. We hit the report, give it to them, and it's golden for federal crop. That saves a pile of time.”