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Farm record keeping program goes to the cloud

February 24, 2013
By LARRY KERSHNER, , Messenger News

ROCKWELL CITY - Tracking some of the more difficult records in farming - manure management, soil testing, nutritional needs of fields based on the next crop - will become more simple for producers this month.

Called Real Time Ag, farm managers and consultants will be able to keep such records for their clients "in the cloud." Aside from no longer worrying about losing data in event of a computer crash, inspectors with the Department of Natural Resources are also enthused about the new service.

Software designer Michael Sexton, of Rockwell City, described the program as "the back end in record keeping."

Article Photos

-Submitted photo
A sample screenshot of the Real Time Ag records that will be kept to document producers’ manure management compliance with the Department of Natural Resources. Real Time Ag is described by its creator as “the back end in record keeping.”

Mindy Nasers, the regional sales manager said, "When it hits the market, it'll be top-notch."

Real Time Ag ties the regulatory requirements for nutrient management of livestock waste, with compliance through spreading records.

Nasers, who is also a pork producer, she understands the need for accurate tracking of manure spread records. She said this program will give producers peace of mind that they have it right when DNR reviews their records.

The target audience of the program will be to consulting firms and cooperatives who help livestock operations manage their nutrient plans, Sexton said. The real selling point is that all the records will be stored on a dedicated server.

Sexton said the DNR has reviewed and approved the program. Although on-farm inspections will still be performed by the DNR, its routine records checking can be done without traveling to a farm.

Inspectors will be given limited-time access to the plans and can download compliance records without leaving their offices.

"This has the same security that banks have," Sexton said. For instance, if a farmer's computer crashes, manure management plans and other data are still safe.

The records are retained for five years.

It also stores results of soil testing, and even tracks the dates for when the next soil test is required - at least once every four years.

"The beauty of being online," Sexton said, "is if something changes, the client doesn't have to reload a program.

"We can retool it so (the changes) will be seamless."

When asked how the program can discourage a producer from cheating on the records, Sexton said, that the program cannot be saved without all of the required information being entered.

This system will make it harder to cheat, he said, "but we don't see this. Manure is too valuable. Guys don't waste it.

"They want to spread it over as many acres as possible."

In fact, Nasers said if she has excess manure, there are plenty of people in line to buy it from her.

Real Time Ag will also track the balance of nutrients in a field following harvest and make recommendations for applications prior to or during the next growing season, based on what the next crop will be.

"No matter what rotation you have," Sexton said, "this system will make it happen, regardless of the manure source - beef, hogs or litter."

Sexton said he's been awarded two Iowa Economic Development grants for the system, one for development and another for marketing.

He's looking to next expand the program for Minnesota and Kansas afterward.

Both states' programs will be different than Iowa, he said, "because each state has slightly different requirements."



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