An 18-month old San Francisco-based software startup is eager to revolutionize the way growers look at their day-to-day operations.
Aggregating loads of data from what it claims are the top 500 to 1000 farms in America, Granular, Inc., hopes to enable its customers to “think of themselves like a Fortune 500 company CEO,” according to Sid Gorham, CEO.
“The industry is typically focused on helping growers improve yields,” he says in a recent telephone interview from his office on the West Coast. “Granular is different. We are focused on helping farmers become more profitable and showing them specifically where they make money and where they don’t.”
Gorham describes the typical farms that Granular pulls data from as, on average, a 10,000 acre corn and soybean annual rotation, the breadth of which span 25 states and into Canada. He says one of the challenges Granular has faced thus far is weaning farm managers off the dreaded Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.
“Farming basically runs on Excel and we’re trying to get them to run on Granular,” Gorham explains. “We can analyze data at a level that you just can’t reach in Excel.”
Mark Bryant, a central Ohio grower that collectively farms a large swath (an area that stretches 75 miles North to South; 50 miles East to West) with family members under the name Bryant Ag Inc., says the flexibility that Granular has allowed him while managing such a large area of production is invaluable.
“Before we went with Granular, there was a lot of repetition with the data and physically getting into the car and driving to the individual fields to confirm jobs that had been done, inventory being used, etc.,” Bryant allows. “And there was no communication (to us) when guys leave a field and finish the job unless they call or text.
“Now no matter where we are or what we’re doing we know what’s going on. Take today for instance, I’ve been tied up in meetings all day. Without talking to anybody or typing out any emails or texts I know we have replanted some bean fields today. The information that flows through this thing is just phenomenal.”
Another aspect of Granular that Bryant and his colleagues relish is the all-in-one, inclusiveness of the software. “We’d never been able before to get everything we do – from operations to budget to inventory tracking – all on one software package,” he says. “My family’s whole operation is running off this one platform now, there’s nothing else out there like this, to the best of my knowledge.”
Bryant’s employees all run Granular on company issued iPhones, and all the mobile devices sync data directly (no thumb drives or manual entry) to Granular’s servers out on the west coast. He says the “think like a Fortune 500 CEO” tagline carries a bit of credence to it.
“I think that is absolutely, 100% correct,” says Bryant of the company’s tagline. “There is nothing that perturbs me more than when I see a commercial with a farmer in a bib overall. We’re not all ‘good ‘ol boys’ anymore, farmers are professional businessmen now. Granular recognizes what ag is becoming and they give me the tools I need to operate like a Fortune 500 company.”
Granular CEO Gorham, meanwhile, says the company is merely helping connect the dots when it comes to advanced analytics in agriculture.
“The best software developers in the country, they’re right where we are in San Francisco,” Gorham emphasizes. “The best farmers in the world are of course in the Midwest. We want to connect the two and be very customer-focused in everything that we do.
“Sometimes it surprises me that so many farmers are putting in the level of effort that they are with data collection, when the output or payoff hasn’t really been there yet. Let’s face it, data in agriculture hasn’t really paid off yet. We’re trying to shift the focus around data from the pure agronomy realm into hard dollars and cents. The industry doesn’t need more pretty NDVI maps, we need a way to get more dollars and cents out of the crop.”
Going forward, Granular wants to beef up the financial and logistical features within its system.
“With seed we want to be able to keep track of whether or not those expensive genetics are really worth the money,” Gorham says, emphasizing Granular’s agnostic makeup. “Nobody is really keeping score whether that expensive hybird seed is worth the economic investment over some of the lesser-priced genetics on the market.”