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Coming to growers’ computers, and soon

Paperwork! For some growers the seemingly endless forms that need to be completed for everything from fertilizer purchases to bank transactions to crop tracking causes frustration and stress.


April 30, 2010
By Rosalie I. Tennison

Paperwork! For some growers the seemingly endless forms that need to be completed for everything from fertilizer purchases to bank transactions to crop tracking causes frustration and stress. It was only a matter of time before computer software developers began to create tools to reduce the amount of paper generated by farming operations and to make keeping track of details easier.

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Growers and brokers can use the Potato Business Manager to track the progress of any field, from Yukon Golds (left) to Russet Burbanks (right), all the way from production to shipping.
Photos by Ralph Pearce.


Potato Business Manager is a program designed by Real Potatoes Ltd., a Prince Edward Island-based seed company. Intended specifically for managing the business of potato production, the software can assist growers to market their crops and track the process without misplacing a decimal in an invoice. “If I’m a broker in Alliston, Ontario, and during the growing season one of my contractors grows 100 acres of Kennebec, another grower produces 100 acres of Yukon Gold and another one of my producers grows 100 acres
of Russet Burbank, I can track the process of shipping those crops through Potato Business Manager,” explains Don Northcott of Real Potatoes. “I can type all the necessary information into the program. When I type in the yield for each variety, I will be told how many 100 lb bags I have to ship and then the program will generate labels, purchase orders, invoices and so on.” He explains that as each decision on the crop is made a drop down menu will guide the user to the next step. For large-scale producers of potatoes, Potato Business Manager can help them track the crop and ensure contracts are fulfilled because the program keeps track of every step in the shipping process.

“Potato Business Manager is a template that can be customized for each business, even to putting the company logo and address on each document,” continues Northcott. “The program makes it easy to create a professional look for your business.” The program also eliminates the need for storage of notes and paperwork that are generated in a paper only system. There is an accounting component in the program to track all the activity in the business.

Northcott says Potato Business Manager is user-friendly and can be set up and learned in about half an hour. For a cost of about $100, the program will work on most operating systems and comes with full support and training. He says the program will be useful for growers, brokers, seed dealers, and any other person involved in the potato industry who has multiple customers and large crops of several varieties.

Another program that is being evaluated in grower trials in Canada, but has already been launched south of the border is CropLogic.com, a predictive online nitrogen and water management program that follows all aspects of crop development. CropLogic assists growers in making decisions about nitrogen and water as needed. Developed in New Zealand, the program is a yield calculation system to manage nitrogen and water availability and will predict yield and maturity date using that data. The company’s website says the program shows a “your farm at a glance” overview with modelling software to identify crop needs. The service is likely to be available in Canada once necessary growing trials are completed to determine variety, environment or grower practice variations from the versions available in the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

As computer programs to assist potato growers become available and are loaded onto the computers of Canadian growers, their value will assuredly increase. According to promotional literature issued by Real Potatoes on Potato Business Manager, “Use it for only a couple of days and you will wonder how you ever managed without it.” Northcott says that, as the potato industry continues to become more global as seed and tonnage are shipped across borders, the need for tracking to satisfy the requirements of export and import regulations, such as those of the North American Free Trade Agreement, will become even more critical. The paperwork required and the data and tracking information generated will become virtually unmanageable by even the most practised shipper, so engaging the help of computer programs keeps the industry on track in the virtual world.