The food industry is undergoing significant change at all levels. End users and consumers are demanding more transparency on key issues. Primarily, they want to know that their food is safe, but they also want to know that it has been produced and handled in a way that is environmentally sustainable.
These requests are straightforward, but delivering the solutions to provide such information on products that are part of a global supply chain is not a simple task.
Enter the J. R. Simplot Company, a company involved across the food supply chain from working with farmers growing raw products to the processing of products into packaged goods for restaurants and retailers alike, providing food for millions in the process.
Craig Holcombe, Sr Director of Procurement of J. R. Simplot Company’s North American Food Group feels strongly about taking care of his customers. “Providing our customers with a high level of con dence in the food that we deliver is vital to serving them, and in order to provide that con dence we work to provide transparency regarding the product that we sell.” says Holcombe. “We work with the farmers that we buy potatoes from to track the way that our potatoes are grown so that we can provide quality products.”
Tracking Information is Key
A key focus for the company is the ability to track its raw product information. “Years ago we were keeping written records collected by our field staff and filed in separate locations. It was hard to manage and took way too much work to review. It became clear that we needed a system to manage our information,” says Bret Nedrow, Senior Manager Raw Development and Sustainability for J. R. Simplot Company’s North American Food Group. “We began to transition into what was initially a record keeping system to a total Field Management System including post-harvest storage. The system allows us to quickly manage the detailed field information that we require from our growers and our field reps who are constantly evaluating the crop.”
Holcombe said it didn’t happen overnight. The team first evaluated the software companies in the market and chose a partner to work with for the long term, a company named Agri-Data, which was acquired in 2015 by Trimble Inc., integrated with enhancements from Trimble's existing ag software offerings, and re-launched as Trimble Ag Software. “Agri-Data was very small when we started working together, but they are deeply committed to agriculture and our success, and it has turned out to be a wonderful relationship. They understand our world, and that is very important to us,” says Holcombe.
A Trimble Ag Software case study tracking information all the way back to the farm and the agronomic practices used by the farmer is an opportunity to provide our customers with that information.” Determining if a crop is sustainably produced requires that a company be able to track the production information at an agronomic level, activities such as pesticides, fertilizer, and water usage.
Kevin Pattison, Chief Technology Officer with Trimble Ag Software, believes that his own farm background has been a big benefit for working with the Simplot team. “Over the years we have worked with them to continue to improve the information that farmers can provide regarding the potatoes they deliver, and it has been important to do so in a way that didn’t over-burden the farmers,” he said. “Having direct farm experience myself has allowed me to better understand how to partner with farmers and make sure that we are getting the information we need without getting in their way. We’re happy, they’re happy, and customers are happy. That’s the goal.”
Simplot/Trimble Ag Software Partnership Keeps Customers Happy
Today, the J. R. Simplot Company uses Trimble Ag Software to stay current with the needs of customers. They have taken leadership roles in key areas such as sustainability, traceability, field management and quality, and their long-term commitment to the technology is paying dividends.
“I currently serve as the leader for the Potato Sustainability Council which is a cross functional group of potato growers, processors and key end users working together to make sure that we are encouraging sustainability industry-wide,” says Monte Anderson, Agricultural Sustainability Manager for J. R. Simplot Company.
Holcombe is passionate about continuing to invest in the technologies that help his customers. “We are continuing to push the technology and systems forward to better serve our customers,” Holcombe said. “Our field reps are now more efficient in their field management with growers and other field staff, and we have more information quickly accessible and integrated across our whole network, with a significant reduction in paper usage.”
Software Pays Off For Farmers
“Instead of having one system for accounting, another one with your spray records and then a separate system of safety records for the state department, this one brings everything together in one place," says Derek Wanders, who grows potatoes, corn, wheat and sugar beets in western Idaho. He and other growers care deeply about the quality of food they are producing. Trimble Ag Software makes it easier to manage the information that backs that quality. says Wanders, who has been using TAS for over four years. “If you get audited by food safety or the state, you don’t have to sweat it because everything is there. Or if you need nancials for the bank, you can provide them at the click of a button, for every acre or every crop.”
For Wanders, the benefits go beyond just ef ciency. He says the system saves him time, and money. “When you can track your cost of production per acre, per bushel or per 100wt, and that’s when you can really tighten up your costs,” he says. “And it saves time in the long run, especially with the mobile app. It’s a pretty versatile system — it does all the conversions and equations for you. And if you’re out in the eld and can’t remember something, you just pull it up on your phone.” As the information systems catch up to the consumer demands for more transparency, the industry is seeing a new level of teamwork evolve between farmers, food processors, and consumers. Information is owing and can now be verified quickly, with a high degree of confidence — and that is a good thing for everyone.
Learn more about Trimble Ag Software here, or sign up for a free demo today.