Information Systems in the Agricultural Sector

When analyzing the supply of management software for the agricultural market (production / distribution), it is common to find those who generalize and simplify some activities in order to offer their solutions as specific to the sector.

This theoretical specialization can create expectations that in practice translate into complexity due to lack of focus on the differentiating factors of the sector, essentially:

  • Variability of products.
  • Peculiar problem to buy, transport, store, manipulate and sell.
  • Administrative-legal characteristics of the sector in Spain and Foreign Markets.
  • Cost of handling and sanitary requirements of traceability.

Still talk about the requirements to present products in channels such as: large area, HORECA, export.

All this will be reflected in the S.I. of which we speak. To not expand, consider only three aspects for which effective solutions should be given: product classification, traceability and costs of the entire cycle.

Any software oriented to business management will provide a standardized model, generally under the concept of “articles”, for those related to products, acquisition-handling-delivery processes and the issuance of documentation. However, candidates for use in the sector must provide flexibility to successfully represent the differences in this business activity, but without being so lax as to make the information generated difficult to analyze or directly erroneous.

The optimal solution will be in the middle term: a rigid model of articles at high level that allows to analyze the information, but flexible at a low level so that the operation is agile. Ideally, it will be combined with a company procedure to detect exceptions and evolve it periodically.

The traceability of food products is a critical factor. With the technology currently available for the machinery used and the universal connectivity in which we are immersed, we might think that this aspect will be solved, but this is not usually the case: the S.I. not be prepared for the available machinery models, they may not be compatible with it and it is not feasible to update / adjust them. On paper, everything is compatible and has the necessary characteristics but the actual situation of the facilities prevents the operation of the systems at critical points to capture the exact data at the precise moment of the production process.

Normally, it is easier to find solutions to these issues in the software than in the equipment; what is not usually easy is to find them in the management system: technologically, it must be flexible enough to allow it.

Regarding costs, any company in the sector will have its own operating model, more or less automated. If the ERP has a valid outline of articles and directly picks up the traceability, you will obtain costs that are fairly close to the real ones. This would be the ideal situation, which rarely occurs.

The best thing would be to complement the ERP with information analysis utilities to fine-tune the cost model.

At this point, we ask ourselves: Is the computer management of this sector really so complex? Can any of these systems address it with sufficient breadth and practical simplicity to be effective? To deny the first and affirm the second, it is not enough for the team to know the software it implements, it must accredit the knowledge of the aforementioned characteristics and how they are contemplated in the system to be implemented.

Article included in Vida Económica Magazine Sistemas de Información en El Sector Agrícola(pdf)

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