The recent drought in half a century was a reminder that market moves in all directions make it prudent to arm your business to ride through any price scenario. Efficient use of data has bullet-proofed Nick Frey’s farm business. "Data make you a better farm manager," says the fifth-generation farmer with WCI Family Farms in Linden, Ind. Frey attributes his knack for using data effectively to his Purdue farm management degree.

"When you are the best manager you can be, you can quickly and accurately know where your business is and prepare for the future. I’m still learning what that means.” Effective use of farm financial information enables him to be confident that he has “a competitive bid; we can be sure of our input rates, and we can understand the marginal impact of a capital purchase."

Frey is the only one of his generation to come back to the family's corn and soybean farm so far. Nick farms with his dad John and his mom Lori. Nick handles the information transfer from the farm's operations to the office, where proper records are kept and plans are built.

He relies on CropTracker to help monitor grain yields and inventory in real time. “I was having trouble keeping up with all of that incoming data; I let technology fill in the gaps. It keeps decision-making more agile; I do less paperwork and spend less time on the calculator."

Technology helps Frey efficiently manage logistics for the current year, and maintain information so he can reconcile expenses, keep accounting current and know inventory positions at all times.

"I have more time for strategy, business planning and improvements where I need to get better," he says. "Accurate and trustworthy information from my data make it easier to complete tedious and time-consuming tasks. I can manage our 50-50 (crop share withlandlords?) and custom-farming clients more confidently. For example, reporting is much easier because I can query a database versus sorting through a pile of tickets and then build my own report."

Frey describes his process for problem-solving: First, he identifies any problems and then finds solutions, knowing that no one software program fits all needs. Next, he focuses on collecting accurate and consistent data. "Otherwise, nothing matters and you are wasting your time," he says. "Lastly, have discipline. Follow through, analyze and make use of your data."