Shelbyville, Ill., sits on a bluff overlooking the Kaskaskia Valley in the heart of America's richest farmland, and is home to Software Solutions Integrated, LLC. Surrounded by miles of farmland, this historic town with a population of 4,943, is a prime location for the company dedicated to providing products to help agribusinesses run their operations smoother and more efficiently.



From the beginning, SSI strived to provide software that integrated its customers' business systems.



"SSI was founded in 1981 by a high school math and science teacher who realized there was no industry-specific software for the ag retail business," said Dave Craft, vice president, sales and marketing, SSI.



Pam Rincker, president, was asked by a local fertilizer/chemical retailer to help implement some bookkeeping software purchased for his Apple II. That first customer ended up scrapping the software they had purchased and asked Pam to write an inventory and billing package, which became the impetus of the SSI product line today.



The initial line of software products was DOS-based and included modules for accounting, formulating, nutrient recommendations and field mapping. As technology began changing, SSI realized its first main platform switch needed to happen, and the company moved to the Windows-based platform for its products. The first suite of Windows-based products was introduced in 1996 under the brand name of Agvance.



In 1997, SSI formed an LLC with Helena Chemical Company after being selected as the vendor to provide software to all of Helena's retail and wholesale locations throughout the United States. In the years that followed, SSI landed significant contracts with Growmark, Inc. and the JR Simplot Company as Agvance quickly positioned itself as the industry leader. Today, the company has grown to include 60 employees.



"The Agvance line of products is built upon the foundation of its accounting software," Craft said. "Agvance seamlessly integrates the operational needs of today's diversified agribusiness companies by incorporating solutions for agronomy, grain and energy into a single financial package. However, the challenge of any software company is to adapt to the changes in the industry. The changes SSI must keep up with as a software company include those that impact the ag industry as well as those that may affect the technologies SSI uses to deliver their solutions."



One of the ways SSI has reacted to changes in the industry is by developing a map-based dispatch module, which it introduced in the spring of 2008. This service allows companies to track jobs and workers through the use of mobile phones and GPS. It allows a greater opportunity to plan logistics of an operation, improving efficiencies.



Adapting to changes in the seed industry has also driven current innovations in SSI's technology. "As seed became more complex with the increasing use of stacked hybrids and varieties, the need for better accounting and tracking of that seed was needed," he said. "As a result, SSI technology had to adapt to offer solutions for our customers."



Craft sees other technological changes coming down the road. He expects the rising use of mobile technology to be the next driver in the industry. "The use of smart phones and Blackberrys will play a bigger role in the future for ag businesses," he said. "It's becoming easier to initiate orders and transactions via mobile phone than carrying a laptop everywhere. As the nationwide network expands mobile services across the country, business tools will need to adapt."



The next step in the industry will be to enable retailers to more easily connect with their trading partners via Web services so that more efficiencies can be gained in the supply chain. This is why SSI is an active participant in AgGateway, a non-profit consortium of businesses serving the agriculture industry by improving profitability and productivity through educating, promoting and expanding eBusiness in agriculture.



"Our goal at SSI is to help our customers to be more profitable in their business as we strive to find new ways to do that," he said.