The scenery from the box comprised slightly rolling carpets of corn ready for fall harvest, but Sean Arians’ view was clouded by the complications of grain marketing. Tired of spreadsheets, he wanted a simple means to track marketing and inventory, connect with his elevator, and access an inventory evaluation with the click of a button. Frustrated and unable to find an adequate system, the northwest Illinois farmer began creating his own app solution—GrainCoat.
A grain marketing tool designed for tracking inventory, GrainCoat is aimed at simple data entry and crop projection for multiple years: inventory, offers, contracts and management in one app. Pared down, Arians intends GrainCoat as a uniquely efficient means for farmers to manage marketing.
Adios to Spreadsheets
Launched in the fall of 2018, relies on a “hybrid approach,” Arians explains: “The biggest thing is easy data entry and crop projection for multiple years. It’s just a one-time data entry, and no re-entry of a crop plan every year. We enhance the relationship a farmer has with a grain elevator or buyer, and it’s seamless, with no hassle of updating a spreadsheet. It’s a hybrid approach relying on farmer and elevator to enter offers and fills, managing data so much more easily.”
According to Arians, GrainCoat is structured around three main features: a single cropping plan entry for multiple years of projection; delivery and sale notifications by text; and instant inventory valuations.
First, users enter crop plans one time to generate multiple year projections, verified twice yearly by GrainCoat after planting and harvest. As users make a sale or offer of grain, GrainCoat texts or emails the elevator, and at that point the elevator enters the fill. “It’s so easy. It’s not the farmer having to go in and update a spreadsheet. All details flow into GrainCoat. The farmer is given a constant flow of info right when he needs it,” Arians says.
Second, texted delivery notifications keep users updated without shuffling through spreadsheets or calls to the elevator for details. “You put offers in GrainCoat and as those delivery periods come due, we’ll send you text notifications with all the critical information included,” Arians notes. “We deliver texted info right to you. Today, it works via internet browsers or iPad app; soon we’ll have it for your iPhone.”
Third, a year-end report is always available. “A farmer just hits a button for the report and we get the delayed futures price of the commodity and value the unsold inventory with what has been sold. It’s a real-time, dynamic valuation of their crop.”
As a fourth-generation farmer in Whiteside County, Arians, 36, designed GrainCoat to be straightforward. “GrainCoat is founded on this principal: I want to enter my crop plan once and project out to five years based off of one data entry. I pull up dashboard and know what I’ve got to sell, and know how much inventory I’ve got.”
Kirk Liefer, 41, farms in Red Bud, Ill., roughly an hour south of St. Louis, stretched across four counties. Alongside several family members, he grows corn, soybeans and wheat, and is also involved in seed production of Pioneer hybrids. In early 2018, Liefer started with a beta version of GrainCoat: “Excel is OK, but it’s cumbersome and hard to do on the fly, and not so easy on mobile devices. I was looking for something simpler.”
GrainCoat has brought Liefer a new level of efficiency, he contends: “Data entry was seamless and gave me a quick snapshot of where I’m at on contracts and where I’m at on sold bushels, either for one or several years out. It’s so easy to put an offer in which gets sent to the elevator, and I get notified if it is filled. It takes so much work out of this for me.”
Marc Arnusch, 45, farms in Colorado, 35 miles northeast of Denver on I-76, and grows 3,000-plus acres of certified seed wheat, certified malt barley seed, grains for craft beer, and corn/alfalfa for the dairy industry. He began using GrainCoat in the fall of 2018. “It made so much sense. This can be a great tool to market 24-7, and make sure I can focus on growing a crop while being disciplined in my marketing practices,” Arnusch describes.
For simplicity and efficiency in marketing, Arians points growers toward GrainCoat. “We need to know how much inventory is on-hand and what is projected for multiple years after, all without having to re-enter a crop plan. I knew when I started that the solution had to be easy, and that’s what is.”