2017 proved to be a quite challenging year for most farmers yet Rubert Saluoks – father of the founder of eAgronom – managed to harvest all of his fields without any yield loss and still brought 381 000€ profit to his company. Asked about the foundation for a great farming business he replies: “Great plan”.
Estonia on the wave of digital revolution in farming
Estonia is said to be silicon valley of Europe also because of innovations in agriculture. One of the most successful organic grain producers in Estonia – Rubert Saluoks takes advantage of the digital technologies since 2016. How it happened? Rubert’s journey with farming began in the early childhood as his parents were both agronomists thus he used to help a lot with both their work and farming cabbages they had in the backyard. Young Rubert dream about studying physical education but as he became older he decided to follow their parents’ path and devote his life to agriculture. After studies he started a business of growing cabbages but going back to his roots wasn’t easy and it filled him with doubts and eventually tore him away from farming for some time.
Fortunately, for him and other farmers in 2004 he finally decided to come back to grain farming as a company manager. Soon farmer undertook new steps and on the wind of changes in 2010 he has made a decision to go organic. He firmly believes in his choices and even though organic farming requires more sacrifices than the ordinary one he is not going to give up. The decision that was originally made due to grain price deterioration has now become his lifestyle:
“I am becoming more and more environmentally friendly myself. Back in 2010 it was a financial decision, while now it has turned into, let’s say a political decision. I began thinking way more environmentally friendly, I don’t regret it at all“ – says Rubert.
Costly mistakes and challenges in agriculture business
Rubert and his family has long history and experience in farming to know well that there are many challenges every person running agriculture business must face. Workforce, rent and amortization are definitely the fastest growing expenses in this sector. However, the main challenge is to be efficient in terms of lowering expenses per each hectare or ton as much as possible:
“Grain is a very universal product, you can grow the same in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Russia, Germany, France… The question is, who can produce it cheaper.“ – says Rubert.
The options available in the farming industry are wide and open. However, bad planning and yield loss are the one that may hit the most. Half a century ago the biggest losses were caused by inefficient harvesters, that did not collect all of the grain or even poorly sealed bins. Nowadays, the losses are not caused by lacking machinery. The biggest losses happen in the fields because farmers do not manage to finish harvesting on time. Harvesting later does not solve the issue – the quality of the grain drops significantly, which means huge losses for the company.
„I make the most expensive mistakes in the company. An employee can break an expensive machine in the field, but his mistake is not so costly to the company, as mine, e.g. if I choose the wrong crop or variety (…). When harvesting is delayed you can lose up to 30-50 % of the actual yield and if the grain quality drops to forage grain the loss can be as dramatic as 80-90%.“ – says Rubert.
Businessman states that solution is hidden in the quality of planning and task execution which significantly increases efficiency in using workforce, machinery and land. Long path is still ahead of lots of farmers who have to change and update their approach to running agriculture business. Rubert with years of experience is continuing his mission in spreading his findings about the importance of connecting flexible planning, tasks to be done and harvesting timeline with each other as a way to overcome challenges of the average farmer. Many of you, probably are right know scratching heads and thinking: ‘Flexible planning alright, but how the heck do it?’
Aid that transformed into a great business
Just like many other farmers, Rubert has been using MS Excel and software for filling out the government reports which have been stealing a substantial amount of time from him. Precious time that he might have devoted to something else more perspective.
For many years he had to enter the same information into ten different systems! Everything changed when his son decided to help him in finding a tool or software facilitating his job. They have searched for the suitable product, but it was nowhere to find. Luckily, Robin has known basis of programming and he decided to help his father and create a software, that would contain all the information Rubert needed. It was a milestone which led to the creation of eAgronom.
The first version of the eAgronom was created and although app was making first baby steps it was enough. When the time for inspection came along Rubert has shown all the farming data and bureaucratic information need – ALL available in the one software – inspectors loved it. This and other features made inspectors fall in love with the app so much that they even suggested to share it with other farmers. And so, as much other successful business Robin and Rubert introduced eAgronom to the market and something which originally was supposed to be a resolution for his father issues quickly spread and became innovative tool supporting many farmers in Estonia and abroad.
How eAgronom is beneficial for Rubert we can see from the numbers. During the first year in 2015 his company gained the profit equal to 37 000€ but no one expected the success which has come during the following years. In 2016 Rubert recorded 338% higher profit compared to the last year and the latest data from 2017 shows 381 000€ profit!
Nothing can replace a great leader, but a great tool helps to get the results faster and more efficiently. The foundation of a great farming company is a great plan.
“Plans are not permanent, changing the plans is inevitable especially in agriculture, but if I don’t plan – then I don’t estimate when I will harvest, harvesting timeline and other things like that. I could never make those decisions on the field, the decisions would be rushed. You have to change the plans, but then you change the things, that you have thought through. With eAgronom you are ready to do it.” – Rubert summed up.