Ryan Christensen is a fifth-generation farmer with a keen eye on profitability. He views his farm data as a critical asset that empowers sound decision making. Dating back to the mid-1800s, Ryan’s great-great-grandfather immigrated to America from Denmark, landing in Preston, Idaho. Based on the Homestead Act, he moved to the Gem Valley, starting out with 160 acres. Ryan’s great-grandfather's journal reflects stories of sleeping beneath the wagon while listening to coyotes run around them during the nights. Back then, the Christensen family worked tirelessly to break the land free as they chopped down acres of sagebrush by hand.
Today, Ryan is pleased that his father, Bart, is a trailblazer. Unheard of in the 1980s, Bart purchased one of the first Mac computers where he typed up his farm budgets. “I'm grateful that my dad was an innovator because he's given me the license to spend money on software that allows us to have better return on investment.” Born into the quaint city of Grace, Idaho, Ryan graduated college in 2008, when he moved back to the farm where he now grows potatoes and wheat, with a bit of feed barley and oats. He and his wife, Andrea, now raise their four children in the city that Ryan first called home.
At a glance
Headquarters: Grace, ID
Crops Grown: Potatoes, Wheat,
Feed Barley, Oats
Complete Financial Visibility
Return on Investment & Profit
Control Over Entire Operation
Ryan craved one system that would show him BKR Farm’s full financial picture. Prior to Conservis, Ryan’s ability to pull the information was complex. “Before, it was a matter of going to this software and this spreadsheet, and this bank and that bank, and finding this contract and then creating another spreadsheet to compare all those numbers,” said Ryan. Return on investment, maximizing profit and controlling his entire operation are critical to Ryan. Using previous farm management software, he wasn’t seeing his return on investment the way he does today. Frustrated with having to piece together numerous data streams, Ryan looked to Conservis to simplify and unite his data.
Complete Financial Visibility - Agtech & Finance Unite
BKR Farms has used Rabo AgriFinance as their lender since early 2019. Ryan is also a tester for the latest financing technology Conservis and Rabo AgriFinance have co-created. This progressive tech makes it simple for farmers to seamlessly connect their real-time field and management data with financial results. Growers using any lender can leverage this technology today.
In preparation to renew BKR Farms’ loan, Ryan worked to get all his data into the system. On Monday, Ryan received his loan renewal packet, the very first of its kind. “I reviewed it and everything looked great,” stated Ryan. “I couldn't believe the amount of information, it was a 93-page document! I didn't take the time to read all 93 pages, but I trusted Conservis knew what they were doing because they have in every other aspect. So I sent it to my lender and said, ‘Hey, look this over. It looks right to me, but I'm not exactly sure what you're looking for in a loan document, because it's different from anything I've submitted.’ He sent me an email back on Tuesday morning and said, ‘This is awesome, because I feel like we have everything we need in that packet,’ it led me to believe that we're onto something really big.”
“With that lender packet that's available now, I cannot only see that information, but I can share it with my lender and he sees the whole picture as well! It provides that open communication that allows us to work together so that I'm profitable, and they're profitable. It’s a win-win.”
Now with just a few clicks, Ryan can send organized timely farm information to his lender and they will literally be on the same page. “I have everything I need to see where I'm at to make smarter, more timely decisions,” said Ryan.
Prior to this loan renewal packet, Ryan spent countless hours searching through his accounting system and past budget sheets in Excel. “Then I would go to the bank's website and look over my operating line or loans and I'd have to comb through tons of different files to find equipment leases, equipment rents and updated interest rates. It was a good three to four-day process to get everything into one place. Going forward with this lending software that Conservis has put together, it will be a few clicks each month, and one click at the end will give me everything that my lender needs.”
Charles Hopkins of Rabo AgriFinance and Ryan clearly have a strong relationship. “But when we started last year, there were a lot of phone calls, ‘I still need this. What is this? What contracts do you have? What's your contracted price?’ So stuff that I might have overlooked in my other budget,” said Ryan. “But now where he has everything, that phone call conversation was great, it was really easy. It was ‘Go to page five, look at the bolded number, this number looks great. Go to page 34, it looks like you have your contracts here, tell me a little bit more about these contracts.’ Going forward, it's really nice to have the same document in front of us because we can have smarter, more timely conversations, and make better decisions that benefit Rabo AgriFinance. But bottom line, it benefits me.”
Return on Investment & Profit
“What I love about Conservis is being able to see what your inputs are and seeing your return on investment, because that's the bottom line,” said Ryan. “You can have amazing high yields, but unless you know what's going into producing those yields, then big yields don't matter. Because you could be a big yielder and still lose money if you're not understanding your input costs. That's why I've always been one to research farm management software.”
“If something changes as far as a fertilizer cost, I can instantly go in and change a number and see how that affects my bottom line.”
“These chemical and seed companies would tell us, ‘Our product's working,’ but is it really?" questioned Ryan. This healthy curiosity prompted Ryan to research farm management software that would allow him to measure his field’s profitability. After not getting all he wanted out of his previous systems, he’s pleased he found Conservis. “I want to know where my money can be best spent. Other software systems have allowed me to pull up my yield and input maps, but there's not been a financial relationship between the two. Other systems don’t show what individual acres cost me, or what individual zones cost me.”
Crop Insurance Claims
“For years, I've kept good records as far as harvest yield information, but it's been on spreadsheets. It's been on a field-by-field basis because that's how we farm, we want our individual fields to perform well and to give us a return on the investment that we put in. What makes it difficult is we take those fields and we report them to the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and they have a different way of combining fields into units than our insurance company. That made it very confusing.”
“With this one [Conservis] insurance claim, I received more in just this one year than I have in the last 10-15 years combined.”
Prior to Conservis, Ryan spent year after year trying to match their farm’s yield data up with FSA and their insurance company. “As a result, we went several years never receiving an insurance claim even though we'd been hailed on, we'd experienced drought, we'd had fires, we'd had damage,” said Ryan. “But because of moving the information over from my field, to FSA, to insurance, data was being lost and not recorded properly.”
Standing Above the Competition
“I've used two or three other farm management systems and I've downloaded dozens of others. What really sets Conservis apart is it helps me in my day-to-day, but it doesn't get in the way of my day-to-day operation,” stated Ryan. “I can make decisions on-the-fly. I can send work orders. I can send my spray operator to the field and have him mix four or five different chemicals into the sprayer and apply it.”
“Conservis takes the best of all the different software programs that I've used and marries into a straightforward platform to make decisions based on more than just yield.”
With other farm management systems, Ryan learned that if he didn't know precise details at the time of application, it became challenging to capture this info accurately in the back office. “It became very cumbersome to edit all these different tickets because my guy might go spray 11 fields in a day and might change mixes three or four times. My supplier might run out of one chemical and have to switch to a generic with a different price in the middle of the day and I don't want to shut my operation down and spend time on my phone changing that. Conservis allows me to just do my work and then show up at the office with my purchase order and be like, ‘Okay, this is what I actually bought at this price and this much,’ and then Conservis does the work for me."
Ryan gets more from Conservis than he did with previous software programs. “Because I cut back inputs, my return on investment is actually greater than if I had gone and put out 100 pounds of something and improved my yield, because that cost didn't offset the increase in yield. If Conservis can save me a couple bucks an acre on inputs, operations, or making a decision between growing wheat or barley, a couple bucks an acre more than pays for itself.”
Scenario Comparisons to Maximize Profit
Ryan loves that Conservis helps him make easy decisions. Within five months of leveraging Conservis’ Planning and Budgets, Ryan’s way of thinking has changed based on the real-time data he views. “Some contracts came through higher than others and where I've already got everything planned and budgeted right there, I can drop in and say, ‘What if I want to grow mustard instead of feed barley? How’s that going to affect my bottom line?’ Then I can make a decision, ‘Yeah, I think I want to grow mustard, or I want to grow flax, or maybe cut back and grow a different kind of wheat.’ Planning and Budgeting makes it so easy to make those decisions as time changes and as markets change on a daily basis.”
“In just the five months since I’ve been using Planning and Budgeting, I've changed my thoughts this spring regarding my plan, based on current market prices and market availability.”
Independence, Data Ownership & Security
Ryan is grateful that Conservis empowers him to make good, informed decisions based on the accurate, real-time farm data that lives within Conservis. “They're not trying to force any product or chemical, they're simply giving me the tools to make decisions on my own. When you have people who are trying to force their products on you or trying to control your data, then they can influence you, sometimes for good, but sometimes for bad.” If Ryan reaches out with questions or inquiries, he knows that the Conservis Customer Success team is there to support him and only him. There’s no competing agenda and no ulterior motive. “Conservis allows me to control my data, be in charge and make decisions as to what's best for me, and not what's best for another company or salesman.”
“Conservis being an independent company means a lot to me because it means I own my data.”
“I feel that Conservis' data security is very important to them,” said Ryan. “I see it in their social media posts and I hear it in podcasts that I've listened to that are independent of Conservis.” Ryan knows that we live in a world where data breaches do occur. “So a company that's focused on keeping my data private as best they can means a lot, because especially moving into the financial side of it, information is very private.” Ryan believes that many farmers don’t like to talk about how much money they're making, or even whether they are successful or struggling. “So knowing a company is not only trying to help me with their software, but also helping keep my information safe, protected and only available to me, it means a lot in today's landscape.”
Control Over Your Whole Operation
Easy access to the financial status of BKR Farms is very important to Ryan. “If I want to see what my budget is, I can pull it up and see where I should be sitting financially,” stated Ryan. “If I want to see where my inputs are going, I have one spot to pull up and see it instantly.”
“Conservis definitely puts me into a position of power in that I have control of my whole operation now, in one concise place.”
Ryan recognizes that addressing their farms finances must be done holistically. “Our financial situation is more than just seeing what I have in the bank and what I have left to draw on,” said Ryan. “Going forward, it includes what I have expense-wise, what have I budgeted, what kind of loans do I have outstanding? Before [Conservis], it was a matter of going to this software and this spreadsheet, and this bank and that bank, and finding this contract and then creating another spreadsheet to compare all those numbers.” Ryan is grateful that Conservis has streamlined and simplified this process.
“Conservis puts me in a position of power where I can pull that up and in a few clicks, see where I am at, where I've spent too much, and where I have extra to spend. That gives me the agility to move at the speed of today's time, where that hasn't been the case in the past. In the past, you could take 30 days to make a decision, but in today's landscape you don't have that luxury.”
Sustainability & Compliance
BKR Farms produces seed potatoes, making them a bit different than commercial growers that sell to companies that supply the end consumer. “But because we're seed, we still have to comply with sustainability requirements,” Ryan said. The farm is required to complete sustainability forms, proving that they are smart stewards of the land. To ensure he meets standards, Ryan tracks inputs like fertilizer, fuel and chemical usage so having a system that’s already tracking these is a big win.
“As consumers get more and more concerned about where their food is coming from, they're going to require audits for me to prove that. With Conservis, I've already done that.”
Consumers are increasingly becoming more concerned about where their food is coming from and Ryan knows the days of increasing audits is coming. “With Conservis, I've already done that. I can already pull it up and say, ‘This is what I put on these potatoes, and nothing I put on is harmful or dangerous.’ With Conservis, I have the data sheets for chemicals, so everything is right there at my fingertips. That protects me, but it also protects the consumer knowing that they're eating safe, sustainable food, going forward.”
Ryan believes that sustainable farming requires monitoring and measuring field practices closely to ensure that his children and grandchildren can farm if they choose to. He feels fertilizers and chemicals need to be leveraged safely, and he treats the soil as if it's living too, meaning close monitoring and ensuring its needs are well looked after. “I've been able to cut down on seed and fertilizer inputs and still maintain yield outputs, because I'm using it smarter through variable-rate technology and variable-rate irrigation technology,” said Ryan.