Perpetual motion might be the best way to describe the environment of J&J Bikter, a multi-generational farming operation canvassing more than 8,000 acres across northwestern Minnesota. Beyond the sugar beets, wheat, soybeans, and alfalfa, Jake Bitker, CEO and Managing Partner of J&J Bitker is co-owner with his wife of Bitker Inc., a tire shop serving the region. The duo also operates two raceways - in addition to owning three racing teams.
Before the constant motion of multiple entities and squealing tires, Jake’s grandfather started the family farm’s history by purchasing 20 acres at a time in the Ada region. That eventually evolved into 1,200 acres still owned by the farm. Since then Jake, his dad, and uncle have acquired and settled their own neighborhood of sorts - a unique straight line of three individual properties totaling 6,000 acres where they live and work.
The perpetual motion of the farm and family, amid the whirring of tires, required Jake and his crew to seek a single, reliable, efficient farm management solution.
At a glance
Cost of Production
Farm Owner, Jake Bitker, had already invested significantly in machines and equipment, but didn’t feel he was getting the full value. “We put out a big expense on capital for this data, but I didn't really have a good way to manage it.” He wanted a platform that would provide actionable data, a clear cost of production, and a streamlined method for his employees and trusted advisors to collaboratively and efficiently manage and grow the farm.
Actionable Cost of Production
Jake, Owner at J&J Bitker, relies on Conservis for a clear cost of production that empowers him to make efficient decisions. “From chemical to seed, I can look at a parcel of land and take my normal practice that I thought was a good practice, but see I wasn't getting the yield or the return that I wanted, and now I can adjust my seeding rate, my chemical spraying, or my fertilizer. Conservis absolutely provides me a cost of production.”
“I really like to know my cost per acre right down to the pennies and it really stands out for me when I have all the raw data in correctly that I get my perfect cost.” Jake can move seamlessly from planning in the spring to return on investment in the fall. “When you get into harvest and after that, then all of a sudden you have your return on investment. So what that acre actually produced. Those are the reports I look for.”
Hannah Hasbargen-Cloose, CPA with Eide Bailly and advisor to J&J Bitker, says a clear cost of production enables answers. “If you’re renting a piece of land, should you be renting it or not? Does it make sense?”
In determining whether or not a decision makes sense, Steve Troyer, a CPA with Eide Bailly, says a clear breakeven analysis is essential. “Typically the number one thing that we want our clients to know is, what is their breakeven?” From there, CPAs and growers can explore cost of production at deeper levels. “We can look to the numbers and activity to determine what we need to do. If I'm going to grow another 100,000 bushels of corn, or another 40,000 bushels of beans, what is it going to cost me and what do I have to sell those at to be able to make the profit I want?”
“I can't market something if I don't know my breakevens. And if you don't know your numbers, you're probably not successfully farming in this day and age.”
Connected & Organized Operation
From generations on the family farm to employees who are like family, Jake Bitker sees value in a farm management solution that aggregates information. “Conservis did bring connectivity to our operation because I got more people involved that work for me on a more detailed level. They're more highly invested and they see the bottom line.”
For Jake, the perfect example of this is Farm Manager, Kevin Olson. “Kevin has been working with me - and I say working with me because he is a big part of my farming operation - for 21 years now. What he's doing with Conservis has actually helped me now see how it's putting a return back right down to the bottom line.” Kevin agrees. “Conservis works very well for us. It just connects everything up, so in the long run it makes everything a lot easier.”
Operations Manager, Carter Olson, says Conservis also empowered him in his role. “I was excited to learn it. That's when I got to take the next step into the farm. It just makes me feel more independent to where I don't have to ask the guys for certain pieces of paper they have in their office. They can just keep doing their own thing. I can just go throughout my day and I’ve got it right on my fingertips, whatever I need.”
“If we stopped using Conservis tomorrow, I think it would be a big loss to the farm.”
As a financial advisor, Steve Troyer appreciates this level of connectivity. “One of the reasons I like Conservis as a farm management information system is that two generations can see the information coming from there. It does in fact provide direction, and does provide the ability to determine the profitability of that operation, even during a transition.”
Hannah, CPA for the farm, agrees. "Putting everything together in a system like Conservis gives all of the generations the option to learn and work together on things."
Organized for the Future
The crew at J&J Bitker appreciates the comprehensive farm organizing capabilities of Conservis, especially because they recall when things weren’t as easy. Prior to Conservis, Jake says during certification processes he would have to write down each record by hand, recalling from memory. Now he utilizes comprehensive Conservis reports. “Minnesota USDA has to come out and certify the field and they like to see the spray records. With Conservis we can give them those records. When they certified the field they attached our [Conservis] reports into their certification.”
“You can have all the data in the world, but if you don’t know what it means or how it’s organized, it is virtually worthless.”
Carter also relies on streamlined access to data with Conservis. “Now I can just pull up on my phone, find how much fertilizer we put down on that field, instead of having somebody go into Dad's office, find the sheet of paper that says this is how much it is.”
Kevin Olson, Farm Manager and Dad to Carter, has complete confidence in Conservis records. “This way, if we get audited, it's just right there and they [the auditors] can have it.”
Owner Jake says that the ability to determine projections is “my favorite part about Conservis.” Even though he just started using a simplified Budgeting module within Conservis this year, he says “I feel like I have enough data over the past couple years that I get a really true projection going forward.” In fact, Jake says that his banker also likes the Budgeting reports and the farm will be exploring the module’s opportunities even more.
To gain the most benefit possible, Jake prefers his trusted advisors at Eide Bailly have access to the farm’s Conservis reports. “When we were putting together the global projections, it gave us real data all the time and made my life easier - not gathering the information for the Eide Bailly team.”
“This year Conservis really made my life easier doing the projection for 2023.”
As a CPA for J&J Bitker, Hannah uses reports directly from Conservis as a starting point for projections. “I can enter contracts going into the next year. Then I use it for the breakevens and projections that we do going into the next crop year.”
Hannah says J&J Bitker isn’t alone. “The producers I’ve talked to who are using farm management systems like Conservis really appreciate being able to set up breakevens and projections.”
Surrounding the Farm
Jake Bitker leans into Conservis reports and tracking to help keep his advisors informed, saying “it's easier for them to read because it's in a format that fits their format. To get Eide Bailly, our accountant service involved, the bankers involved, to give them my pen and paper, doesn't make a lot of sense.”
This interconnectedness between the farm and trusted advisors means faster, more efficient numbers and decisions for Jake. “It has been very beneficial. Our CPA has access to our Conservis dashboard so she can actually download reports. We have true numbers all the time.” These reports Jake then shares with his banker who is able to see a clear and comprehensive financial picture of the operation. Any Conservis data is shared at the grower's discretion.
“It does provide a comfort level with lenders that hey, we've actually seen it go full circle from literally going into the ground, out of the software, into the financials, into a prepared market value financial statement, to the end.”
Jake is confident in the data security Conservis provides and sees value in sharing his farm data with trusted advisors. “Data ownership is something I think about because you don't want everybody to have your data. Me giving Eide Bailly access to Conservis isn't a problem for me because I want them to help me make the best decisions and advise me.”
Steve Troyer of Eide Bailly sees working with clients who utilize farm management systems as a win-win. “It’s [Conservis is] providing real-time information for making business decisions, which then gives us, as a trusted advisor, the ability to help growers. Now we can use that information to say:
- Should we build more storage?
- Do we need more shops?
- Do we need to buy more equipment?
- How many acres do we really want to farm?
- What will it take from a cost perspective for those acres?
That is the information that they need.”
Hannah, CPA, agrees. “It's so important for farmers to have their information on a digital platform so they can access it easily. They can share it with their accountants, lenders, agronomists, or whoever else needs access to it easily. You can keep 20 some years more than that of records and historical data in these platforms. How many pages would you have to print out and have side by side to look at those same years?”
Efficient Machine Integration
& Mobile Connectivity
Before Conservis, Jake Bitker says collecting data was one thing, but using it for the betterment of the farm was another. “I didn't really have a good way to manage it. I'm not a really techy person in IT, so for me, pen and paper was always faster.” Then he learned about machine integration with Conservis. “I'm like, yes, this is what I've been looking for. Because at the end of the day, I want to know of my parcels of land that I own which are the best producers.”
The farm uses both John Deere Operations Center and Climate FieldView™, and now confidently relies on Conservis’ machine integration for a comprehensive understanding of in field activity and associated costs. “They [Conservis] absolutely brings it all together. They put it in a platform that we can navigate.”
“As I'm planting or anything, I can just pull up on my phone, find how much fertilizer we put down on that field instead of having somebody go into Dad's office, find the sheet of paper that says this is how much it is.”
Carter Olson, Operations Manager, agrees. “At the beginning of the year we'll set it up to make sure everything's working. But then as the year's going on, you don't even have to really touch it.” Whether he’s running Climate FieldView™ over his Case Patriot Sprayer or utilizing John Deere Ops, he knows the data will be there for him when he needs it, even if he doesn’t have cell reception on a particular field. “It just saves it right into the cloud and then I just bring my iPad that I have the app on into the shop at the end of the night. As soon as it connects to WiFi, it sends it straight to Conservis.”
The Conservis mobile app improves accuracy and efficiency for Carter, even from the cab of a tractor. “I can go on the Conservis app and find what I need for the next field, what I need to put down for liquid fertilizer, and that's all on the app now. Before I'd have to call dad, ‘Hey, how many units am I putting down on this field? Or how much do I need?’ It saves both of us a little time where he can do his thing, I can do mine, and I have it all on the app.”
"We can just click open Conservis and see how much we have planted in this field, how much fertilizer we put down on that field."
& Increasing Efficiency
Operations Manager, Carter Olson, says, “On a weekly basis Conservis probably saves me two hours of where I'd have to go back and look at paperwork to see how much of this chemical I sprayed that day. Where I can just go right into the Conservis app and there it is.”
This accessibility has improved efficiency for Carter. “When I get back to the shop, I don't have to rummage through paperwork and find what I need, so that saves a lot of time.” Before Conservis, Carter says tracking inventory and grain hauling was inefficient. “It would take probably half an hour to an hour depending on how many loads you hauled out and how many bins you had.” With Conservis, “Boom. It’s pretty much already there.”
"Conservis saves me probably four hours a week."
For Kevin this saved time translates into hours each week he gets to spend doing what he enjoys. “I would say it's hours of time saving, because I don't have to do paperwork at the end of the day. It just gives me more time at home by using Conservis. Riding side by side with my family or going to the lake, stuff like that.”
J&J Bikter Owner, Jake, says, “The big thing I look for are efficiencies in our operation because there aren't many things we can control in cost except for efficiency. And efficiency is a fixed cost that if you can control your efficiency level, you can be a better operator.”
For a man and a farm family in constant motion, saving hours each week and increasing efficiency empower better decisions and outcomes across the operation.