MBS Family Farms
Since 2005, Kyle and Kerri Mehmen have been farming row crops consisting of corn and soybeans on their family’s northern Iowa land. The majority of their soybeans are grown for seed bean production and they also grow sweet corn in MN. Kyle is MBS’s General Manager, while Kerri manages the day to day finances, HR and grain marketing.
Kyle’s grandparents first purchased the land back in 1953 where it functioned as a livestock and dairy farm. In 1976, Kyle's parents, Stan and Karmen, began farming the land and it's remained a long-standing tradition. Over the years, the multi-generational family transitioned from livestock to a grain focus, rented and bought different farms and substantially grew the business.
At a glance
MBS Family Farms
Headquarters: Plainfield, IA
Crops Grown: Corn & Soybeans
Scaling with Spreadsheets
The primary challenge surfaced as the business grew, causing both Kyle and Kerri to recognize their paper and pencil record keeping wasn’t scalable. As the operation gained magnitude in both size and complexity, they experienced growing pains when it was no longer just the couple managing the business. From this, an important need arose for a single system to house all their farms’ data and to be accessible to many different people across their organization. They wanted to manage their operation more efficiently, all while overseeing a growing team over two states, which required a solution that kept everyone on the same page.
In 2011, MBS began using Conservis. At the time, they were managing what contracts and loads they had been paid for. Kyle and Kerri recall back to a time when they were accidentally paid for a load of corn, but they should have been compensated for a load of soybeans. Due to excellent record keeping, Kyle believes they would have found that discrepancy, but it was certainly not as readily accessible. “We found out within a day and what if we wouldn’t have found it? That’s significant,” states Kyle. “Having the information readily available to say we have been paid for this load or not, really made a difference for us in tracking all of our grain,” said Kerri.
Conservis provided MBS with remote visibility to all their fields. “Conservis puts us in a position of power of being able to understand things in real time, to understand our business at a glance and to have confidence that the info we are looking at is correct,” stated Kyle. From the office, the MBS team has visibility to what’s happening on the farm sooner, which allows them to circumvent issues faster and more effectively. Not having to trouble their field workers with questions saves everyone time.
“Conservis puts us in a position of power of being able to understand things in real time, to understand our business at a glance and to have confidence that the info we are looking at is correct.”
One of Kyle’s favorite parts of Conservis is the Clipboard app because from a management perspective, it provides an easy way to see what has happened or is happening across the whole operation from anywhere. “With a few simple touches, I can see what’s going on or what has happened,” said Kyle. “Or if I just happen to be driving by and I wonder gosh, that looks odd, I wonder what hybrid that is, I can simply pull it up. It’s all in one place and I’m very confident that the information is correct, has been scrubbed, and I know where to look for it.”
Remote Field Management
From Agronomist Parker’s perspective, Conservis provides a means to communicate efficiently to workers in the field and to manage those workers. MBS hires outside helpers including custom applicators, planters and sprayers to complete field activities. “We use planning and budgeting and the work order modules to help manage our outside helpers,” said Parker. “It gets challenging to manage those folks and to release work orders. Conservis allows us to create those work orders ahead of time, so those outside helpers know what they will be doing when they arrive on site. It allows us to release those work orders to them, indicating it’s ready to go anytime now.”
“The Conservis work orders make it very easy to update plan changes on the fly, they’re automatically updated in an operator’s phone on their mobile app.”
Seasonally, there are a lot of moving pieces and plans are constantly changing. “The Conservis work orders make it very easy to update plan changes on the fly. They’re automatically updated in an operator’s phone on their mobile app,” stated Parker. Parker spoke to the ease of communicating changes to the field workers. “They know in real time what that change is and sometimes they don’t know that a change even happened," stated Parker. "It’s seamless for them to open up that work order on their phone, see what they’re supposed to be doing in that field and then go ahead and make that happen. Conservis has made it very easy to communicate to the person doing the work."
Conservis makes Parker’s job easier with the planning and budgeting module, which he uses very heavily throughout the winter and even into fall. Parker recalls this being a significant change from the google doc spreadsheet that the team all had on their phones and would look at before we’d go to a field. Parker is now pleased to be using the planning and budgeting module for fertilizer applications and he continues that process throughout the year, helping him stay more organized on a per field basis.
The system allows him to track specific hybrid or chemical changes that are made throughout the planning season. ‘’The ability to then move that into work orders has made a significant change in the field of allowing our operators to be quicker with their application information they’re entering into their mobile app,” Parker said. “It makes it more accurate.” The Conservis software keeps things more streamlined, empowering MBS to manage each field as each field, instead of as a group of fields.
One System that Fits Our Culture
Having one comprehensive, holistic data system is a real asset for MBS. It makes no difference who is working on a project, each employee can access the system to get what they need. “Having multiple users in one system who are looking for different data points within that data set is pretty powerful,” said Kyle. “Because without that system, you’re going to multiple places to get it.” As MBS has grown, there’s one thing that’s become even more important and that’s efficiency.
The whole MBS team laughed about “Conservis” being a verb around the office: "Have you Conservis-ed that?" The software clearly plays a vital role in the organization. It’s clear that everyone uses the farm management software platform for different activities, reports, insights and analytics. From grain management and inventory insight to operational excellence and field management, each user leverages Conservis for tailored insights that stem from their individual responsibilities.
"It’s become a part of who we are and what we do. Half of our organization may touch Conservis in any given day.”
“As our operation has evolved and we began using Conservis, we’ve become power users of it and have grown up with it,” stated Kyle. “Our organization has scaled exponentially during our time with Conservis and it’s grown right along with us.” Kyle elaborates saying the functionality that MBS uses within the system continues to evolve all the time. He feels like MBS has grown and scaled right along with Conservis, so he feels like we are all in this together. There's certainly value in having an independent software system that was developed for farmers, with farmer input.
“It’s starting to tie our whole system together,” said Kerri. “From the planning and budgeting piece to the work orders which enable the operations guys in the field to know what to do. This continues down to the inputs and follows all the way through to the moment that I sell the grain and put a settlement in to ensure we’ve been paid for the crops. It’s nice to have one system that helps ties the whole entire process together step-by-step, making sure that information is correct from beginning to end.”
Shareable, Accurate Data
MBS’s Reconciliation Specialist, Laura Schmitt, is responsible for distributing data to their land owners and she enjoys how sharable their data is. “All the data that is stored in is relayed back to our land owners,” said Laura. “Conservis is the hub of that information and with all the activities between inputs and the harvest side, we get a full picture of what’s happened on that field. Whether it’s planting or spraying activities, all the way to the harvest side showing yield information, that is a true benefit that makes my job easier.”
Parker updates General Manager, Kyle and CFO, Daryl, on where the grain inventory is at the end of each week. Parker feels better knowing he’s able to provide his team with the specifics of what remains in inventory to be marketed and sold. “That puts my mind at ease knowing I can forward that info over and know it’s accurate,” said Parker. With features such as custom billing, Kerri enjoys the ability to save the criteria she uses to run reports. This makes it easy for her to pull the report, verify it with Kyle and get the bills get into the mail faster.
“Conservis has made reporting timelier and more accurate...With the capability that Conservis has, the data coming has just been amazing."
“Conservis has made reporting timelier and more accurate,” said Laura. Because MBS grows seed beans for different companies, those companies require information generated back to them in a timely manner. They need field reports indicating when a field has been planted or sprayed within a certain time period. Due to the high-quality data and the reconciliation within Conservis, Laura can provide the required information to those companies by generating one easy-to-pull report.
“We probably never had a good way to measure our cost of waste, or our shrink in grain or our equipment efficiencies,” said Kyle. “We didn’t have a good way to benchmark against ourselves. When we put grain into a bin and take it back out and it’s within 1%, that makes you feel pretty confident. Especially when you get bin after bin after bin, year after year after year that comes up with that. That makes you feel pretty good about that.”
Laura considers the quality of data and how that’s helped them collect compensation for crop insurance in the past. “With the capability that Conservis has, the data coming in has just been amazing,” said Laura. From their grain carts to the bin and what is leaving the bin, that flow of consistent information is recognized by their crop insurance adjusters. “Our information is more believable because of the good quality data that is being used and the capability that we have with Conservis,” Laura said. She really enjoys the Conservis Harvest module within the software due to the beginning to end process. She finds great satisfaction in seeing that MBS’s grain is within 0.5 - 1% of what went in vs. what came out.
“My favorite part of all the data that Conservis stores is that we’ve just barely scratched the surface,” said Parker. “There’s so much potential for that data and how that’s actually going to be used in a profitable manner, in a way that’s going to be efficient, we can save costs. With the information and the amount of data that we have stored, now we can start to use it. It’s just the beginning, that’s the exciting part.”