Forecasting profitability

A major benefit of the World Wide Web is the proliferation of online productivity software, simplifying tasks for a variety of applications. While many are free, niche programs usually come at a reasonable price. One that caught my eye is an online application designed for professional [commercial] farm technicians [usually the farmer] who wants up-to-date information on everything that happens in their operation, from factors of production to output per activity, and a profitability forecast at the end of the process. It’s the sort of information that is of fundamental importance to managing an horticulture enterprise.

Published by Softimbra, the application can be adapted to any type of farming enterprise – livestock-rearing, horticultural, fruit-growing, dairy-farming, etc. The application maintains an active dialogue with the user, and no IT training is needed for its use.

The application starts with a ‘Plot’, the area of land given over to the farm activity, whether it be broadacre or a greenhouse.

A ‘Factor of Production’ are goods or services whose use, within a given production system, contributes to obtaining a plant or animal product. Some examples are fertiliser, seeds, labour, equipment hire, etc.

The ‘Products’ are goods (sometimes services) obtained from an activity. The activity ‘Wheat’, for example, leads to the products grains of wheat and straw. Equally, it can lead to kilograms of tomatoes. The Accumulated Quantity of each factor or product is obtained from the records of the Activity Files. The Factor Fertiliser, for example, will show the total amount of fertiliser expected to be used in all plant activities.

An ‘Activity’ is a plant crop or the economic exploitation of effective livestock-rearing, with a view to obtaining marketable products or products to be used within the enterprise. This concept may be extended to include service provision (hiring of own machines, for example), storage or other situations.

The ‘Activity Economic Plan’ is created automatically from the ‘Activity File’, and is for consultation only. The factor and product data are grouped by their respective category. Finally, the total of ‘Earnings’ and ‘Expenses’ and the ‘Forecast Margin’ for the activity are shown.

The ‘Global Economic Plan’, covering all activities, permits the enterprise’s global profitability to be forecast.

Provided the prices of the factors utilised in each activity (labour, fertilisers, etc.) are updated in the ‘Lists of Prices’ and ‘Products’, all the ‘Economic Plans’ will also be automatically updated.

The ‘Daily Record’ of all the quantities of the various factors (or products) used (or obtained) in each activity or plot, allow comparison of the ‘Forecast Values’ with the ‘Real Values’ for the ‘Activity’.

The ‘Provisional Plan of Operations’ brings together all ‘Existing Activity Files’, leading to construction of a list of all the operations to be carried out in the various activities for a limited period between two dates (one day, one week, one month, etc.).

The application is run from a website (, which can be accessed from any computer, iPad or smartphone from anywhere in the world, with any operating system (Microsoft, Linux, Apple, etc.). It does not need any installation or configuration – just use the browser you normally use to navigate on the internet.

The website includes a video demo and free 30-day trial. If you decide to go ahead with the productivity application, it operates on a ‘pay only what you need’ principle. You simply buy access to the number of users you need, with the possibility of acquiring more to suit your needs and your pace of growth. For one to three users, the cost is 100 Euros per year; four to nine users is 90 Euros per year; and 10 to 20 users is 80 Euros per year. The productivity application is available in several languages – English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch, Italian, Japanese or Chinese.