South Dakota farmer’s new software makes paper a thing of the past
Scott Anderson brought his Wall Street education and corporate finance experience back to the farm to create a program that brings production costs into focus. CashCow Farmer calculates the costs to produce a bushel of grain by field and allows a farmer to manage each field as a separate business. The results are streamlined toward the bare truth—which fields are making a profit and which are mired in loss—and why.
During college, Anderson heard Warren Buffett speak at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He was inspired by Buffett’s common sense approach to business.
Leaving his family farm behind in Andover, S.D., Anderson spent two years in corporate finance on Wall Street after college. He soaked in the marketing knowledge and, following his father’s retirement, returned to his family’s 7,500-acre corn and soybean operation.
“When I came back to the farm, my goal was to get the financial side under control,” Anderson says. “If you’re an executive making decisions, you must know the ins and outs of your operation.”
Anderson brought home the promising pieces of a spreadsheet accounting program for every aspect of a farm operation. Every row was a separate field and included overhead, labor, insurance, repairs, purchases, tillage passes, inputs from seed to chemicals and much more.
At a weekend event for startup technology entrepreneurs, he didn’t think anyone would care about financial software by a farmer from a town of 99 people. He was wrong and CashCow Farmer was born.
According to Anderson, tight margins have helped CashCow gain attention. Farmers want landlords to see raw numbers to bolster rent negotiations. Backed by hard data, they want to show landlords previous rental rates aren’t necessarily affordable.
“A farmer can put his economics into the CashCow program and show the landlord first what he’s making on land he owns and second, what he’s losing on land he rents,” Anderson explains.
CashCow Farmer helps Alan, left, and Nick Strom make better decisions and gain extra profit with accurate numbers.
Alan and Nick Strom, who grow corn and soybeans in Brown County, S.D., rely on CashCow to track their inputs for individual fields. “Reviewing budgets and inputs on all of our fields is crucial to knowing the strengths and weakness of our entire operation,” Nick says. “We’re using the spreadsheet to change how we apply fertilizer to specific fields to maximize the input.”
CashCow launched in December 2014 and is available at two purchase levels: Basic costs $750 per year and includes 25 fields, and Pro Plus costs $1,500 per year and includes an unlimited number of fields. Anderson offers a 30-day free trial. The program currently works with corn, cotton, rice, canola, edible beans, flax seed, lentils, oats, peanuts, peas, potatoes, sorghum, sugar beets, confectionery sunflowers, oil sunflowers, winter wheat, spring wheat and soybeans.
“When I help a farmer get started, they often show me a bunch of papers with scribbled notes,” Anderson says. “With CashCow, the risk of reliance on a pile of papers is over.”