The FNA Strategic Agriculture Institute, a not-for-profit informational research organization, has launched a mobile application that could have a major impact on how farmers price inputs and on researchers' ability to find reliable farm input price data.
The application, called AgPriceBook, is available to all farmers free of charge through either the Apple or Google Play app stores.
A "small idea with large potential," the app gives farmers the opportunity to post prices they have been quoted or actually paid, for specific input products. At launch the product categories covered include: crop protection, fertilizer, petroleum products, and inoculant, and FNA-STAG will add categories or products where there is significant demand. Users can request products to be added from within the app.
The app enables farmers to view prices posted within a 100 km diameter from a centre-point location they select, or larger areas, to see how the prices they are paying compare to those being quoted or paid in any area of the country.
FNA-STAG CEO Bob Friesen said that tools to increase price discovery and price transparency are vital to farmers as they adapt to the ever-changing agricultural environment.
"Farmers need more tools for cost competitiveness by discovering what prices are in other locations, including other provinces and across the country," Friesen said. "With today's marketing techniques and bundling strategies it is important that farmers have the ability to get as accurate a price as possible. The more we can do for farmers to learn about and compare prices, the better off they are."
App users are totally anonymous. When a user posts a price, the data is anonymized to a 100 km diameter which prevents identifying farmers who post prices by making "proximity connections." As well, the app does not identify specific retailers, ensuring that no identifying connection can be made between retailer and farmer.
If producers use the app in sufficient numbers, its benefit will reach beyond individuals. Over time aggregation of the information will provide the foundation for reports that could be useful to farm organizations, researchers and policy makers. Using near-real time numbers, the data will provide the most reliable tracking of farm input prices ever available, making it an unprecedented and strong tool to help farmers improve their cost-competitiveness.
FNA-STAG says that it will use that data to produce reports tracking specific input categories and even specific products with regional and national comparisons.
"If we get solid participation, the information available to those farmers should exceed the value of any of the various farm input price surveys that have been or are currently being used," Friesen said.
But he noted that farmers will "make or break" the application. If too few farmers are willing to post prices, then the price finding features will be of little value and the aggregate data will be insufficient to generate useful reports.