One of the magazines we look forward to every year is the Top 100 Growers edition of Greenhouse Grower, which comes out every May.
The routine goes like this: Get the magazine from the mail slot, thumb to the list, count how many of our customers are on the list, smile. Then, back up to the beginning to read the article before the list starts, which is generally a statistical breakdown of the Top 100 Growers and comparisons to previous years. Then go past the list and find an article that explains the yearly survey given to the Top 100 Growers.
This year’s survey was about technology, automation and sustainability. The numbers are astonishing, and we couldn’t be happier — but not for the reason you may expect.
Top 100 Growers look to invest in software in 2016
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: Practical Software Solutions sells software systems. And yes, we sell Grower Vertical for Sage software systems, specifically designed for the horticulture industry. So it would be a bit disingenuous of us if we didn’t say we were happy to see 70 percent of the Top 100 Growers are looking to invest in a software system this year.
While you may think our excitement is based off of a potential windfall for us, it’s really not. Since Grower Vertical went on the market about eight years ago, part of our mission has been to educate the horticulture industry about integrated software systems and how they can benefit growers just as they have benefited traditional manufacturers for years.
For the first time, we’re seeing the horticulture industry taking their software systems seriously. This is an industry that shares its keys to success unlike any other. And the word is getting around that having an integrated software system can help a grower’s bottom line.
This is especially important as more wrenches are being thrown into the horticulture industry. In one of the Top 100 Growers articles, Matt Altman, the COO of Altman Plants, said that the minimum wage has risen 25 percent in California over the past two years. And two other Top 100 Growers mention some of the labor shortages are stemming from a new generation of growers who aren’t prepared for the hard work or wish to be promoted to a corner office without paying their dues. That’s not to mention difficulties arising from H-2B visa legislation.
Defining a software system for the Top 100 Growers
Notice the Top 100 Growers are looking for “computer software systems” and not “mobile apps.” That’s not to say growers aren’t looking for mobility. On the contrary, growers are looking to get more mobile. But the days of looking for an app that just takes care of one process and doesn’t have native integration with a software system are waning.
A software system isn’t just an inventory management piece or an app that manages Pay by Scan for certain big-box retailers. By definition, a “system” is a combination of different pieces that form a unitary whole. Inventory management and Pay by Scan pieces are really great, but they’re just that: Pieces. If they don’t integrate with your accounting, production, CRM, shipping and everything in between, they’re not part of the same system.
And while we’re talking about definitions, “integration” doesn’t mean “it works if you export it from the application and import it into your accounting software.” Integration means all parts are specifically designed to fit the system to begin with. That can only happen if the software developer has access to the source code of the main system to begin with. Every step that doesn’t feature a native integration wastes time and can add errors into the process.
That’s what we set out to do when we first brought Grower Vertical to the table. Practical Software Solutions has been a Sage partner since 2001 and is a Sage Silver Development Partner. That’s how we were able to create a horticulture-specific program like Grower Vertical with native integration with Sage business systems. Making disparate apps is what you do when you only see growers as their greenhouse. Providing an integrated business system is what you do when you see growers for their entire business from top to bottom.
And now that software technology is improving, we now can provide an entire integrated business system with Grower Vertical that’s 100 percent web native. That means everything from financials to production to shipping to CRM and everything else can be accessed through a secure connection on any device with a web browser. (You can come check it out at Booth 1726 at Cultivate’16 if you’d like to see it in action.)
Finding the right software system for the Top 100 Growers
Let’s face it: We do not have a one-size-fits-all software system. We know this, and make it perfectly clear to the growers we do business with. When you’re selling the entire system and not just an add-on, comparisons between other horticulture software products and Grower Vertical look slightly skewed.
Not every one of the 70 Top 100 Growers who clicked on the “Computer software systems” check box in the Greenhouse Grower poll will need what we’re selling. Some may already have an integrated business system. Some may not need as powerful of a system for the size of their operation.
However, a little bit of adversity has brought us closer to some of the other software vendors in the industry. We are happy to help growers who may not be perfect fits for Grower Vertical to find a solution that’s right for them.
In the final analysis, what the poll numbers show isn’t just a number of growers who want to purchase a software system. It shows the percentage of growers who are willing to invest in their software technology to improve their bottom line is growing by leaps and bounds. That means there are more growers than ever who want to invest in their entire business, which is great news for the industry as a whole.