"Significantly improve the way farms are managed and operated through the use of technology." With this aim in mind, Jeremy Adams, Jeroen van Vliet and their colleagues started to develop farm management software 10 years ago. After 5 years, the web based software, Unosof, was finished and could be commercialized to other growers in Ecuador. Over the years they have built a well-established reputation in Ecuador and are now gaining a foothold in Colombia.
Team members of Unosof at the Expo Flor Ecuador in Quito, Ecuador
What is Unosof?
Unosof is an ERP system for farms. "It covers field plan management, post-harvest management, inventory management, exportations, sales and accounting receivables. The software is fully web based, responsive, scalable, modular and easy to customize for the needs of each client”.
How does it work?
"We work together with Colombian and American programmers. Our company in Ecuador is a service company that commercializes, maintains and translates the farm's requirements to our programmers. Our local presence is key, we physically visit our clients frequently to understand their specific and changing needs. Our daily cycle is to map-, code-, test-, deliver- and implement developments continuously with our customers”.
Why do growers shift to a new management system?
"Most of the time when we visit new potential clients they are working on a system that is made in-house, or on an old software system", explains Van Vliet. "If the in-house developer leaves or if the old software system is not able to adapt itself to the fast-changing needs in our industry, they give us a call."
However, there are many more reasons to make the transition. For example, to save time and money, or to access accurate real-time data. "We see large and successful companies working still in Excel. There you can see one person working on a report for a couple of weeks. It is slow and not reliable. Now, with Unosof, a grower has real-time access to all of their data. The reliability is much higher and the management can make better decisions. All in all, the organization becomes more transparent. For instance; having live accurate inventory for sales turns into fewer flowers being discarded and less credits being received."
Not for everyone
In Ecuador Unosof works with around 40 growers, the well-organized ones in particular. "We select our clients according to level of professionalism. The company needs to be able to manage the software, from usage to data management and true level of understanding information, the level of management is the critical factor.”
According to Van Vliet, they are operating in a challenging segment. "Farm management software in Ecuador and Colombia is a niche. It’s kind of crazy to point your career into that, because to understand flower farming on such a detailed level like we do, you must be willing to sacrifice everything. Apart from the culture and language, you need to have the talent and ability to provide solutions that really work for the client. It’s hard to translate a story into code.”
Also for Jeroen van Vliet, it was a big guess whether their software system would be accepted in the market. "Its like writing a book: grab a pen and paper and start writing from scratch, and hopefully after years of work, someone will like and buy your work. We worked on the software for five years, hoping that the growers would like and value it.”
In order to stay up to date, the developers in the US and Colombia are continuously modernizing the software. “Web based farm management software was an illusion ten years ago, and to be honest: now it still is very unique, but we were already there. I think it’s a great advantage to have our developers in California, there is so much inspiration on modern solutions that we make use of, we always stay on top.
Besides staying up to date, they are also working on adding new modules. "Currently, we see a great need to integrate the buying parties with the farms. Then the buyer will have live access to the inventory of the farm, receive a digital packing list / invoice with unified box stickers. Currently we are building a way to integrate the methodology of the Floricode vmp. 1.0 into our software.”
Gaining a foothold in Colombia
In addition to improving the software, Unosof is also expanding their market. Since early 2018 they've been working with a Colombian farm. And it is not just a matter of copying and pasting their successful formula in Ecuador. According to Van Vliet, several modules - particularly the export and accounting modules - had to be adjusted, as Ecuadorian and Colombian farms work quite differently. "Next to all the different export documents, the inventory management is different at Colombian farms. They sell their flowers first before bunching (pre-cooling & projection based inventory management), whereas Ecuadorian growers bunch the flowers first and sell them afterwards (barcoded bunch inventory)."
Entering the Colombian market offers a lot of opportunities for Unosof. "We are currently working with one grower, but we already see the interest in our software rising."
"All in all, hard work pays off."