New Software System From Boxcar Central Takes Growing Data to the Cloud

Boxcar Central Monitoring Farm Environmental Conditions
The power of the Boxcar technology system resides in its data-hub platform built on a cloud server. All environmental data collected by physical sensors in a greenhouse is exported remotely via Wi-Fi or Ethernet to the data hub, where it is converted to meaningful analytics. This means mass amounts of data are available at the grower’s fingertips. Additionally, the technology is used to provide custom integrations with third-party applications such as sales and accounting platforms.

Boxcar Central has become the latest business software supplier to enter the greenhouse market. Founded in 2002 as a Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) software company, Boxcar was among the first companies to deploy a cloud-based service, according to Boxcar Central Chief Operating Officer David Flynn. It now has more than 300 manufacturers and third-party logistics companies using its WMS system.

“About 18 months ago, we realized growers are manufacturers whose business operations are fundamentally the same as those in our WMS system, with a need to manage inventory and manufacturing processes,” Flynn says. “We were inspired by our friends who are greenhouse owners in Pennsylvania (Aero Development Corp.). They employ a hydroponic vertical growing system that we viewed as an ideal match for a technology solution, given the nature of a controlled environment growing system. We realized our data-hub platform is optimal for logging mass amounts of data and correlating that to crop yields and quality to increase food productivity for the grower.”

Boxcar Central’s system is based on an integrated system of controllers, sensors, and inventory management software that can be viewed through a single web portal on any mobile device, tablet, or laptop computer. Control and sensor packages report information to the data hub, which is then posted to the user’s website, and alerts of threatening conditions come via text or email. The user is able to log in and set automation of the greenhouse remotely. Growers can also view environmental data in real time and display it graphically over time.

Technology in Action

During production, growers can:
• Set up operations and enter seeds into inventory
• Sow seeds in designated germination locations until they are ready for transplant
• Record germination rates to identify top seed performers
• Transplant sprouts to user designated locations
• Generate grow schedules to maximize yields, predict harvest cycles, and track crop shrink
• Log all data to repeat or troubleshoot conditions, enhance growing techniques, export reports, and analyze them.

“Our inventory software aids the grower with food traceability, package labeling, pricing, and shipping,” Flynn says. “We integrate that piece of the software with third-party sales and accounting applications such as Quickbooks online, Zoho, and others to simplify and synchronize sales and invoicing.”

The software also includes lot-controlled tracking at all levels for food traceability.

The Boxcar system can be deployed in parts or as a whole. In other words, if a greenhouse owner just wants a sensor system with alerts and analytics, Boxcar can customize that aspect.

“Some of our customers prefer to use the inventory/business software as a stand-alone product,” Flynn says.

Boxcar also offers training either in person or virtually, depending on location.

“The software is mostly intuitive and easy to grasp with an orientation,” Flynn says. “We are producing video tutorials that can be accessed on our website in the coming weeks.”

Features of the Boxcar Central System

  • Track product inventory at all times
  • Generate purchase orders for supplies and materials
  • Generate sales orders automatically from a customer database or integrate from online sales platforms Integrate with existing accounting software
  • Generate custom labels for retail sales
  • All data securely stored in the cloud and accessible from any smartphone, tablet, or computer with web access
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