citizen development with farming

In our previous blog, we had Justin Kaese, the general manager of Play Force, who spoke with us about his experience with low-code platforms and promoting citizen developers. In this blog, we’re bringing you someone who not only cares for the environment with his organic farming, but also for the well-being of every other farmer in the world. Meet Pedro Schambon, the founder and CEO of Pro-Farmer Software (PFS) and My Father’s Farm, an organic farm based in Seguin, Texas.

During our enriching conversation, Pedro shared his love for farming and how his previous jobs helped him with this technological initiative that transformed a side project into full-fledged farm management software—Pro-Farmer Software—which was developed without prior technical expertise. Let’s take a look at how the interaction unfolded.

Can you talk a bit about how it all started—your journey to farming? 

[Pedro] Even though I’m a native Colombian, my dad used to have a farm a long time ago. So, in one way or another, we were always tied to the land. Once we moved to the United States, I worked as an accountant and then as a real estate agent before becoming a full-time farmer. We have an organic vegetable farm here in Texas and that’s where I’ve lived for the last 14 years.

How did you land on a relatively new technology at the time, like low-code?

[Pedro] I wanted information on different systems and on my mobile, which native software didn’t provide. I was at a roadblock then and was surfing through one of the Microsoft forums, where people were talking about low-code technology. It was mentioned everywhere that it was easy to use and less “technical” for a citizen developer like myself. So, I explored a bit, tried out several platforms which were excessive for my lack of knowledge, and finally I landed on Zoho Creator. But what got me attached to the platform was the ease of building, and how the customer support addressed each of my concerns.

Do you consider yourself a “citizen developer”? Why did you decide to build it all by yourself?

[Pedro] Yes, you could say that. The only coding experience I had was with Atari Interactive back in the 80s, and that was pretty basic and minimal. And what made me decide to do it all by myself? Well, I talked to a couple of software development firms, and their offer was $100,000 to build software to manage the farm. For a small farm like ours, the price quote was a dealbreaker.

What was the idea behind using all-in-one software like PFS to manage your farm?

[Pedro] I was using QuickBooks and spreadsheets to handle the farm. We’re certified organic and for this reason, in the United States, we have to undergo intense audits from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) every year. A single inspection meant 10-12 hours and it became overwhelming from a software point of view. Also financially, paying $125 an hour for an auditor to come to the farm was grueling. 

What are some of the most important processes that PFS helps you manage?

[Pedro] We’ve designed PFS into 4 major sections. One is farm management, which deals with harvest data and sales information, among other things. Two, food safety management and quality assurance practices. Three, resources to work with, like data about weather, pest control, and soil. And finally, the analytics to evaluate the business–graphs and other farm metrics. 

What has been your single largest gain after switching to a low-code platform like Zoho Creator?

[Pedro] Well, I love farming and I hope to do that for the rest of my life. The USDA audits meant 500-600 pages of paperwork–hard to manage and bad for the environment. Now, we have just 2 sheets of paper in total. So when a platform like Zoho Creator can take care of audits and farm management, it saves a lot of our time which can be put to good use on the soil. 

Going forward, what is your next step? Both with software and farming.

[Pedro] The pandemic has questioned all our plans and I dare not take anything for granted. We’ve linked up with universities to help small-to-medium scale farmers better manage their establishments in a mission called “Developed for farmers, by a farmer” with PFS available in five different languages, to make it easier for our people. We’re also upscaling the app every day, and in order to make it error-free and efficient, we’ve taken over the front-end and Zoho takes care of our back-end.

As you can see, Pedro is the epitome of citizen development. It’s astonishing how he developed an entire farm management application with little technical expertise, and his concern for his fellow farmers is a class act in and of itself.

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