Computer Software for
October 1, 2005
Laurence Evans(firstname.lastname@example.org): Is anybody using commercial shrimp pond management software? If so what is your experience? Which ones are good/worthwhile? What do they lack? Is this software a necessary tool or does it distract from real hands-on management? What do you consider critical components of such software? I am sure there are many opinions on this.
Luis Fernando Martinez (email@example.com, 786-346-8088): Check out “AP/1” at www.ap1software.com.
Henry Clifford(firstname.lastname@example.org): I would also urge you to explore “AP/1”, which was developed by Luis Fernando Martinez. It is very user friendly and extremely powerful for managing farms with 50+ ponds. It has built-in flexibility that allows you to customize it in accordance with your specific needs. It also contains decision-making features. For example, there is a harvest optimizer that aids in making harvesting decisions based on real production costs in a particular pond versus current value (with actual market prices) versus future value (based on current growth rates). For me, one of its most useful features is that it allows off-site managers to track the progress of each pond and make management decisions.
Antonin Jamois (email@example.com): I suggest that you build your own applications in Microsoft Access (a database program) and Microsoft Excel (a spreadsheet program). You can build applications that suit your exact needs. The majority of the commercial software is not be designed for your specific needs. I did this for a 320-hectare farm with 34 ponds, and it is performing well.
Julio Estrada (firstname.lastname@example.org): Bear in mind I’m NOT an impartial observer; I own a large chunk of the rights to “AP/1”.
Yes, the method proposed by Antonin is valid, in fact the initial version of “AP/1” (1990/91) was done that way, using Foxbase for data entry and now-defunct Qpro for graphic display. Today, Access and Excel are certainly a better choice. You can keep it even simpler by doing it all in a graphics-capable spreadsheet such as Excel, and at least one successful farmer was still doing things this way the last time I saw him. A long time back, I posted an email to the Shrimp List, which should still be in the archives, with some details about how to do it.
We automated “AP/1” to speed data entry and validate it on the fly. You can enter market prices, stocking information, harvest information, weekly weight samples and feed consumption for 80 ponds in 20 minutes.
Optimal time-of-harvest was very hard to predict with a spreadsheet, same with feed-sensitivity estimations like “Are shrimp likely to grow better with more feed; if so would it be cost-effective?”
Pond analysis is also far easier and faster with an automated system. Previously, it took about an hour to make harvest decisions on an 80-pond farm, and feed planning took part of an afternoon because of all the cross-checking of related factors, like health, dissolved oxygen trends and other factors.
Concerning a commercial system not fitting an individual farmer’s needs, that’s partly true, but with “AP/1” we have managed a reasonable balance, since a particular user need only input and analyze the data that he/she deems important and then customize it with graphs.
To answer Laurence’s questions:
“Is anybody using commercial shrimp pond management software?”
Yes indeed. About 30 aquaculture groups in Ecuador purchased “AP/1” to manage 70 farms and more than 12,000 hectares of ponds. Not sure how many of them survived whitespot. Among the five or six largest growout operations in Ecuador, the only one that’s not using “AP/1” runs an extensive farm.
Luis Fernando Martinez handles his own share of users, including most of the international ones. At least two largish groups in Ecuador and one in Central America have their own, proprietary automated systems.
“What do they lack from your experience?”
For one thing, we keep getting requests to integrate “AP/1” with an accounting package, but have steadfastly refused to get into that. We focus on pond management and fear that the integration of accounting would make the software a burden for the pond managers, and it would be hard to keep updated.
“Is software a necessary tool ...?”
You can certainly live without it, but more than once we closed a sale by using “AP/1” to prove that a farm’s last harvest would have been far more profitable if done 3-4 weeks earlier. In at least two cases, after doing a demo with live farm data, we talked the prospect into holding off a harvest and upping feed for 2 weeks. The resulting extra profits paid for the software with plenty to spare.
“Does it distract from real hands-on management?”
Jeez, I hope not! A few prospects have asked about the software saving them time spent around the ponds, and I have reflexly blurted out that they would be better off NOT buying the software in that case. Time spent around your ponds is invaluable! We think of “AP/1” as a toolbox that lets pond managers quantify in dollars the likely results of their decisions—and save them time in the process, which can be spent on pond watching.
Most installations go to laptops that are carried around the ponds. That way, if the user finds a misbehaving pond, he can take a look at the economics, set up best/worst case scenarios and make an informed harvest or feed decision on the spot.
“What do you consider critical components of such software?”
At some farms, feed management has been the money saver, but more often it’s harvest-point-optimization that yields the biggest dollar savings. A few users emphasize parameter trend watching (DO, ammonia) but most don’t even input that data. Then there’s the fun of playing “What If” games with your data, like estimating the payoff from upping densities and taking a hit on growth rates. I keep pushing users to take advantage of the historical data that accumulates in the database. They could, for example, pull a seasonal dataset into a spreadsheet and correlating stocking rates with profitability, but only a few do it. Some who do have dug up very interesting correlations, for instance, pretty solid indications on the most cost-effective pretreatment of seed. Of course you can do this with Excel, but with automated software the data is there ready to perform on demand.