Computer Programmer Makes Big Impacts on Farm

posted on Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Congratulations to Ben for winning the SelectPride Partner Award!

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Ben might not know it, but he’s made a huge impact on animal care and biosecurity, all while sitting behind two computer screens.

Ben is a computer programmer in the Information Technology Department, a small but mighty team that handles the hundreds of Tools requests that come in from production and support departments—requests that make communication and information between farms, people and departments flow quickly and accurately.

His efforts generated multiple nominations for the SelectPride Partner Award from the members of the Production Well-Being (PWB) team. Nominations that detailed out all of the long hours, extra efforts and sheer will and determination needed to harness millions of on-farm assessment data points and flow them into an easy to use web-based tool that can help farms get better—faster.

It was a two-year collaboration between Ben and the PWB team—capturing the data housed in forms and spreadsheets from years of Pork Quality Assurance certifications, Trucker Quality Assurance certifications, driver assessments, on-farm assessments, caretaker trainings and biosecurity reviews and assimilating it into Tools, our web-based information system. Thousands of annual efforts that ensure we’re doing the right thing for our animals every day in a way we can measure and improve upon.

“The Production Well-Being team is out in the farms walking pens, reviewing caretaker practices, training and working one-on-one with farm managers and their teams,” explains Cassandra, DVM and PWB Director. “Now, we can access, sort, analyze, identify trends and give feedback back to the farms faster while providing the broader picture of biosecurity and animal care."

Cassandra said she had a vision on what the team needed, but didn’t know how to get there, not when it comes to IT programming, that is. “Ben’s a great listener and he took the time to really understand what we needed in terms of the end goal,” said Cassandra. “He’s friendly, positive and was always working towards finding a solution when we’d hit a wall.”

"Ben has excellent communication skills, answering emails and phone call that I am almost certain interrupts what he’s working on,” said Jeff, PWB specialist. Jeff’s colleagues—Jessica and Craig, also spoke to the effort Ben made to respond quickly, identify improvements and help train the team on how to pull custom reports.

Ben is humbled by the appreciation by the team but said what motivates him is knowing he’s helping make things better at a great company with great people. “I really like the small company feel, and knowing these projects are making things easier for people out on the farms,” he said.

Ben says he owes a lot to Chad, a senior programmer who shares the load of requests that come in and leads the overall design and architecture of Tools. Carl Vogel, director of IT, says both Ben and Chad collaborate and work off each other really well to keep their objectives moving forward quickly and with great quality, which ultimately benefits the users out in the field at a rapid pace.

Other projects Ben is knocking out for different areas of the business include big, long-term projects like digital sign-in sheets, Tools TV, Epidemiology reporting, TAPS Project, Analysis and production audits, to small, pop up projects (and of course, everyone’s favorites)—Adventureland and Iowa State Fair sign-up forms.

“Before working at Iowa Select, I thought all there was to pig farming was feeding and watering them,” joked Ben. “But after just one day on farm my respect for our employees went through the roof. They are some of the hardest working people ever and turns out there’s a lot more than just feed and water. If there’s anything that I can do to make their jobs easier, I’m always happy to help.”

Congrats to Ben on a much-deserved SelectPride Partner Award!