APIs in Agriculture: How Beck’s Hybrids Uses Postman for Better Farming


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Example of field plantings guided by agriculture technology
Beck’s Hybrids uses APIs to support its seed business for farmers across the country

When we hear about APIs, farming and agriculture don’t typically come to mind. Instead, we usually think of SaaS, social media, financial, IoT, and healthcare spaces. For most of us, agriculture generates images of heavy equipment, rural landscapes, and manual labor, not cutting-edge technology or sophisticated software systems. But the growing trend of digital solutions in farming—collectively known as agtech—is changing that image.

Technological advancements are modernizing the farm-to-table supply chains that feed the world’s eight billion people. We can see it in how GPS and 3D modeling help with soil management and land use, precision farming equipment increases crop yields, and drones aid with field monitoring and treatments. High-tech data exchange and APIs are critical.

Beck’s Hybrids modernizes its farming seed business

One company in the agtech space using Postman to develop APIs is Beck’s Hybrids. Beck’s is the largest family-owned retail seed company and the fourth-largest seed brand in the United States. Headquartered in the small town of Atlanta, Indiana, the family business began more than 80 years ago when it partnered with Purdue University Botany Department to plant hybrid corn seed in 1937. With that first crop, Beck’s Hybrids was born. Today, Beck’s supplies corn, soybean, wheat, alfalfa, and other seed products directly to farmers across the country.

The latest chapter in Beck’s evolution is one focused on technology. What was once a small “tech” team maintaining necessary business applications for seed sales and inventory is now a team of more than 20 developers building API-powered applications. This team develops three main APIs for in-house purposes to support a sales application, a production/processing application, as well as its FARMserver precision farming platform for customers.

Using Postman for API development

To help manage these APIs, the Beck’s team of developers now utilizes the Postman API Platform to streamline collaboration, perform ad hoc testing, and create their API documentation.

“We use Postman as our API source of truth,” says Tim Stuart, the director of software development at Beck’s.

When the company first began adding more developers, it became difficult to share endpoint tests and sample responses, especially between backend and frontend developers. The solution? Since implementing Postman, each team has separate workspaces for backend developers to create API requests to test individual endpoints, and to provide documentation to frontend developers.

Beck’s developers then use Postman scripts and environment variables to automate manual tasks and improve the testing process.

“Postman has allowed us to more easily test third-party APIs when we first start working on an integration,” Stuart adds. “We have even been able to import an existing collection from a partner to more quickly start testing their platform.”

He says that Postman’s API documentation tool has made it simple to generate and update docs, as well as present examples from test cases—all within a single solution.

“The ability to generate documentation was a big value add for us,” he emphasizes. “The manner in which Postman generates documentation is more efficient than our previous methods. Everything that you have to write for the documentation is already included in Postman when you generate the requests for testing.”

The increasing value of APIs in agriculture

The importance for Beck’s to build out its comprehensive set of APIs efficiently and accurately cannot be understated. These APIs directly impact the company’s ability to manage its seed products and research across several U.S. facilities, and they affect Beck’s ability to sell and distribute seed to farmers. In the case of FARMServer, APIs significantly improve farmer productivity, ROI, and crop yields by bringing large data sets and third-party integrations into a single application.

“Postman has become mission-critical to help speed up ongoing development and onboarding of new developers,” Stuart says. The platform—which he describes “simplifies communication and increases developer output”—has helped optimize his team’s API workflows.

As APIs become more central to Beck’s business and how farmers manage their crop and seed data, Postman looks forward to supporting the innovative ag company’s continued growth.

Are you working with APIs in a legacy industry like farming and witnessing it evolve? Let us know in a comment below.


  

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