Time tracking, also known as labor tracking, helps you understand your business better. By keeping tabs on how much time is spent on different tasks or crops, you can determine which ones are making you money and which aren’t. This information is crucial when you’re thinking about expanding, buying new equipment, or tweaking your current methods.

Here’s a straightforward guide on how time tracking can help your agriculture or food business.

Key Benefits of Time Tracking

Save money by knowing where your money goes.

Knowing the labor cost for specific tasks, crops, or enterprises helps you see which parts of your business are profitable. Seeing where time is spent can also help you identify new tools or technology that could make your operations more efficient, further saving you money.

Client example: A farm selling its product through e-commerce did a time study on how long it takes to process, pack, and close out orders of various sizes. They identified that it took almost 6 minutes for each order to process/close because the technology, sales platform, and shipping software they used were poorly integrated. They decided to invest in a rebuild of their website, which will build efficiency and cut down the time spent on order processing to 1-2 minutes per order.

Tap into your team’s full potential.

Understanding how your team works day-to-day can reveal opportunities to cross-train and redistribute responsibilities in a way that makes your team more efficient and productive. 

Having managers do time studies is often a good place to start for understanding how your team is utilizing time, especially in small multi-enterprise businesses. For example, at meat processing business, the general manager tracks his time spent on the cut floor daily. While it’s important for him to spend time with the crew and build team culture, tracking his time helps ensure he isn’t spending too much time on these activities, which would take away from his management duties. Keeping a constant eye on this can help the business understand when they may need to add to staffing on the cut floor or redistribute responsibilities to make the most of people’s time and abilities.

Choosing a Time-Tracking Method

The best way to track time depends on your needs. You might do it habitually (all the time), periodically, or only for specific tasks. To determine what time-tracking method makes the most sense for your business, start by identifying what question you want to answer.


    • Am I making a profit selling lettuce?
      • Periodic: track labor related to lettuce production 
    • Should I invest in a new implement for weeding?
      • Specific: track labor related to weeding
    • What tasks do my managers spend the most time on?
      • Periodic: track time across tasks or enterprises
    • Should I harvest the rest of the radishes or till them under?
      • Habitual or periodic
    • Which enterprise requires the most labor as a percentage of sales?
      • Habitual or periodic

Here’s what you need to know about each approach:

1. Habitual Time Tracking

This method involves recording all tasks throughout the day. This can be easily managed through time tracking apps like Harvest or customized Jotforms or Google Forms


  • Easy data collection and report generation.
  • Detailed insights into all business operations.


  • Requires constant internet access.
  • Needs full staff participation.

2. Periodic and Specific Time Tracking

These methods are perfect for when you need specific information, such as the profitability of a certain crop. Rather than needing to invest in a time-tracking system, you can keep it simple with a digital or printed log sheet and a stopwatch.


  • Easy to implement and use in remote areas.
  • Low-tech requirements make it accessible to all staff.


  • Higher risk of data loss or entry errors.
  • Manual data processing can be time-consuming in itself.

Steps to Implement Time Tracking

Setting Up for Success

Start by identifying the key questions you need answers to. For instance, if you’re unsure about the profitability of a particular crop like lettuce, you’ll want to track the labor specifically associated with its cultivation.

Identifying what you want to know at the start can help you determine how to track your data. Don’t try to track everything all the time—you’ll end up with too much data to draw meaning from it.

Choosing the right tools is equally important. The key is to select tools that are accessible and easy for your team to use. Using accessible tools means your staff can consistently and accurately record data, which leads to reliable results.

Engage Your Team

Get your team’s support by explaining the ‘why’ behind time tracking. Help them see how it benefits not just the business but also their personal efficiency and job satisfaction. When team members realize that time tracking can simplify their tasks, clarify their roles, and balance their workload, they are more likely to adopt the process and willingly contribute.

Providing training on how to use the tools is key, too. Provide training sessions to all team members so they know how to use the tools to get accurate and consistent data. Proper training empowers employees to improve operational systems and helps prevent errors that could affect decision-making.

Maximize Profitability with Time Tracking Data

When you incorporate your time-tracking data into your financial reviews, you can uncover several ways to maximize your profits: 

  1. Fine-tune your staffing: Hire or downsize based on your business’s current needs to meet its profit potential.
  2. Optimize efficiency: Compare labor inputs to financial outputs to prioritize high-return crops and products. Understanding how your business’ labor is spread across products, activities, or enterprises can give you insight into specific sales-to-income ratios to see what parts of your business are efficient vs. not.
  3. Invest wisely: Ensure major investments contribute to your business’s efficiency and bottom line by considering the labor savings they offer.
  4. Adjust pricing: If certain products require more labor, increasing their prices can help preserve your profit margins.
  5. Streamline operations: Find opportunities to cut costs by identifying and fixing inefficient processes.