Home-EditorialsDrake's Perspective - A History with Chem-Man

Drake’s Perspective – A History with Chem-Man

It has been remarkable to see the growth Chem-Man has experienced just in my (what feels like a short) time with the company. With the rapid growth, we have amassed several new customers and grown our following who are often unaware just how long Chem-Man has been around serving aerial and ground applicators across the U.S. and Canada. Regina Farmer started Chem-Man in 1992. The software originated as a DOS program (Disk Operating System) and at the Ame was an advanced billing system utilized by many aerial and ground applicators in the South. As technology evolved and the Ag AviaAon Industry advanced, the equipment and systems used by applicators had to evolve with it. In 2015 Chem-Man moved to the online version that would later evolve and become what the program is today.

Believe it or not, there are a small handful of operators in existence that are still using the original desktop version of Chem-Man to this day. I would like to introduce someone who until a year ago would fall into that category. This person and I have grown to become great friends after working closely together, which also resonates particularly with me is that he and his family are the first operation I worked with after my career with Chem-Man began.

Wade Lakey of Tri-County Sprayers, the 3rd generation of a family of aerial applicators with deep roots in the Ag Aviation Industry. Wade moved back home after his time in college and stepped up to help run the family business. Wade works alongside his mother Laine, his father Brad, and his uncle Vance who began an ag flying business based in Hamlin, Texas in 1988.

Vance and Brad were the sons of Herbert (Herb) Lakey who began his flying career in Texas in 1964. Herb started out flying a Piper Pawnee and his endeavors only grew after that. Herb was one of the many pioneers of the industry who played a vital role in the Boll Weevil run that we all know today as the foundation for current ag aviation. Laine has been running the office and taking care of the bookkeeping since 1995. Her initial billing program was another DOS program for a few short years where she then switched to The desktop version of Chem-Man in 2000.

Laine and Wade utilized the Chem-Man desktop until 2023 when I first met them at the TAAA convention in Lubbock, Texas. After spending some time allowing me to showcase demonstrations and after attending a Chem-Man introductory training class, they decided that after all of these years, it was finally time to make the switch.

Wade jokingly shares that his career began at Tri-County Sprayers at birth however, he assumed more responsibilities and pivotal roles within the company when he returned from college in 2012. Wade wears many hats within the company managing tasks that range from mechanic duties, equipment maintenance, aircraft mixing and loading, inventory management and sales, and scheduling and dispatching. Although the combination of the desktop version of billing with Chem-Man, handwritten notes, and black and white copies of google maps worked well for many years, Wade quickly saw the need to embrace the 21st century and utilize the latest and most advanced technologies on the market. After years of pleading with his mother to switch to the online version of Chem-Man, Laine began considering the change after noticing her older outdated computer that housed the desktop software was beginning to have issues. The fear of change was overcome with the greater fear of losing all their customer information and current balances should something happen to that computer, especially during the busy season. Laine currently takes care of the billing and bookkeeping, but having Wade around has allowed her the ability to spend more time with her grandchildren.

Over 60 years, Tri-County Sprayers has seen a drastic evolution in the ag aviation industry. Wade recalls stories from his grandfather’s early days with the company and how he used to draw maps on napkins and then fly to fields looking for flags, indicating he was on the right pass. The company grew from a single piston-powered aircraft using handwritten napkin maps to an operation that utilizes four turbine-powered aircraft where they service their area as well as reaching other parts of the country to assist other operations in the Midwest. In their growth, they proudly received the TAAA Operator of the Year Award in 2019.

When asked what Wade has particularly enjoyed the most about the switch his answer to me was… “It wasn’t but a couple of weeks after that we started using Chem-Man online that we had a job that was completed but I had forgotten to move it from scheduling to an invoice. If I would not have had Chem-Man, the job would have inevitably been lost with the way we did things before.” Wade and Laine were also apprehensive about making a change based on the price. “Before we were used to buying software and we own it with the desktop version of Chem- Man it was a one-and-done purchase. We were hesitant to shift into a yearly subscription pricing point at first. But after a short time of using Chem-Man online, we quickly could see the benefit and the program is well worth what we pay just for the mapping alone, much less all the other features that come with it.” Wade also comments that he particularly likes the ability to know how much chemical is needed and how much chemical he has on hand. Wade goes on to say “Chem-Man has made my life so much easier eliminating the guesswork on figuring product needed for a job or how much product I have in inventory. That feature alone saves me over an hour every day.”

I asked Laine what she has enjoyed about switching to Chem-Man online, and her reply to me was… “Being able to grab the laptop and take it wherever or even login on my phone and have access to Chem-Man. It allows me to not be confined to the office or one computer. I never realized how much I would use Chem-Man outside of the office; if a customer calls and wants to know if a job has been completed, I can just look at my phone and say, ‘Yes that’s been sprayed, or that job has been finished’. It has prevented me from writing down an order when I get a call if I’m out of the office and accidentally forgetting about the order if I misplace that note.”

It has been very rewarding for me to hear how well implementing Chem-Man online has been for the Lakeys and everyone at Tri-County Sprayers. I hope to reach other operators out there who share some of the similar concerns about switching from the desktop version to the online version like Wade and Laine both had. Although change can be scary sometimes there are advancements and new technologies made to simplify the lives and work of operators in our industry. I take pride in knowing that Chem-Man does just that and I believe wholeheartedly in our program. Spray seasons are beginning in the southern states and before we know it, it will be full throttle for everyone across the country. We hope everyone has a safe and prosperous season and thank everyone for their continued support.





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