A precise measuring machine that can dispense combinations of six different dry herbicide products into a disposable bag has big potential for customer service and inventory control for selected DuPont agricultural retailers.
DuPont field tested a dozen PrecisionPac Herbicide Delivery System computerized measuring units during 2011, and an additional 23 units have been placed in ag retailer operations around the country for the 2012 growing season. The machine looks a lot like an oversized soda vending machine. All the machines are set up to dispense low-use-rate wheat herbicides that come in DuPont’s patented TotalSol granular formulation. The machine can hold six 35-pound bags or four such bags and two 540 pound bulk totes mounted above the machine.
The patented TotalSol formulation was developed a few years ago to reduce packaged product residue and to dissolve fully in solution. Bags containing TotalSol formulations dispensed from the PrecisionPac system do not need to be rinsed or returned to the retailer and can be disposed of in the trash. The products do not go into suspension but totally dissolve in water, which results in simple sprayer clean out with only 10 percent of the rinseate necessary compared to other sulfonyl urea herbicides’ clean out.
“The PrecisionPac allows for customized solutions,” said Marty Wojcik, former cereal portfolio manager and current head of forecast demand for DuPont. “Customized solutions to the retailer is being able to take up to six products that the machine can dispense and creating customized solutions to meet the changing needs and weed problems growers are encountering in their fields. It is a unique opportunity for the retailer to offer that customized service.”
This still means ag retailers need to collaborate with DuPont on specific weed problems that are showing up in their area so that the system can be programmed to dispense a combination to take care of their growers’ weed shifts, such as glyphosate-resistant weeds.
“Addressing the grower’s shifting weed control needs with this system is incredibly simple”, said Wojcik. “The fact that the system is automated enables DuPont to monitor the system’s performance and also upgrade the dispensing programming to match changing grower needs.”
Multiple safeguards exist so that the system only allows dispensing product combinations that meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency label requirements for each of the input/mix products, it was noted by Wojcik.
Duane Poynter, president of Poynter’s Ag Supply, Sawyer, N.D., had a PrecisionPac in his facility in 2011, and he commented that the flexibility of filling the transfer bags to the needs of the farmers was highly appreciated by his customers.
“We can package a product mix for a guy’s particular size sprayer or for the specific size of field that is being sprayed,” Poynter said. “We had growers that bought from us just because we could do that for them compared to other dealers who couldn’t.”
Poynter noted that 2011 was extremely wet in his sales territory, which is on the far outskirts of Minot, N.D. He said the ground was so wet last year that packaging of herbicides was even done in half sprayer load transfer bags for larger sprayers.
“It was so wet that some guys could only load their sprayer half full, but if they were fortunate enough to be able to fill their sprayer, then they put in two packages of herbicide,” he explained.
Poynter also said there was less worry about inventory control as different products were needed during the season because late planting and wet soils resulted in different weeds than typical for the area. Growers also had to deal with weeds on “prevented plant” acres.
As Wojcik explained, “From year to year things can look different. The retailer doesn’t have to carry a whole bunch of herbicides that he might have had to carry in the past. He has a system that can mix and match and do different ratios to meet the needs the grower has.”
Additionally, in 2012, DuPont announced it will be moving to a Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) process for these PrecisionPac systems. This means that retailers will not own the input product inventory. The retailer does not take ownership of the herbicide until the moment it is dispensed and then sold to a grower.
“Because DuPont owns the input product in the PrecisionPac system, the retailer has a tremendous opportunity to free up cash that would normally be tied up in product inventory,” said Wojcik.
North Dakota was the major test market for PrecisionPac machines in 2011 with eight of them located there. One each was in South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and Idaho. This year North Dakota continues to be the center for such machines with 17 in the state. Idaho is next with four machines and Colorado has three. The other states with one or two machines are South Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, Washington, Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Nebraska.