To recognize retailers who are using precision ag to benefit their businesses and farmer-customers’ profitability, AgPro established the Precision Impact Award (PIA).
One winner is chosen from each of three regions and receives an expense-paid trip to the Agricultural Retailers Association conference and expo. The award is presented by AgPro, the Agricultural Retailers Association and SST Software.
“Precision ag is multifaceted: equipment, technology and agronomy,” explains Patrick Sanders, account manager, SST Software. “And it means something different to everyone—imagery, soil testing, VRT and more. It takes a team to support a precision ag program. And these organizations have taken away ‘precision,’ and it’s just ‘agriculture.’ Whatever you want to call it, this is just the way these folks do business.”
Read more about the 2016 PIA winners here and in upcoming issues of AgPro.
North Region: Southern States, Richmond, Va.
Southern States, a retail facility based outside of Richmond, Va., is a cooperative that provides area farmers with a full line of ag inputs, as well as custom application services. Precision technology has become a significant part of the cooperative’s business.
“We’re using precision technology to help the large grower as well as the smaller grower,” says Keith Reid, regional manager for the agronomy division. “We’ve found we can help the smaller grower, particularly those who might not have a yield monitor and aren’t using good soil sampling techniques. We’re able to help larger growers with yield maps and in-season images.”
Chris Conway, precision ag coordinator, says Southern States’ precision ag business has grown an average of 20% each year during the past three or four years.
He attributes the growth to showing farmers how they can achieve positive yield outcomes—through the use of grid and zone soil sampling, satellite imagery and tissue sampling—all of which save or make farmers money.
“What I love about this job is teaching farmers the benefits of precision ag,” he says. “A lot of older farmers don’t believe in yield data, but I’m able to show them results from technology and how I can help them.”
Plains-West Region: Simplot Grower Solutions, Wray, Colo.
The precision ag team at Simplot Grower Solutions wants to ensure that it recommends the right products to customers.
One way the team, based in Wray, Colo., and Hershey, Neb., has addressed that intent is by using the Field Stripes system for creating replicated, field-level trials of agronomic products.
At the heart of the Field Stripes program, the team created a highly modified spray rig that allows the operator to easily treat, and not treat, a set number of rows with a test product on alternating passes over an entire field. The team modified the 120-foot spray boom with a series of hoses and a custom valve system to allow the operator to “piggyback” a replicated field trial onto a planned application.
Using data from yield monitors, the team analyzes differences in the treatments and control.
SmartFarm regional manager Caleb Schultz explains that, over the long run, customer relationships and product sales benefit most when the team can prove a product generates profits before selling it to a customer.
“We don’t ask growers to pay for the product unless it provides an economic benefit in the trial,” Schultz says.
When a product produces a yield improvement, but the cost of treatment exceeds the value of the improvement, the Simplot team uses data to negotiate with suppliers or influence initial pricing on new products.
Along with Schultz, Simplot’s team includes Amanda Kerbs, area precision agriculture specialist; Bryan Dickson, crop adviser; and David Gleason, precision ag manager.
The Field Stripes program works hand-in-hand with the company’s “Smart Scouting” service, which combines data from weekly GPS-directed tissue sampling, satellite imaging and field scouting.
Kerbs compiles that data, along with past yield histories, soil tests, precipitation records and other information, to create GPS-based zone maps for precision applications of nutrients or crop protection products and decisions on hybrids or varieties.
In several cases, the monitoring has allowed growers to scale back their fertilizer applications without sacrificing yield.
South Region: MFA, Bernie, Mo.
Today, MFA Incorporated is a regional farm supply and marketing cooperative with 106 company-owned MFA Agri Services Centers, 27 locally owned MFA affiliates with 24 branch locations and about 400 independent dealers.
“Bernie MFA serves farmers who grow corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and rice. We double-crop soybeans behind wheat. Most customers use flood irrigation. And we’ve come to use precision ag on all acres,” explains Jarrod W. Smith, manager of Bernie MFA. “We used to just focus on corn and soybeans, but employees are being trained and applicators are being switched out to satisfy customer needs.”
Bernie MFA started precision ag in 1999 with two or three top producers and then introduced the services to all customers. Value in the variable-rate applications and the resulting yields helped to drive adoption.
“A lot of guys who were slow to get on board would let us do one field here, one field there,” says Tayler McLane, precision agronomist. “And then they saw the money they could save by allocating dollars where they need to go instead of a flat rate across the field. Our customers saw the money they could save with precision ag and variable-rate application. And they’ve changed their whole farm over to that technology.”
At Bernie MFA, the team is focused on implementing precision ag practices for the future of all of their customers.
“All aspects of precision ag are a huge part of what we do,” McLane comments. “We really put a lot of emphasis on it. We feel if you aren’t on the precision train, you are going to get left behind. We put a lot of work into helping our customers with precision ag, and our entire team does a great job.”
Farmer-customers have taken corn yields from 170 bu. to 230 bu. with precision ag. And with soybeans, they’ve seen 15% to 20% yield increases.
“Now, landlords call us and want us to do the sampling and applications,” Smith says. “We are building farms.”