Step by Step: The Farming Journey
After working a trade show in 2016 and processing the breadth and depth of the questions that growers tossed his way, Kirkbride wondered if a roots-up approach might help him provide better answers.
Soon he was tinkering in his Pana, Illinois, shop, constructing a 6-foot-tall panel display engineered to show off nine sets of corn roots. The 6-feet-tall panel features nine holes in a grid through which a variety of root systems can be easily showcased. Penetrating, modified and fibrous roots are visible, labeled by the types of soil in which they were grown—coarse, medium and fine.
The project has proven to be a hit so far at 2017 trade shows. Growers can instantly capture an idea of which Golden Harvest® and NK® Corn hybrids are best suited for their soils.
“It really piques people’s interest as they travel through our trade-show experience,” says Kirkbride, a Syngenta product development agronomy manager. “It’s a visual that helps start the conversation with the grower.”
For Syngenta, those conversations are key to the success of any trade show. And Kirkbride’s display is just one piece of a significant overhaul of the way Syngenta approaches these public-facing events.
“We want to tell our story in a relatable way,” says Melissa Lord, Syngenta trade show and customer event lead. “And growers want to visualize, touch and feel, and connect the dots.”
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Informative and Entertaining
The National Farm Machinery Show (NFMS) didn’t earn the nickname “Farmer Mardi Gras” because it has a scholarly, no-nonsense vibe. But trade shows are more than social events. People from around the country descend on these big shows to learn about the latest innovations. They expect companies to deliver.
Each year, NFMS is the first stop on the Syngenta big-four circuit of trade shows, which also includes Commodity Classic, Farm Progress Show and Husker Harvest Days. Syngenta has long had a significant presence at each. Starting in August 2016 with Farm Progress, the company unveiled a completely transformed trade-show experience. Visitors pass through a single entryway and begin a multistep journey that follows the natural progression of the growing season, from planting through harvest.
Syngenta experts are stationed along the way to provide product insight and advice, and to answer grower-specific questions. Designed for inclusivity, the experience touches on a wide range of crops and products, and it’s engineered to reach the greatest possible audience.
At one stop, growers can calculate the estimated return on their investment when planting Enogen® corn enzyme technology, a unique in-seed innovation that enhances ethanol production. At another, the benefits of Trivapro® fungicide—a disease-control breakthrough in corn, soybeans and wheat—are brought to life through an interactive digital kiosk. Live plants exemplify the benefits of Syngenta seed versus competitors’ seed.
“We want to tell our story in a relatable way. And growers want to visualize, touch and feel, and connect the dots.”
An incentivized map activity encourages visitors to complete the journey. At each station they visit, participants receive a token. If they earn enough tokens after completing the journey, they can exchange them for a small gift. For example, at the 2016 Farm Progress Show, participants could receive a free drink ticket.
The new approach has been such a success that Syngenta will implement it for all of the larger shows in 2017. Booths at smaller regional shows also will reflect elements of the approach. The concept allows for fluidity; as new products are launched, Syngenta can reconfigure segments of the journey to encourage additional connections with growers.
“We like to implement an experience,” says Kent Jones, an account executive with 3D Exhibits, which played a significant role in the redesign. “We want growers to fully understand the benefit of Syngenta products.”
Brad Schmidt of Kamrar, Iowa, is one of those growers who definitely understands. He walked the Syngenta journey last year during Farm Progress. “It’s always nice to see the newest stuff,” says Schmidt, who farms about 1,400 acres of corn and soybeans. “You get a taste of what’s to come.”
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“It’s good to know that Syngenta is investing in R&D,” he adds. “The trade-show experience can help growers like me see that we’re getting what we pay for when we purchase a Syngenta product. The company isn’t just pocketing the money; it’s putting it back onto the farm.”