Data Management Program Is a Perfect Fit

Ag Connections designed the technology that drives the Syngenta whole-farm management program to meet a wide range of growers’ needs.
Data Management Program Is a Perfect Fit
Land.db software helps growers keep track of important farm and crop data.
Made up of four synergistic components, the AgriEdge Excelsior® program is like a puzzle. Each of the many pieces—representing risk management, product portfolio, service and technology—is essential to this data-rich Syngenta program, which offers growers whole-farm management solutions.

But like the edges that give a puzzle its strong frame, innovative technology is the cornerstone of AgriEdge Excelsior. After all, it’s the program’s record-keeping software that helps participating growers operate their farms more efficiently. Driving this technology is the 14-year partnership between Syngenta and farm-management software developer Ag Connections.

Where It All Began

Now a wholly owned subsidiary of Syngenta, Ag Connections is the brainchild of co-founders Rick Murdock and Pete Clark. People who know them agree that agriculture is in their DNA. Both grew up around family farms. After graduating from college, Murdock spent 15 years farming full time before getting involved in ag retail and eventually ag technology.

It was in the ag retail business that Murdock met Clark. A retail veteran of 18 years, Clark worked his way up to the corporate office of a large wholesaler, where he went on to manage 16 retail stores.

With their deep-rooted knowledge of the agriculture sector, Murdock and Clark saw a need for software tools that would help growers develop yearly input plans and calculate costs.

“As a farmer, I knew the impact of walking into a bank and not having all my numbers ready, and then having that banker push back and say, ‘Hey, this isn’t going to work,’” says Murdock. “That’s where the software comes in. It helps growers generate the numbers that landowners, FSA [U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency], bankers and all the people they do business with need. We saw a huge place for a technology of this nature, so that’s where we planted our seed.”

Together, Murdock and Clark decided to quit their jobs and focus their full attention on developing Land.db® software. They also began consulting for Syngenta and learned that the company had an offer—AgriEdge Excelsior as it’s known today—that was missing a key piece: a way to help growers keep records. “Land.db and AgriEdge Excelsior fit together,” says Clark, “and the program grew from there.”

Putting the Pieces Together

At a glance, Land.db may appear similar to precision ag software technologies, but it’s much more. “Land.db is designed to help growers make a wide variety of decisions concerning their entire operation,” says Clark. “It’s used throughout the year, while growers use precision ag technologies only prior to planting and applications.”
Data Management Program is a Good Fit
Rick Murdock (left) and Pete Clark, co-founders of Ag Connections, stand in front of the company’s headquarters, two converted tobacco barns, near Murray, Kentucky.
For example, helping growers remain compliant is a huge part of Land.db. Whether to meet restricted-use-pesticide standards, state requirements, or the needs of banks or food processors, documentation is essential. In recent years, sustainability has become an especially hot topic.

“Ultimately, our downstream partners are looking to meet their customer demands,” says Dale Nicol, AgriEdge® manager for the western U.S. “Customers are demanding sustainably produced food products, and it turns out the agricultural production of food is a big place to work on the environmental footprint.”

That’s why Ag Connections has incorporated algorithms from Field to Market®: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture into Land.db. These measurement tools help growers create a field print that they can share with food processors, demonstrating the steps growers are taking to minimize their impact on the environment.

Maggie Strickland, business manager of Barnes Farming Corporation in Spring Hope, North Carolina, is responsible for certification, traceability and input purchasing. She uses the AgriEdge Excelsior program to meet FDA Food Safety Modernization Act requirements and GLOBALG.A.P. guidelines for the sweet potatoes Barnes ships to the European Union.

“It’s very helpful for certification,” says Strickland. “Our auditors will say, ‘Wow. Normally, we’ll just have a notepad with some writing on it.’”

Making Progress

While many growers start using AgriEdge Excelsior for the compliance benefits, they quickly see that by having complete, detailed records, they can better manage their operations, drilling down to determine cost per field, crop and farming practice.

“Between our staff and our leadership, we have a strong handle on where agriculture has been, where it is and where it’s going.”

Rick Murdock
“If growers want to know about their no-till, irrigated Syngenta variety, all they have to do is click, and the cost of production for that variety with those farming practices is available,” says Clark. “When it gets to that level, the program becomes a normal, daily part of growers’ operations, and they start depending on it to make decisions.”

Strickland puts it simply: “You want to know which fields are making you money and which aren’t. The program and its technology help consolidate all our applications and costs per acre into one, centralized database.”

A Team Activity

Led by a team that truly understands agriculture, Ag Connections has designed software that provides growers with a user-friendly experience. Murdock and Clark have daily meetings with their developers to make sure they continue to refine a grower-intuitive interface that can be easily understood and doesn’t add stress to a grower’s already hectic schedule.

“Between our staff and our leadership, we have a strong handle on where agriculture has been, where it is and where it’s going,” says Murdock. “Our cutting-edge technology delivers what growers need and how they need it.”

If a grower does have questions, support is right around the corner. “Syngenta AgriEdge specialists are like personal trainers for the grower,” says Nicol. “They work with growers to install software, train them on its use and share expertise in what records can be utilized and how reports can be generated to make farming decisions.”

Growers can also pick up the phone and call Ag Connections, whose dedicated team can access the program’s interface and navigate any problems remotely, day or night.

Growing Forward

The recent acquisition of Ag Connections by Syngenta has only helped the AgriEdge Excelsior program grow. Operating as a wholly owned subsidiary, Ag Connections remains the agile, innovative company it has always been.
"Ag Connections has designed software that provides a user-friendly experience."

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“This combination of Syngenta and Ag Connections will enable us to ramp up, quickly moving the program’s tools, service and support forward,” says Clark. “Growers are using AgriEdge Excelsior daily in their operations, and this will allow us to better serve them.”

Strickland, who has used AgriEdge Excelsior for nearly five years, considers it an integral part of Barnes’ operations. “We have a meeting every morning with all our operators, and we say, ‘Where did you go? What did you apply?’” she says. “We put that information into the applications section of Land.db, and at the end of the year, it shows me every day we touched that field, everything we did to it and how much we spent on it.”

For growers not yet on board, it’s only a matter of time before they put aside their notebooks, says Clark. “We’ve helped so many growers realize the benefits of keeping better records, demonstrating compliance, knowing their costs and having the ability to easily communicate all of that with their business partners,” he says. “I’m excited to continue working with Syngenta and being an integral part of agriculture’s future.”