The Leading Edge

A select group of agricultural advisers are leading the charge against resistance across the U.S.
Data Management Program Is a Perfect Fit
From left to right: Laura Martin with Syngenta (at the time this photo was taken) and Boseman Farms' Cathy Hendricks review crop data at the farm's sweet potato-packing facility near Rocky Mount, North Carolina.
Fourteen years ago, Syngenta launched a small, regional initiative in the South to provide growers with the tools they needed to meet the challenges of 21st century farming. Today, the AgriEdge Excelsior® program has grown to more than 10.5 million acres across the U.S. Remarkably, more than 95 percent of enrolled growers stay with the whole-farm program because it maximizes their profit potential by combining sustainable agriculture and farm economics with data-capturing technology.

"There are so many holes in a big operation that can get missed if you don't have a way to track them," says Cathy Hendricks, purchaser and inventory controller at Boseman Farms near Rocky Mount, North Carolina. She helps oversee the operation's roughly 14,000 acres, where a broad range of crops, including corn, soybeans, tobacco, peanuts, wheat, clary sage, cucumbers and more than 1,500 acres of sweet potatoes, are grown. "It's a lot to look after," she says, "but AgriEdge Excelsior technology tracks all our applications and costs. It's a great tool."

Going Nationwide

In 2015, AgriEdge Excelsior will expand to new geographies, including Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota, marking the first time the program will be available to growers nationwide.

AgriEdge Excelsior uses powerful record-keeping software to organize production information.
"It's a tremendous story for Syngenta and our partners in the field who work one-on-one with growers," says Steve Gomme, the newly appointed national AgriEdge manager for Syngenta. "I'm excited to not only implement the AgriEdge program nationally, but also to continue seeing it evolve to meet the changing needs of growers."

The program provides outstanding service, actionable data for the grower, and the latest products and technology to help take the guesswork out of improving production, land value, farm stewardship and profitability.

"With the help of our engaged reseller partners, AgriEdge Excelsior enables growers to make informed decisions, gain regulatory compliance and manage the risks associated with production agriculture," says Darren Fehr, AgriEdge manager for the West Heartland region, one of the key geographies for expansion. "Now, growers in every state, along with their preferred supply partners, can take advantage of this program."

Personalized Solutions

With AgriEdge Excelsior, growers have the flexibility to do what makes sense agronomically and economically on their individual farms. The breadth of the Syngenta portfolio, from the latest traits and genetics to seed treatments and crop protection solutions, gives them flexible choices across the whole farm.

But it's the program's personalized, on-farm support that really sets it apart, according to Reagan DeSpain, AgriEdge Excelsior lead for the Southern and East Coast regions at Syngenta. A local AgriEdge specialist provides on-farm support for each participating grower's portfolio, technology and agronomy.

"By building long-term relationships with growers, we have differentiated ourselves from competitors," says DeSpain. "We knew we had to bring something different to the marketplace; and those relationships with growers, built through our reseller partners, provided us with a differentiated approach to the market."

Technology Advantage

Additionally, growers have access to the industry-leading record-keeping Land.db® software, developed by Ag Connections. The technology is intuitive, powerful and practical.

"At the end of the year, when I do a cost analysis, I know exactly what I have in each crop, including farm rent, equipment, costs and labor."

Cathy Hendricks
"The focus of Land.db is to provide software tools that the grower, retailer and consultant can use to organize farm production information each year," says Rick Murdock, co-owner of Ag Connections. "Land.db has the ability to measure grower, farm, field and crop level profitability by taking yield revenue and subtracting crop protection, fertilizer, seed and service costs. 'Know Your Numbers' is the foundational design principal of the Land.db system."

This ability to cater to each farm's individual needs has been critical for Hendricks. While the rolling Sandhills region of North Carolina boasts some of the state's best farmland, it takes a lot of small fields to amass acreage. Boseman Farms alone has 1,600 fields, so setting up the system took time. However, Hendricks notes, it was time well spent.

"I use the software to track our farm's applications and color code them for each field," she says. "I'm able to enter all my invoicing, which, in turn, keeps track of my applications and costs. At the end of the year, when I do a cost analysis, I know exactly what I have in each crop, including farm rent, equipment, costs and labor."

Shareable Reporting

The AgriEdge Excelsior program also helps growers prepare professional reports that they can share with landowners, bankers, food processors, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency and other groups. Hendricks uses the program to help Boseman Farms pass its annual GLOBALG.A.P. audit, a vital test for the operation's sweet potatoes bound for overseas markets. This independent certification system for Good Agricultural Practice sets voluntary standards for agricultural products around the world.

"The GLOBALG.A.P. auditor goes over every single record we have," she says. "I have close to 10 loose-leaf binders with my AgriEdge Excelsior reports in them, and he looks at every page. In 2014, we scored a 100, and he told me we were the second farm to ever receive a perfect score from him."

Auditors aren't the only ones keeping their eyes on the farm's activities. "Our customers look at our records, too," Hendricks says. "They look at the comments on our audit, which say, 'outstanding records' and 'excellent.' We couldn't do it without the AgriEdge Excelsior program."

Pioneering the Future of Farming

Looking ahead, AgriEdge Excelsior will continue to help growers keep pace with emerging industry trends and supply-chain requirements, such as providing sustainable sourcing documentation. With the integration of algorithms from Field to Market®: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, the program's farm-management software enables growers to take the production information already collected and produce "Fieldprints" for each field. Growers can track, manage and record a plethora of inputs against environmental efficiency indicators, including energy consumption, water use, greenhouse-gas emissions and soil conservation. This data gives growers the ability to measure their production practices against their state and national averages provided by Field to Market.

"From a sustainability standpoint, the AgriEdge Excelsior program has really changed the picture for us," says Agronomist Jason Cook of Moss Farms, a 12,000-acre operation that produces potatoes, wheat and sugarbeets in Rupert, Idaho. "It helps us identify our strengths and weaknesses on an energy-consumption basis and recognize our more profitable areas."

Syngenta is actively working with industry-leading processors and food companies to better understand sustainable sourcing. These efforts will ultimately help AgriEdge Excelsior growers and their advisers gain a better understanding of a farm's resource efficiency and discover small management changes that can potentially result in minimizing its environmental impact.

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Staying True to its Roots

Even though AgriEdge Excelsior is now a national program, Fehr says its focus on individual growers and farms will continue.

"From a production, sustainability and resourcing standpoint, we understand that a corn grower in Iowa has very different needs from a cotton grower in Texas," he says. "Our AgriEdge Excelsior specialists, in collaboration with Syngenta reseller partners, will continue to work on programs and offers that meet the needs of growers, as the information age transforms the way they farm."