Whole-Farm Management Program Empowers Retailers, Growers

AgriEdge Excelsior management solutions provide valuable insights to growers.
Adam Grove of Farmers Elevator and Exchange works in the Land.db program.
Adam Grove (left) and Brad Koch easily access Land.db remotely in a grower’s field.
In a private office specifically designed for agronomic advising, an ag retailer projects Land.db® farm management software on a 50-inch screen and enters key variables relating to a grower’s farm to test different crop input choices. Meanwhile, the grower intently watches the screen, which shows him the dollars-and-cents impact his seeds, crop protection and other agronomic decisions will have on his farm’s potential crop performance and bottom line.

Similar scenarios are playing out more frequently, as an increasing number of farm suppliers are offering growers the ability to enroll in AgriEdge Excelsior®, the Syngenta whole-farm management program that includes Land.db. In this article, three retailers from different parts of the country describe their experiences with the program. Even though their stories are diverse, they all share a common thread—using innovation to help solve complex business and farm management challenges.

Overhauling Operations

In 2012, Farmers Elevator and Exchange in Monroe City, Missouri, hosted a retreat featuring AgriEdge® Specialist Brad Koch. Growers who attended the gathering and heard Koch speak agreed the benefits of the program looked strong, but they said they’d rather not spend more time at their computers. They’d prefer to have their retailer securely input data from their farms.

Today, the locally owned co-op feed and agronomy company has Adam Grove, a certified AgriEdge partner, doing just that. He works with 18 AgriEdge Excelsior growers whose land represents two-thirds of all the acreage the company services. To make Grove’s job easier, field records from John Deere and Case New Holland machinery flow seamlessly into the growers’ records within the Land.db software.

In addition to supporting these growers, Grove, who is also Farmers Elevator and Exchange’s agronomy operations manager, handles all the company’s agronomic operation and service through Land.db. This means that even those customers not enrolled in the AgriEdge Excelsior program benefit, because of the company’s improved operational efficiency.

“Every job my operators perform is done through Land.db,” says Grove. “Land.db has become our entire record-keeping system on all chemical and fertilizer orders, as well as the bridge samplings for our variable-rate fertilizer. Every work order we process is done through Land.db.”

“Land.db has become our entire record-keeping system. ... Every work order we process is done through Land.db.”

Adam Grove
In total, Grove has more than 40,000 acres—every field the company has ever serviced—mapped in Land.db. With this approach, the company, which was founded in 1919, has simplified its record keeping and replaced binders of handwritten notes with an efficient, intuitive electronic system. Because a computer now analyzes the data and completes the calculations, this system has decreased both the risk of human error and the amount of paperwork operators must fill out every day.

In the long run, using the software to manage operations helps Farmers Elevator and Exchange organize and plan more effectively. For example, the company is able to anticipate more than half of its customers’ spring fertilizer needs in the winter. As a result, when a grower is ready to make an application, the fertilizer is available, and a work order is just a click away.

“With AgriEdge Excelsior, we went from being a retailer of commodities to a farm management partner,” says Gary Carr, agronomy and sales manager at Farmers Elevator and Exchange. “That differentiates us from other retailers in the area and gives us a chance to be one step ahead of the competition.”

Building Trust and Relationships

Since he was 10 years old, Shane Johnson, agronomist with Ag Tech in Stockton, Illinois, has known his Syngenta sales representative, Mike Porter. Johnson’s father, who has been in ag retail for almost 40 years, has had the same representative. “That relationship with Mike has been phenomenal,” Johnson says.

With Porter and the area AgriEdge Specialist, Adam Cowser, Johnson is able to offer AgriEdge Excelsior and the program’s Land.db software to customers of Ag Tech, a family-owned, full-service retailer with seven locations across southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

“When you’re comfortable working with the people around you, things tend to go smoother,” Johnson says. “The technology component in AgriEdge Excelsior is all about communicating back and forth. You’re trying this. I’m trying that. The three of us work through different approaches together to figure out the best way to accomplish the grower’s goals.”

AgriEdge Excelsior management solutions provide valuable insights to growers.

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Like other retailers, Johnson has established trust with his grower customers. Offering AgriEdge Excelsior to those whose operations are a good fit increases that trust, Cowser says. “Retailers see the benefit of AgriEdge Excelsior because it gives them another opportunity to have in-depth conversations with a grower,” he says. “By using Land.db, retailers are able to take the relationship another step forward and provide better service.”

Complementing Precision Ag

Chuck Burlison, Certified Crop Adviser, with Helena Chemical Company in Sharon, Tennessee, has worked in ag retail for 29 years. His current managerial/sales role enables him to spend one-on-one time with growers; for most of them, he recommends the AgriEdge Excelsior program.

“I’ve been in this industry for a long time, and I’ve seen record-keeping programs come and go,” he says. “The Land.db software provided by AgriEdge Excelsior is rock solid. It’s not a come-and-go thing. You can hang your hat on it.”

Burlison ties the software to AGRIntelligence®, a precision-ag offering from Helena. “The Land.db record keeping fits AGRIntelligence like a glove,” he says. “I just mold those two programs together and bring them to my customers as one offering. Keeping things in order—what you did to this field or that field and how you treated it differently—gives you a much cleaner record of what is happening on a field-by-field basis.”

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Burlison’s customers David and Pam Coates of Coates Farms, LLC, agree. Located in Weakley County, Tennessee, they grow a mix of corn, soybeans and wheat on their 2,500 acres. They joined the AgriEdge Excelsior program a few years ago when their sons, Logan and Landon, graduated from college and returned to the family farm. To expand their operation, the family decided to invest in irrigation systems.

Today, Coates Farms has six irrigation pivots. With Land.db, they’re able to map the optimal placement of irrigation pivots. The software also allows them to electronically connect the pivots directly to the server, so the Coates can use the information in their production records to figure out what irrigation regime works best.

“Information from Land.db clearly shows us the profitability of installing center pivots in our fields,” says David Coates. “As a result, we have raised our production and added additional pivots as the opportunity arises.”

Additionally, the family uses Land.db to analyze data relating to yield-mapping, fertility, chemical sprays, hybrid selection and variable-rate seeding. “We’re building complete production plans for customers like the Coates with AgriEdge Excelsior and AGRIntelligence,” Burlison says.

For the past three years, Coates Farms has either won or placed near the top of the Weakley County National Corn Growers Association’s National Corn Yield Contest for dryland and irrigated corn.

“They’ve really embraced the program and used it to its full advantage all the way through the process,” says Burlison. “Now, it’s paying off for them with higher yields—year in and year out.”