BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — New technological advancements in agriculture are seemingly a daily occurrence, but the $64,000 question is what is best suited for a particular farm based on geography and individual field needs.
Wading through new products and services is time-consuming and at times costly, so Growmark has developed a new program to aid in the decision-making process.
Growmark announced May 20 it is partnering with technology vendors from across the world with its new AgValidity testing program.
AgValidity will focus on research and development to cut through the clutter and bring FS customers the best combinations of personalized solutions.
More than 20 projects currently are in testing including analytical technologies, biologicals, soil health and artificial intelligence applications.
“AgValidity is a platform within our system to connect startup type ag tech companies with Growmark and FS and us helping them connect with the grower to test whatever kind of technology or product they have. We hope it’s a win-win-win,” said Lance Ruppert, Growmark Agronomy marketing and technology executive director.
“It’s a win for the tech company because they do get farm access. They get access to our crop specialists, our infrastructure of experts, agronomists, scientists or IT folks. They’re getting real farm experience through access to the farm through our group of crop specialists and agriculturalists.
“We get a firsthand look at those products and technologies that we can help develop and help bring value to our growers and that’s a win. We help to bring differentiated technologies that help our farmers make better decisions, be better managers and in the end be more successful and more profitable.”
Growmark is known in the Midwest for its work in row crops such as corn and soybeans.
“We’re doing a lot of different trial work with biologicals, stimulants, remote sensing in the row crop corn and soybean world in the Midwest. Growmark also has infrastructure in specialty crops — fruits, vegetables — and we’re starting this year to do those types of activities, as well. So, we’re testing in apples, potatoes, later this summer watermelons. So, there’s a lot of opportunity to help companies bring technology to the farm and bring more value to our farmer customers,” Ruppert said.
The program’s pre-launch last year focused on aerial imagery by testing five companies in that realm. They were evaluated, and two were moved forward through the adoption process.
“We had a really good feedback, really good participation. We’re finding a lot of good information here early on in 2019 even though the weather has been less than cooperative for us thus far,” said Brendan Bachman, Growmark Agronomy Services Department’s senior agronomy-technology manager.
“Through the AgValidity system, we can do internal vetting, internal research to understand the products, what category they fit in, how do we approach the market place with them to have a higher percentage of wins when we come out with the product.”
AgValidity now is expanded to look at a myriad of other products.
“There are a lot of different products, a lot of different technology companies and technology can be more than just software and hardware — biologicals, different products that do different things in the soil,” Bachman said.
“When these companies are coming to us we have this ability to streamline that process and really vet it through our experts at Growmark, go through the member companies, utilizing that crop specialists space and get some real-world testing because a lot of companies come to us with really good ideas.
“They come to us with what is perceived to be good products. However, we need to do our due diligence in figuring out what’s actually going to work at the farm gate.”
“We would encourage all of our FS companies to be active and engaged. This is really the first year we’ve openly talked about this to our companies to solicit their participation,” Ruppert said.
Depending on the product, they can be geographically based. For example, one of the biological products needs to be tested in soils with lower organic matter that exists in other parts of the state.
“We don’t want to overburden any of our crop specialists. They’re busy people and very busy right now trying to get the crop in the ground, the fertilizer applied and the products on the crop,” Ruppert said.
“The more hands on deck, the better; it also spreads out more information and feedback. All innovative companies, including Growmark, want feedback from their users and testers. The more minds and more eyes we get on these products, the better we become over time.”
Testing through the program currently is ongoing in Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and the East Coast and eventually will be expanded into Ontario, Canada.
Once the program is in full swing, farmers will have access to the information and data of the products and services that have been vetted through in-field testing.