Team Effort Makes Precision Available To Large And Small Farms
If you believe that only large-acre farmers will use precision technology services, then you could miss out on significant sales and service opportunities with smaller operators. That’s been the experience for the Southern States agronomic team in the Richmond, Va., office.
“We’re using precision technology to help the large grower as well as the smaller grower,” notes Keith Reid, regional manager for the agronomy division. “We’ve found we can actually help the smaller grower a lot who might not have a yield monitor.”
The farmer-owned cooperative provides a full line of ag inputs, including dry and liquid fertilizer, crop protection products and seed, as well as custom application services.
A Fit For All. Precision technology has become a significant part of the cooperative’s business in recent years. Farms that use the services range in size from just a few hundred acres to several thousand.
In recognition of its successes with helping farmers adopt precision technology, the Southern States Virginia office was named the North Region winner of the 2016 Precision Impact Award, presented by AgPro, SST Software and the Agricultural Retailers Association.
Chris Conway, precision ag coordinator, says what makes Southern States successful is its approach to addressing farmers’ production challenges. “Our success is a result of a team effort from our local sales team to the corporate office. We all work together and help each other.”
The cooperative’s agronomists tailor their precision technology services based on a three-tiered program they developed that addresses the needs of farmers who are new to precision as well as those who are more advanced. The tiers are Discovery, Evaluation and Analysis. Here’s a brief overview of each tier (see the August 2016 AgPro cover story for more details):
Discovery is geared toward farmers who are new to precision technology, as the name implies. It is designed for one cropping season and includes a minimum combination of soil and tissue samples and agronomists’ in-field observations.
Evaluation offers farmers a two- to three-year package of services such as multiple in-season satellite imagery, 2.5-acre zone or grid soil sampling, two in-season tissue samples and two trips of field-site verification.
Analysis is the third tier. It includes gathering and analyzing compaction samples, processing as-applied data and analyzing crop treatments. Farmers receive digital records and a postseason evaluation including production performance by seed variety, crop protection treatments and soil type.
Double-Digit Growth. Conway says Southern States’ tiered strategy has led to the cooperative’s precision ag business growing by an average of 20% each year during the past several years. He attributes the growth to being able to show farmers how they can achieve positive yield outcomes.
“What I love about this job is being able to teach farmers the benefits of precision ag,” he says. “A lot of older farmers don’t believe in yield data, for instance, but I’m able to show them results from technology and how I can help them.”
The cooperative’s precision technology services also help farmers deal effectively with regulations, such as those posed by the Chesapeake Bay watershed, says Calvin Haile, who farms in Essex County, near Dunnsville, Va.
“Chesapeake Bay is a big issue for us [because of regulations],” Haile says. “We’re trying to come up with a better program for the land and for us, and Southern States has been instrumental in that. Sometimes it makes us some money, and sometimes it doesn’t, but we know it’s the right thing to do.” He adds, “We’ve been working with Southern States since I was a small child; they’ve been good to us, and we’ve been good to them.”