The 3i Ag Solutions program aims to help customers boost yields with individualized solutions and expert guidance.
AgriVision dealership focuses on agronomy with technology
For years, farmers have harvested mounds of data while moving through fields in tractors and combines. Sometimes they use the data only once to build a management plan with an agronomist before filing it away for use sometime in the future.
At AgriVision, a 13-location John Deere dealership doing business in Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri, the future is now. In an effort to evaluate costs and benefits that will affect farmers’ bottom lines, managers have been educating all team members in precision technology while rapidly expanding the agronomic services that AgriVision offers to farmers.
"We tie the whole thing together," says Jeremy Ostrander, general manager and CEO.
In the past three years, the dealership has enrolled more than 75 customers in its precision program called 3i Ag Solutions. The three Is stand for intelligent information integration. Mike Pellett, 3i Ag Solutions specialist, planted the seed for the program 10 years ago while working with Ostrander at John Deere, and he continued to push the effort after he joined AgriVision.
"About eight years ago, we saw that the GPS and data sides of the business were rapidly growing," Ostrander says. "We got out front early on, while most dealers had just one person within the organization who could understand, implement, facilitate, troubleshoot and fix all that. We really saw that we couldn’t do it with just one person."
To that end, dealer employees ranging from technicians to sales managers are educated and trained in precision technology to help them make on-the-spot decisions. That knowledge allows them to take data stored on jump drives and thrown in coffee cans and put it to good use.
"We have saved customers as much as we can," Pellett says. "We’ve pinpointed exactly where the application is and virtually eliminated overlap, among other things. Now, it’s time to turn it around. Instead of utilizing the technology to save farmers money, now we use it to help them make more money and better decisions based on the data that they’ve been collecting for the past five, 10, 15 years."
Customers new to the program begin by working with their dealer on an extensive checklist—more than 60 steps, from gathering past data to calibrating yield monitors—to create a customized package that fits the customer’s operation, says Jon Carlo, sales manager at AgriVision’s location in Red Oak, Iowa. Farmers select fields to include in the 3i Ag Solutions program, and those fields are split into 60'x60' grids on which more than 250 factors can be measured and tested, including attributes pulled from soil tests, input information and even equipment performance data.
The program aligns with John Deere’s overarching FarmSight strategy by providing agronomic data, logistics and other local resources to help operators improve efficiency, Carlo says. It ties all recorded information into one format.
Team Approach. AgriVision also encourages farmers to bring their own agronomists and other ag service providers to the table as field prescriptions are planned. The dealership works with local cooperatives to maximize its reach and maintains a 16-tower RTK network that 3i Ag Solutions customers use.
The dealership didn’t want to isolate customers by aligning with one cooperative or a single fertilizer or chemical retailer, Carlo says. AgriVision team members strive to obtain good information from customers, and retailers benefit from being present because they can walk through the data analysis to evaluate factors that increase or limit yields. For example, a seed corn salesman might join the conversation with a customer using a particular hybrid to evaluate the crop beyond its brand.
After harvest, AgriVision employees review data with customers to see whether a prescription boosted yield or met other goals. Surprising insights, such as the highest-yielding soybean acres being on the lowest-fertility soil, can lead customers to hone in on possible challenges, such as erosion and fertility programs, Ostrander says.
The focus on inclusiveness is a niche that AgriVision is hopeful it can fill: taking agronomic advice from other experts and putting it to good use inside the cab.
On Pace With Technology. For example, one 3i Ag Solutions customer received a variable-rate fertilizer prescription from an ag service provider and then struggled for a day or so to plug that information into his equipment, says Bryan Bowen, 3i crop optimization specialist.
He called AgriVision for backup. Bowen had the prescription ready to go 20 minutes after arriving in the field. Another time, Bowen helped an operator sort out a supplier’s variable-rate seeding prescription on a planter where the shutoffs were starting and ending 20' off-target.
Bryan Bowen, 3i crop optimization specialist at AgriVision, helps customers implement field prescriptions from the cab.
Going forward, AgriVision plans to continue hiring talent with agronomic and technology credentials. The company now employs a data-processing specialist and is looking to add more team members this year, including soil and seed experts. The key is to identify the most important aspect of a customer’s operation and then do a good job providing information related to it, Pellett says.
Pellett has learned that there is no cookie-cutter approach. Within AgriVision’s dealer footprint, farm operators include part-timers with up to 700 acres; the traditional customer, averaging 1,500 to 3,000 acres; and large-scale operators with up to 15,000 acres. Regardless of size, AgriVision knows its customers will continue to be tech-savvy. Currently, they have sold and continue to service more than 1,000 Greenstar systems in their area, and they know that number will continue to grow with time.
The ability to identify stresses for an operation can help farmers translate opportunities into dollars and overcome problems, Ostrander says.
"We don’t want to be an equipment supplier; we want to be a solutions supplier," Pellett says.
Facts About AgriVision
13 locations: Albia, Clarinda, Creston, Hamburg, Indianola, Knoxville, Macedonia, Massena, Lenox, Leon, Pacific Junction, Red Oak and Winterset
Multiple equipment lines: Art’s Way Manufacturing, Brent Equipment, Degelman, Frontier, Gnuse Manufacturing, Honda Power Equipment, Kuhn, John Deere, Landoll, Parker Equipment, Unverferth, Stihl, Westfield, Westendorf and Yetter Company
- April 2014