The changing demands on modern agriculture bring the need for a growing information base that farmers can use to succeed. To help meet that need Winfield United opened a new Innovation Center in River Falls, Wis. Building on what the cooperative had started in the 1990s, the new facility builds on that initial idea in a big way.
"Our role with Winfield United is to help farmers do more with less," said Chris Policinski, president and CEO of Land O'Lakes, Inc. The Winfield United business has grown on that basis to a $6 billion business for the cooperative.
The new 55,000-square-foot facility, which is more than ten times the size of the original Winfield United operation on the site, includes 5,000 square feet of greenhouses, as well as plant health and crop protection research laboratories.
When Winfield United started, the key role was to maximize products from others to farmer-members. However, that has changed over the years as the company has brought its own research and development activities to market. Policinski explained that Winfield United is "marketplace back versus product forward."
That means the cooperative works to bring value-added products to customers and Winfield United has evolved a culture of innovation. A key area of innovation is in the area of adjuvants. Two key products developed at the River Falls facility – Ascend and Interlock. And that work has continued, as the cooperative has expanded its line.
Mike Vande Logt, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Winfield United, explained that the new facility was built for $45 million and will have a $10 million annual operating budget. "We will start with 30 employees and hope to grow that soon too," he said. "This facility will help us with more than 100 products in our pipeline today."
A key part of the Innovation Center is the Infinity Group. Winfield United is one of the only firms that operates a wind tunnel for spray testing. Wind Tunnel 1 in the new facility, will continue its mission to explore droplet size, product deposition and other work to enhance and improve crop protection product application.
But an important part of the new facility will be the upcoming addition of Wind Tunnel 2. "In that wind tunnel we'll be able to simulate a nozzle moving at 200 miles per hour," Vande Logt said. "We will be able to determine how aerial application impacts crop protection application."
And that will be one of only a few wind tunnels of its kind in the world. The rising attention to application accuracy is important for the industry, and for cooperatives that do much of the custom spraying in farm country. "On-target application is part of our stewardship mission," Vande Logt said.
And this new Innovation Center builds on another base of information – the Answer Plot program. "There are 200 Answer Plot locations, and each is within 60 miles of most of the crop acres," Vande Logt said.
The Answer Plots provide the field-testing data that builds on the lab work Winfield United will do. And work by the cooperative is focused on using big data for predictive modeling. This center will help bring that together too.
If you want to know more about the products in development and other cooperative information, visit winfieldunited.com.
Note: When originally posted, we referenced River Falls, Minn., that was an error.