It’s easy to focus on tech in agriculture since that’s where a lot of it is going on, but every aspect of ag is looking at new ways to apply technology. Take farm suppliers. Companies that deliver crop protection products and crop nutrients are exploring ways to boost productivity and provide better service.
Grainco FS in Ottawa, Ill., took on that challenge for one of its locations in 2014, and the cooperative’s effort to rethink business made a significant difference in productivity. “We looked at the whole system,” says Mike Builta, general manager.
That review started from one site and went all the way to the customer, and the result for at least one location was a dramatic increase in productivity and improved customer service. Builta says the cooperative had a facility still serving the market in the traditional way: send out a sprayer and tend the sprayer as needed. When the tender arrived, the driver would mix the load on site for that field, and pump it into the sprayer.
Mike Builta, general manager, Grainco FS, has led a full-scale improvement for spraying operations at one facility that has helped improve productivity for farmer-customers.
“We wanted to be able to do this more efficiently,” says Builta. “That meant being able to deliver just the right premixed load to a sprayer at the farm, and get it into the sprayer quickly to get the driver back into the field.”
Tech at work
A top-down redesign of a system like this meant adding technology at the plant where crop protection products are mixed. The company also invested in technology on its John Deere sprayers that allowed for faster fill times. “We use Load Command on our sprayers and can fill a 1,200-gal. sprayer in under four minutes,” says Bill Weber, agronomy sales manager. “That makes a big difference.”
Load Command is a high-speed fill system. Matched to a pump system on the tender truck, it allows a tender to fill a 1,200-gal. sprayer in as little as under four minutes.
The cooperative worked closely with John Deere dealer Arends Hogan Walker in Dwight, Ill.: “A system like this can make a difference for a spraying operation because it allows them to boost efficiency across their operation,” says Lance Murdock, commercial sprayer sales, AHW. “For Grainco FS, the work we did out of the Newark [Ill.] facility showed a major productivity improvement.”
Dave Thorsen has found by using AgLogic, an applica¬tor management sys¬tem from John Deere, he can improve operator efficiency and cover as much as twice the acres per day as in the past.
Grainco FS committed to using AgLogic for the facility; it’s a logistics and tracking system developed by John Deere that allows the plant to know the location of all sprayers and build routes each day based on customer orders. “I can set them up the night before and be ready go very early the next morning,” says Dave Thorsen, plant manager, Grainco FS, at Newark. “You see the fields that need to be sprayed and can determine the most efficient routes.”
In the plant’s mixing area, Grainco FS invested in technology that allows high-speed mixing of “hot loads” for tenders, so the exact mix of products is ready to go in the tender as it heads to the field. It also ends the time-consuming on-farm mixing using traditional methods.
Builta notes at this location they’ve been able to nearly double the number of acres they can serve in a day.
AgLogic allows machine tracking, so Thorsen knows when the applicator is finishing up and heading to the next field. From that, the plant can deploy the next load to meet the sprayer in the field so the operator can get on to the next job more quickly. “This system has made managing time easier, too; we’re not working longer days and we’re covering more acres,” says Thorsen. “It’s made a big difference for our operators, too.”