INNOVATION WITH WCCO
ACRETRADER: INVESTING IN FARMLAND
THE GRAND FARM UPDATE
RDO & EQUIPMENT LONGEVITY
Future Farmer SEPT/OCT 2020
Operating alon gside his fathe r on their fam Gunderson kn ily's 121-year-o ows that once ld operation, G farming is ing arrett rained in you, you just can't shake it.
CARTER MALLOY IS CHANGING HOW YOU INVEST
PLUGGING IN WITH PLUG AND PLAY
FEATURED SOFTWARE: THE ELLINGSON APP
4 WAYS TO GET MORE VALUE OUT OF AGRICULTURE EQUIPMENT AND TECHNOLOGY
WCCO: LEADING WITH INNOVATION
GRAND FARM: SOLVING GROWERS PAIN POINTS THROUGH TECHNOLOGY
LOSING GROUND: INSIGHT FROM INTELLIGENT AG
EMERGING PRAIRIE LIKE OUR CONTENT? Check out our website at futurefarmermag.com
OUR TEAM NOLAN
Learn more about us at SpotlightMediaFargo.com BRADY
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
September/October 2020 Volume 1 Issue 5
Future Farmer Future Farmer is published 6 times a year and is direct mailed to farmers throughout North Dakota and Minnesota. Find us online at Futurefarmermag.com.
Publisher EDITORIAL Editorial Director Editors Graphic Designer Photographer Contributors
INTERACTIVE Business Development Manager
Mike Dragosavich Drago@SpotlightMediaFargo.com Alexandra Martin Alexandra Martin and Mike Dragosavich Kim Cowles J Alan Paul Photography Lee Schwartz at Emerging Prairie, Andy Westby, Bobbi Sondreal, Erin Hightower, Marisa Jackels, Joe Heilman Nick Schommer email@example.com
Digital Marketing Strategist
Inbound Marketing Strategist
Videographer Executive Sales Assistant
Laura Alexander, Tommy Uhlir Kellen Feeney
Social Media Content Specialist
Senior Leader of Digital Solutions
ADVERTISING VP of Business Development Sales Executives Sales Representative Client Relations Client Relations Manager Marketing Designer ADMINISTRATION VP of Human Resources Account Strategist DISTRIBUTION Delivery
FULL SERVICE TILE YARD TILE PLANNING CALL TODAY!
For ALL Your Tiling Needs! Including Culverts, Intake Guards, Intake Flags • Soil-Max Tile Plows • TILE PLANNING • Culverts in stock from 6-36” • ADS Tile & fittings in stock • from 4-24”
Paul Hoefer Paul@SpotlightMediaFargo.com Zach Olson Zach@SpotlightMediaFargo.com Al Anderson firstname.lastname@example.org Jenny Johnson Christy German
Colleen Dreyer Cassie Wiste John Stuber
Future Farmer is published by Spotlight LLC, Copyright 2020 Future Farmer. All rights reserved. No parts of this magazine may be reproduced or distributed without written permission of Future Farmer, and Spotlight LLC, is not responsible for, and expressly disclaims all liability for, damages of any kind arising out of use, reference to or reliance on such information. Spotlight LLC, accepts no liability for the accuracy of statements made by the advertisers.
Spotlight LLC 15 Broadway N, Suite 500 Fargo, ND 58102 Info@SpotlightMediaFargo.com ADVERTISING: 701-478-SPOT (7768)
DRAINAGE SPECIALISTS: Jared Kram Mike Bengtson Bob Schmit Barrett (320) 528-2526 Hancock (320) 392-5100 Callaway (218) 790-2862
Call for Articles
I personally have had a blast
Notables and goals for our editorial
government policy easy to
helping find stories and learning
framework in 2021:
understand and apply
more about the agriculture
industry in our very backyard. In our first five issues, we have established
13. Introduce additional revenue 1.
Publish positive stories only &
opportunities available to
no opinion pieces
a great path for the future of this
2. Highlight Women in agriculture
publication. We like to call it a
3. Highlight youth in agriculture
The list goes on, but I wanted to give
research and development year. And
4. Showcase new ways to learn
you some of our main talking points
in my final push to finish our first year strong, I would like to call for action from our readers. Over the next month, I will be
about farming 5. Include innovative software that is accessible to farmers in
What we are looking for specifically
North Dakota and Minnesota
and questions we have for you:
6. Shine a light on innovative
Do you know any farmers who
finalizing the plan for Future Farmer
engineering and physical
are taking chances on new
Magazine in 2021. I have a list of
products from regional
technologies and innovations?
over 100 articles from innovative
hardware/software, entrepreneurs, farmers, educators, trend-setting ideas and platforms, impactful
farm operations farm and how they use future
I invite you to personally email me
you know of? •
Do you know anyone who is using their land for more than just the standard practices?
diversification at the farm
Share crop, text planting, hemp,
11. Ways to support local 12. Finding ways to make complex
Can we spotlight new, successful products or software services
10. Highlight specialty crops and
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
9. Spread exciting stories from the
and what we plan to highlight. Then,
ideas that you think might fit into our
operational techniques are being
8. Provide financial resources and
want to take an opportunity to share
Do you know of farmers or farmsteads where there unique
resources and tools with advice context that applies to small
with any story subjects, angles or
7. Provide farm marketing
business resources and more. And I with you this framework for 2021
when looking for stories.
solar farms, etc. •
Do have any podcast, events, books, seminars, certifications
or resources that you feel are underexposed? â&#x20AC;˘
Are you aware of opportunities for farmers to invest or expand their operations or investment ideas?
Do you have money saving ideas or resources that are available outside of the obvious?
...The list goes on but I think you get the gist. We hope to hear from you! As we continue to expand this magazine we appreciate your readership and the only way we will make this magazine better each month is if we continue to hear from our readers and adapt to the demand of all of you! Hope you enjoy and I can't wait for you to see what we have planned!
FROM THE FIELD
A LOOK BEHIND THE SCENES OF CORN RESEARCH
brought to you by LG Seeds Because your business is more than a farm, LG Seeds is dedicated to being more than a seed company. In a unique approach to the industry, LG Seeds works intimately with a network of STAR Partner dealers, bringing about a true team approach. LG Seeds' focus is on personalized results, because it’s not enough to just provide farmers with leading-edge research and hybrids – it has to be the whole package. In each issue of Future Farmer, we highlight aspects of this “feet on the farm” expertise, offering insight into how LG Seeds' STAR Partners are best equipped with the resources to maximize success for farmers. From their strong agronomic expertise, to in-field support, to digital ag platforms and regular training on the latest genetics and technologies, there are so many moving parts that contribute to their successes. As harvest season is upon us, we are seeing the end results of a long season of planting, monitoring and nourishing. But what about all the steps before that? You spend countless hours planning and preparing for a successful year, so it's only natural for you to expect your seed provider to do the same. This month, we dive into all the research and testing that goes into LG Seeds' corn and how their end product is optimized for the best results.
WE MEAN BUSINESS. LG SEEDS 1122 E 169th St Westfield, IN 46074
Brought to you by LG SEEDS
t’s that time of year. You’re harvesting your crops, watching the yield monitor climb and working day and night to reap the rewards of the tough growing season. But as you watch your yield monitor this fall, do you know everything that happens behind the scenes to create the high-yielding crop you’re harvesting? Pre-Commercial Research (PCR) is a term you may have heard of, but not fully understood. A portion of the high yields you’re harvesting can be contributed to PCR trials – the trials that determine which hybrids will make it into the commercial lineup. AgReliant Genetics uses PCR trials as a high-level, last screening process immediately before a product is commercialized for sale. A PCR trial is the last of six steps a hybrid goes through after an AgReliant corn breeder makes the initial inbred cross to create a hybrid. The
Brought to you by LG SEEDS
process of taking a product from infancy to commercialization takes up to six years, and less than 10% of hybrids that are tested make the cut to proceed into PCR trials, the final step of the research process. This isn't a process that happens overnight. These trials are different from a traditional plot many STAR Partners and farmers have. PCR trials are randomized, replicated three times at every location and scattered across the corn belt and other corn-producing areas for increased statistical accuracy on the hybrid data. Each trial entry is four rows wide and 40 feet long. PCR Trials also allow for breeders, researchers and Technical Team Agronomists (TTAs) to see the products firsthand and make selections based on what growers are expecting in the future of hybrid corn. TTAs and PCR team members evaluate
these plots throughout the season, looking at emergence, vigor and late-season attributes to determine if they should be selected for commercialization. These new products are then compared to our existing commercial lineup to find the differences and advantages in things like root scores, kernel depth, kernel rows around, stay green, stalk strength, disease ratings and many other factors. These differences and advantages will then help decide which products will be offered to your farm in the future. Currently, the LG Seeds team is completing the annual PCR Tour, which looks at PCR locations across specific geography. Recently, the team completed the Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota PCR Tours; a 1,700-mile journey which allowed them to see 738 different four-row entries and make their evaluations on each hybrid in a
Brought to you by LG SEEDS
Using the Mix Matters Tool Mix Matters is all about planning for results and growing your bottom line when that plan pays off. The Mix Matters approach puts LG Seeds’ research, innovation and hybrid expertise to work for your farm, so you can make the most of your entire farm, not just your highest performing fields. LG Seeds offers the custom Mix Matters Tool, combining science and technology to determine the right product for every field and the right mix for every farm. The program uses location-driven information (such as crop history, topography and historic weather trends) to understand your environment and then combine that data with your insights. The result? Creation of custom hybrid recommendations. By using the Mix Matters Tool to create a field-by-field plan, you can be sure that every hybrid is placed on the field where it’s most likely to succeed. That way, you can be confident you’re getting the most out of your inputs. To take advantage of this tool, visit
www.mixmatterstool.com and follow these steps:
Log in or make an an account. You can use the web interface or download "Mix Matters Tool" from the app store.
the program, let the LG Seeds team know 2. Within about your farm. Use your local averages or provide more detail for better recommendations.
3. Identify which of your fields you want to plan for. the tool to identify unique hybrid 4. Use suggestions, especially for you. Combine LG Seeds' science with your experience to create a custom hybrid strategy, without all the tedious analysis.
Brought to you by LG SEEDS
five-day period. Up next is their tour across South Dakota and North Dakota, which will log more than 1,400 miles. After yield data is collected, the LG Seeds team will analyze the current lineup and bring on future highyielding products that will add value to your farm. So, as you watch your yield monitor continue to climb this fall, remember what went into that bag of corn before you planted it. It’s a product of one of four corn research programs identifying valuable inbred lines. It’s your local agronomist driving 1,700 miles across the corn belt to rigorously evaluate potential hybrids. It’s fast-tracking hybrids so you can take advantage of the latest genetics, sooner than ever before. It’s identifying Mix Maker products that solve a specific problem your
TTA knows you’re struggling with on the farm. That bag of seed is data and science (and more data) combined with cuttingedge unique genetics and your TTA’s knowledge about your farm. Want to learn more about what goes into corn research? Head to LGSeeds.com/ MixMatters to learn why #MixMatters in corn research.
What Drives thE Price of
Ag Land? BY Andy Westby, Managing Broker & Auctioneer at Goldmark Commercial Real Estate, Inc.
Who knows about the price of land better than a Real Estate Broker and Auctioneer? Andy Westby of Goldmark Commercial Real Estate, Inc. identifies four of the largest drivers of ag land values, here in the Red River Valley and beyond.
Residential Paving Commercial Paving Sealcoating Driveways Parking Lots Seasonal Lots
BUCKâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S PAVING 723 3rd St S Breckenridge, MN 56520 701-204-1587
There is a common saying in sales that goes something like this:
â&#x20AC;&#x153;SOMETHING IS ONLY WORTH WHAT SOMEONE ELSE IS WILLING TO PAY FOR IT AT THE TIME YOU WISH TO SELL IT.â&#x20AC;? There is a lot of truth to that, but of course, many factors ultimately determine what something is worth. Here are some of the largest drivers of ag land values we see in the Southern Red River Valley, many of which will apply wherever your farmland may be located.
This one should come as no surprise. If you have strong, highly productive soils, your land will be worth more than land with poorer, underperforming soils. If you farm the land yourself, you inherently know what soil has higher quality and what soil does not. After all, the proof (i.e., yield) is often in the pudding (i.e., the bin)! Understanding the quality, characteristics and consistency of the soil you are buying or selling is important. Some parcels of ag land may have only one or two soil types of similar quality, while others may have 10 or more different soil types, with a mix of high yielding and underperforming soils. While some buyers or sellers focus on the Crop Productivity Index (CPI) rating of a field, other buyers or sellers can do the windshield test on land during the growing season and understand where the soil may be strong or poorer. If you are not sure of the soil types on the land you are buying or selling, contact your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office or any qualified land Realtor and they can print off detailed soil maps for you. FUTUREFARMERMAG.COM
Another heavyweight when it comes to the value of farmland is how well or poorly a piece of land drains. Good drainage on ag land has huge benefits. Well-drained soils can: A) Generally be worked and planted earlier in the spring. B) Support higher seed germination. C) Grow plants with a stronger root system, which leads to better access to subsoil moisture and nutrients. D) Produce overall higher yields. You may have the best soils around, but if the water backs up on your land or stays on the land too long, it will have a big impact on the value of it. If a piece of land has a lot of wetlands on it and/or is prone to flooding or drown-out areas, yield potential for the land will be diminished. Generally, the lower the yield potential, the lower the value. While much of the land in the Red River Valley is described as â&#x20AC;&#x153;flat, black and square,â&#x20AC;? that does not mean water drains the same across the entire valley. Many pieces of ag land in our area have some natural drainage features or impediments, such as small coulees or natural drains, however subtle they might be. Many farmers are now doing more man-made drainage improvements, such as surface ditching or drain tiling. While these efforts do come at a cost, the benefits can also be significant.
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
Andy Westby is President and Managing Broker of GOLDMARK Commercial Real Estate. He joined GOLDMARK Commercial in 2015 after spending 15 years working for both large and small technology companies. As a real estate agent and auctioneer at GOLDMARK Commercial Real Estate, Westby quickly became a market leader in the sale of agricultural, undeveloped and developed land along with commercial sales and leasing.
Size & . Shape
Not everyone understands the inverse relationship that often exists with the size of a parcel compared to the dollars per acre once sold. In other words, the seller of a half section (320 acres) may not receive as much money per acre as the seller of an 80-acre parcel would receive per acre. The reason? The buyer pool for smaller farmland parcels is generally larger than the pool of buyers who can afford to buy or finance large parcels. This is why you often see multi-parcel sales offered where buyers can elect to buy one or more parcels at a time, rather than being forced to buy the entire farmland acreage at once.
Westby is a native of Rosholt, SD, where he grew up in his familyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s farming, real estate and auctioneering businesses. He is a graduate of North Dakota State University and is also a licensed Auctioneer in North Dakota and Minnesota, using the auction method to sell land and help area nonprofits in their fund-raising efforts. Outside of work, he and his wife enjoy traveling and raising their three boys on their rural Kindred farm. goldmarkag.com email@example.com 701.239.5839
One other aspect here that can impact value is the shape of the parcel and the number of tillable acres on it. While most parcels in our area are uniform 80s, quarters and half-sections, there are other irregular parcels impacted by things like wetlands, railroad tracks, creek beds, telephone poles, coulees, etc. Tracts that are inefficient to farm will often bring less per tillable acre than those that are farmed mile-marker to mile-marker. FUTUREFARMERMAG.COM
Market . Forces
Last but certainly not least, it is important to understand how both global and local forces can impact farmland prices. From a macroperspective, big drivers of value can include commodity prices, interest rates, national policies and programs, and global demand and consumption trends. For example, recently China has been a strong buyer of soybeans, helping to prop up soybean prices that, for some time now, had been hurting. Global forces can and will impact local farmland prices, so it is important to understand what that environment is like when buying or selling land. There are local forces that can also have a big impact on ag land prices, including things like high or low land taxes, recent weather patterns (drought or wet cycles) and unique competitive forces such as two neighbors fighting over the same piece of land for sale which would drive the price up. Even more specific to the Southern Red River Valley, we have seen increased buyer demand because of projects like the FargoMoorhead Diversion project that is displacing thousands of acres of farmland. Many of those forced to sell are looking to buy replacement land, which has created some demand pressure in the immediate area.
One can never perfectly predict the exact price of a given piece of land, but by having experience with and knowledge of these varying forces, experts like our team can certainly help provide strong guidance and input to arrive on a solid value when selling or buying land. Feel free to contact me at 701-239-5839 if you think we can be of service!
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
INNOVATION By Alexandra Martin Photos by J Alan Paul Photography and provided by WCCO Belting, Inc.
Wahpeton-based business WCCO Belting is advancing belt technology through value innovation. With a goal to achieve product differentiation while lowering users' total cost of ownership, WCCO combines a passion for innovation with a passion for the industry. Paired with their custom-built equipment and proprietary processes, they've earned the distinction of being one of the top rubber belting operations in the world.
WCCO TIMELINE 26
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
Edward F. Shorma, a Korean War veteran eager to conquer the American Dream, opened his first business as a shoe cobbler in Wahpeton, North Dakota
After using his sewing experience to repair swather canvas for local farmers, Shorma was inspired to manufacture his own and his first contract officially established Wahpeton Canvas Company (WCCO)
Meet Tom Shorma, CEO and President of WCCO When WCCO Belting's CEO and President Thomas "Tom" Shorma graduated high school and set out to attend college, he had academic full-ride offers to all the North Central Conference schools at the time except one: University of North Dakota. And with a spirit that continued on throughout his career, he did the unexpected and chose the one school he wasn't offered a full scholarship to. "I went to UND, because of the 'don't tell me I can't do something' type of attitude that ran throughout our whole family," he said. As one of eight children in his family, he paid for college with a football scholarship and ended up being the first in his family to receive a four-year degree. Upon graduation, he went to go work for the family company, WCCO. WCCO was founded by Tom Shorma's father, Ed Shorma, a shoe cobbler-turnedentrepreneur. Inspired to create his own canvas after repairing swather canvases, he founded officially Wahpeton Canvas Company (WCCO) in 1969.
Tom Shorma CEO/President
While the family certainly has influence and three of the seven board member positions, WCCO is governed as a business, not a family entity. The board consists of three family-member shareholders, three non-family members and the CEO/ President. "Our governance model includes outsiders â&#x20AC;&#x201C; to help us grow and learn," he said. "We've got amazing leaders in the organization who have international business experience with multi-billion dollar, multinational companies. And they've really helped us develop premium product quality by using differentiation, superior service and responsiveness."
At the time Tom Shorma came on board (around 1980), WCCO was making rubber products, plastic products, metal products, wood products and fabric products, all in the same facility. The company had about 20-25 employees and was successful, but had room to grow. And within 12 years of Shorma coming on, the company became the largest manufacturer of kitchen cabinet doors in North America and expanded into eight divisions with over 1,000 employees.
WCCO earned business from a renowned Canadian equipment manufacturer when Shorma invented a new technique to rivet slats to vinyl belting
As WCCO transitioned from vinyl to rubber belting, its technology evolved by using modified heat-sealing equipment from the kitchen cabinet industry, developing a proprietary vulcanization process
After successfully diversifying his business and producing assorted fabric, metal, wood and rubber products, Ed Shorma was presented the National Small Business Person of the Year Award
In 1992, WCCO split up the whole operation into eight separate companies. When given the choice of which company he wanted to take over, Shorma, once again, did the atypical and decided to quit. He wanted to be out on his own and no longer within a family business, so he started his own consulting company, TEAM Marketing. For ten years, he happily ran the successful business, until 2001 when the family business called him back. Ever since then, he has served as CEO/ President back where it all started for him. Uniquely enough, Shorma wasn't called back by any of his family members, but by two of the company's board members at the time. Similar to his collegiate experience, Shorma was not the top choice for the CEO/President position at first. But after all, he's not known for doing things the "standard" way, which is just how he and WCCO want it.
Small Town, International Presence "We are never going to be the biggest, but we are going to be the absolute best at what we do." Shorma and the team at WCCO know that rubber belting is and never will be a bright, shiny object. But they do know that they can
Ed Shorma is inducted into the ND Entrepreneurs Hall of Fame and is named the North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota Entrepreneur of the Year by Inc Magazine
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
continue to innovate and become the best of the best in the industry. WCCO actively sells to more than 20 countries and more than half of its total revenue comes from customers outside of the United States. While small-town Wahpeton is by no means the center of the rubber world, WCCO has found ways to add value and differentiate themselves in a way that pushes them to the top. "No one in the world today makes what we make, how we make it," said Shorma. This proprietary, outof-the-box methodology, plus confidence in their craft, is what continues this international presence. In the industry â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and most industries, for that matter â&#x20AC;&#x201C; standard practice is to pitch and sell your products. But never ones to settle with what is standard, WCCO has differentiated themselves by coming to clients and asking them what they need, and then making it. "That is a very different approach, and it's not necessarily all that unique, but it is to our industry," said Shorma. "We really don't make products to inventory per se. We make them to order to solve particular problems. To help our customer's equipment operate at optimum levels. And you can't just do that by saying, 'Here is what we have available.'"
WCCO continues to provide value through quality and customer satisfaction by becoming ISO 9001 certified
Tom Shorma, son of Ed Shorma is named the CEO/ President and he focused the company on international expansion, earning WCCO the 2003 ND Exporter of the Year Award
"WE ARE NEVER GOING TO BE THE BIGGEST, BUT WE ARE GOING TO BE THE ABSOLUTE BEST AT WHAT WE DO."
To create value through improved control over its operations, WCCO vertically integrated with its longtime calendaring vendor
Because of its significant contribution to the growth of U.S. exports, WCCO Belting received the Presidential "E" Award from the Department of Commerce
Get to know WCCO's products Always looking to reinvent technology and applications, WCCO is never satisfied with sitting back on their laurels and calling it a day. Even their new innovations are constantly studied for improvements and reiterations. "All of these products [...] are uniquelydesigned, proprietary fabrics and rubbers to solve problems. And by problems, I mean extend life, improve consistency and really add value. Regardless of the product, that is what we do really really well; embrace innovation and change our own products to make them better as time evolves," said Shorma. WCCO Belting's product directory is extensive and impressive. But to get a taste for some of their innovative offerings in both the agricultural and light industrial industries check out these four assets:
WCCO again demonstrated its innovation capabilities with a patented fabric technology that made its new RaptorÂŽ Draper Belting the gold-standard and highest performing draper in the world
WCCO accomplished its third facility expansion in ten years and continued to deliver added value through lean processes and efficiencies
With a decade of international growth, WCCO was the first business in ND to receive the Presidential "E-Star" Award and the first in the state to become ISO 9001:2015 certified
The Core of Innovation Shorma states that he never got into the rubber industry to use new equipment or technology. He entered the field to innovate and think outside-the-box. Rather than using the newest equipment all the time, WCCO seeks out existing equipment and methods from other industries and finds ways for it to solve new problems. "We embrace innovation; whether it's product innovation, process innovation or policy innovation. That's what we go back to all the time in terms of what created our family businesses. From truck equipment products to rubber conveyor belting to kitchen cabinets, it's all always been based on trying to do something different and uniquely," he said.
A Commitment to The Team In the big picture, the keys to WCCO's successes are its product. But what lies behind those innovations is the strong team within WCCO. WCCO operates on the tenet that loving where you work starts with the people you work with. WCCO's visions for employee satisfaction and betterment form an identity around family values and longevity. With a turnover rate that holds steady at less than
3%, employees of WCCO truly become part of the family for the long-haul. Part of this comes by way of over 90 internally developed training courses to hone job skills that help employees advance in their careers. Someone who starts at an entry-level position can take advantage of additional training and education along the way and eventually work their way into advancing internally. "It's a way we can retain and recruit the best and brightest in our workforce," said Shorma. Chosen multiple times as one of the areasâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; best places to work, WCCO's open culture is dedicated to employee engagement and empowerment. Another unique practice is WCCO's process improvement program, where anyone on staff can submit suggestions and ideas to the company as a whole. Since its implementation six years ago, WCCO has gathered nearly 3,000 employee suggestions and has been able to implement more than half of them. "Everybody in the entire organization has a voice, and there's a means by which that voice can be heard very quickly," said Shorma. Not only are they heard, but they also can be confident that their opinion is valued and there is a very high chance their idea will be implemented for the betterment of the organization.
WCCO Belting, Inc. wccobelt.com Wahpeton, North Dakota
WCCO is again recognized as one of the areas' Top 50 Best Places to Work and moves forward on a project to add an expansion for its facilities and maintenance teams
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
All for the Customer "People always say there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. But I always say there are three: death, taxes and that farmers will plant and farmers will harvest. Because they have to," said Shorma. "As the global population grows, we have to find unique ways to feed them. No matter what the price of agriculture commodities are, no matter what the price of the equipment is, no matter what the price of oil is, farmers will plant and farmers will harvest. So we have to be able to belt the products that allow them to do that and sustain that practice and that process globally." While rubber conveyor belts might not take center-stage, they are an essential component to countless agricultural operations. So to add a fourth certainty into the mix, we say that WCCO is certain to keep innovating and providing value to the most essential industry in the world.
WCCO is named a recipient of teh Manufacturing Leadership Award from teh National Association of Manufacturers, announced another patent-pending belt design at CONEXPOCON/AGG
The company unveils its new brand â&#x20AC;&#x201C; TerraTech â&#x20AC;&#x201C; representing a product line of rubber belting made using sustainable materials, its patented rubber compound made with soybean oil.
Its 65th anniversary is celebrated with a ribboncutting for its largest facility expansion to date, in addition to announcing two patent-pending designs at Agritechina, the world's largest agricultural fair
FEATURED SOFTWARE The Ellingson App
ith 50 years of boots-in-the-field experience, Ellingson just introduced a digital platform and app that will keep them at the top of their field. The Minnesota-based provider of farm water management solutions and installations' app is a precision ag software that provides convenient access to farm data and water management tools for easy data-driven decisions, improved crop yield and efficient drainage planning. The Ellingson App combines public and proprietary farm data into one platform. Here, growers, land managers, agronomists and drainage contractors can access this data on their smartphones, tablets or the web. Previously, accessing this information required taking the extra time to use a variety of sources, but now it is available at the swipe of a screen.
Ellingson, a leader in farm water management since 1970, launched an exciting new digital platform at this year's Big Iron Farm Show. Letting users access and analyze their data via an app, Ellingson leads the way with this cloudbased technology.
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
Ellingson collaborated with respected world-leading institutions and companies, as well as trusted local organizations, to develop the platform. While other farm data software exists, The Ellingson App is the only platform created by a company that actually engineers and installs water management systems. “There are other tools out there, but ours is the only one backed by 50 years of hands-on experience,” said Jeremy Ellingson, Ellingson COO. “Those years of getting our hands dirty gives us insight into what information is most important to our customers and how they can use it most effectively to improve their yields and overall efficiency.” By utilizing this app and taking a strategic approach to their fields, growers can use these services to improve their yield. Ellingson plans to continue to add service options and other capabilities to the app, so users can expect even more assets over time.
The platform will initially include two services users can take advantage of: Farm Data and Farm Monitor. These two options are available as individual subscriptions or bundled together.
Who has the time to use multiple sources of information to get the data needed to make informed decisions? Certainly not a busy farmer. With the Ellingson App Farm Data tool, users can see the big picture, with all the information needed for a successful farm in one place.
Assets of the Farm Data Service:
Gain access to soil data for the boundary, provided by the NRCS SSURGO database.
View drainage data from the app. The drainage classes are split into seven different types based on the rate that water moves through the soil.
See Farm Service Agency digital border data overlaying an aerial image of the selected boundary.
View a map and attributes of the subsurface drainage installed in a field.
Identify a propertyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s boundaries on a map.
Check the local weather forecast.
Legal ownership information of a farmland.
Examine a four-year crop history breakdown for the selected boundary.
View elevation statistics with two styles of maps. A topography map displays a two-dimensional representation of the 3-D surface. The contour map shows the contours for the boundary over an aerial image.
See the statistics and map for the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). This is a simple graphical indicator of vegetation biomass. It uses near-infrared and visible red reflectance to create an index number.
Read a report of all hail activity in an area for the year selected.
See the type of wetlands within the boundary.
Pull up the flood zones and FIRM panels that are present in the selected boundary.
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
About Founded in 1970, Ellingson, Ellingsoncompanies. com, is a familyowned, independent water- and infrastructuremanagement company providing safe, technologydriven construction planning, design and installation services. The company is driven by the same customer-focused values and work ethic it was founded upon and has earned a reputation for quality, safe trenchless solutions in the agriculture, wet and dry utilities and oil and gas industries.
Farm Monitor The Farm Monitor service offers real-time insights and control over Ellingson pumps and sensors within a field. The more up to date your information is, the better chance you have of making decisions that will improve crop yield and lower overall costs. The Ellingson App Farm Monitor tool delivers personalized information about field conditions, all from your screen.
Assets of the Farm Data Service:
Control your pumps, see water levels and view pump locations and alerts from a mobile app available on your phone and tablet, or access the platform on a computer.
Remote Pump Monitor Gain access to real-time water pump data so you can always be in the know.
Monitor real-time water level data.
Conveniently control your water pump or pumps from wherever you are.
New users can take advantage of a 30-day free trial for the platform by using promo code BIGIRON2020. Learn more at Ellingson.app
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
FAMILY FARM AGRICULTURE That’s what we’re about. Join us at ndfu.org.
THE IMPORTANCE OF
By Bobbi Sondreal Succession and Retirement Planning Consultant, AgCountry Farm Credit Services
Planning Amidst a Pandemic
ever in my wildest dreams did I think that the world would be dealing with a pandemic during my lifetime, but here we are. This year has been full of surprising events, which have forced all of us to step back and take a fresh look at every aspect of our life, including how important it is to have our estate plan up to date. In a world full of uncertainties, it is vital that your loved ones know your wishes if you cannot communicate them for yourself or your life comes to an end. This is especially true if you have a farming or ranching family that not only has assets to transfer but also has a business to preserve.
A solid estate plan includes not only a will or a revocable living trust, which leaves a set of instructions to dispose of your assets at your passing but should also include a Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive. A Durable Power of Attorney appoints an attorney-in-fact to handle your financial affairs in the event you are unable to do so yourself. If you become ill and unable to perform both the physical and financial duties of your farm or ranch, who can step in and make sure your business can remain successful? If you have a successor coming into the operation, have you given them enough information to know what they need to do if you are not here to guide them? A Health Care Directive appoints a Health Care Agent to make decisions regarding your care, as well as provides guidance as to how you desire to be cared for in the event you are unable to communicate yourself. Making these types of decisions is not easy for anyone. However, documenting your wishes will help make those decisions less daunting.
It is extremely important that your estate plan is written down.
People often think things will just work themselves out the way they are supposed to but dying without a will or revocable living trust then relies on state law to dispose of your assets. What happens if you are in the middle of a transition to a farming child and all your assets, including your business assets like machinery and farmland, get distributed to all five of your children? Even if all your children give the farmer the opportunity to buy out their portion of the machinery or farmland, will he or she be able to come up with the funds quickly in these economic times? Not having the opportunity to buy or rent these assets will significantly affect the business of the young farmer. Your transition plan needs to coincide directly with your estate plan to ensure there is a plan for all your assets, especially the ones directly related to your business. Once you have a plan in place, it is important to remember to review it every three to five years to ensure the plan still aligns with your wishes. Having an estate plan in place is important for all - young and old alike. Generally, assets are left to a surviving spouse. It is, however, important for young families to also include the appointment of guardians if there are minor children to be cared for in the event of an untimely death of both parents. You will also need to appoint a trustee to manage your assets for the benefit of your children until they attain a certain age. The pandemic has shown us that so many things can change at the drop of a hat and we need to be ready to react if necessary. Your plan will need to be adjusted as your life and businesses are ever-changing, but the key is to have a well-documented plan. If you have completed your estate plan, now is the time to take it out and review it. If you do not have an estate plan in place, now is a great time to get it done.
U TU R E
BY Alexandra Martin | PHOTOS BY J Alan Paul Photography
GARRETT Garrett Gunderson is a 24-year-old farmer based just outside of Gary, Minnesota. Together with his father, Gunderson runs Gunderson Grain Farms, an operation focusing on corn, soybeans and wheat. Taking on the family farm, Gunderson is an exemplary "Future Farmer," as he takes his business degree from MSUM and combines it with the wealth of knowledge he's acquired from a lifetime of living on the farm.
"ONCE FARMING IS IN YOUR BLOOD IT'S KIND OF HARD TO GET IT OUT."
Gary, Minnesota 2,500 acres
Tell us about your farm. What do you do? It's just my dad and myself, we grow corn, soybeans and wheat. We farm about 2,500 acres.
With just you and your dad, who takes on what roles?
Seed Vendor: West Central Ag
It's pretty evenly split, both of us do pretty much everything.
Is it a family farm that you've been brought on to or did you start it together? The farm was established in 1899, I believe, which would make it 121 years old. So it's been established a while.
What is your educational background? For college, I just went to Minnesota State Moorhead for
Chemical Vendor: Farmers Business Network
business. I knew I was going to come back and farm, so I figured I'd go for a business degree. It probably still would have been a good choice to go to NDSU for ag, but growing up farming I kind of knew a good amount about the way it is. I'm more of a handson guy rather than opening up a textbook.
Did you always want to end up on the farm or did you ever have other dreams earlier on?
Crop management software: Climate FieldView
Nope, it was pretty much always ag. I thought about the military a bit in high school, but once farming is in your blood it's kind of hard to get it out. It's rewarding going from a seed in the springtime and putting it in the ground, caring for it all year and then coming to the end of the year to harvest it, knowing that you've accomplished something.
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
Finance management: The old-fashioned way: spreadsheets
What are your plans for your farm in the next year to five years? I am 24, and after [I finished] college, we expanded quite a
Has your father trusted you and seen the benefit in the new technology or is he totally hands-off?
bit. We don't mean to get too big, but if something comes
It's pretty much me who's doing all that stuff. He definitely
up we'll definitely pick up more acres. Down the road,
sees a benefit to it, but as far as technology goes, it would
hopefully within a year or two, we hope to build a shop and
take me forever to train him in on everything. That's why
start putting some money into some items on the farm.
for most of it, it is easier for me to do it and he just sits
When the going gets tough and there are things beyond your control, how do you keep motivated? How do you keep excited about showing up every day?
back. For a lot of it, we don't have to have that Climate FieldView set up for the planting he does, but I can go back later into the computer and plug all the information in myself. So
Like I said, when it's in your blood, it's in your blood.
that's a nice thing too, it's not like he is forced to have to
Farmers aren't doing it to get rich overnight. I don't know
learn it. I can go back and edit stuff.
how to word it, but part of your pay is just coming out here every day and just enjoying being outdoors.
Have you made any recent management changes that have benefited your farm?
Where do you see the future of ag-tech? How can farmers implement that tech into bettering their practice? There's definitely a lot of precision stuff that we haven't gotten into yet. I know we're looking at getting into a new
Technology-wise, you have my dad and he is about 60, and
planter next year, so we might go the precision route on
older guys kind of like to do things that they've always done.
that. Everything costs money and it's harder for smaller
And since I've come on board, technology has been a huge
guys to absorb that cost because it's expensive, no matter
change. So utilizing that more and ensuring you're putting
if you're a big farm or not, it is expensive to get into.
the right seed in the right piece of ground. We're tracking
Obviously the bigger you are, you can spread out that cost.
everything better as far as the fertilizer and chemical that we're putting down. So just being more efficient with
Technology is only going to be going up from here, whether
that is a scary thing or not. It is definitely helpful. Any of
What are some of those technology pieces that have helped? The big one is Climate FieldView. So with that, you can
us who don't necessarily get rich one year because of it, we are seeing the benefits of it. You know that you're doing the right thing for the ground for years to come.
harvest and anything in between. It tracks anything you
Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the best piece of farming advice youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve ever received?
want to use it for. So fertilizing, chemical passes, planting,
I guess I've been told to not do it (*laughs). You gotta love
harvesting and any other fungicide that you put down, it
what you do, cause it's definitely not an easy paycheck at the
can track that stuff. You can put test strips down in fields
end of the day. And some years you don't get a paycheck.
and skip passes to see if it is paying off or not.
But you're in it for the long run and just seeing everything
pretty much track everything from planting through
from start to finish makes it a rewarding job. And you get to Also, as part of FBN (Farmers Business Network), there are
be your own boss.
some other tools that we can play around with. So I guess, just keep with it because one bad year doesn't mean the rest are gonna be just like that.
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
How do you stay up-to-date with happenings in the industry? Whether it's credible or not, we are in a few Facebook pages with guys throughout the United States. So you get to look at crops that are growing from your next-door neighbor to guys that are 1,500 miles away. Other than that, just doing research online, listening to the radio, keeping up to date on stuff.
Any advice to farmers in our region? For younger farmers, my advice would be: don't be afraid to take chances. Don't overextend yourself within your first couple of years, because you never know what markets are going to do. You could be farming for two years and have to quit if you overextend yourself. But if you're smart and you understand stuff and market your grain to be profitable, you're going to be farming the next year. Just take chances and keep with it.
By Erin Hightower | Photos provided by RDO
Erin Hightower has been working in farm planning and agronomy for 15 years. At RDO Equipment Co., she works with team members and growers, focused on education and training, and conducting field trials. Sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a regular contributor to PrecisionAg.com and CropLife. com, a Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) and Certified USDA NRCS Nutrient Management Planner, Certified Conservation Planner and Comprehensive Nutrient Management Planner. Connect with her on Twitter @RDOErinH.
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
Interested in more about precision agriculture? Check out the RDO Equipment Co. Agriculture Technology Podcast and find out more about everything from equipment to UAVs to specialty crop care. Find previous episodes or your local RDO Equipment Co. store at www.RDOequipment.com.
Even as companies are trying to show empathy with all the chaos COVID-19 has caused, these buzzwords have started to fall on deaf ears as we are inundated with corporate placations on struggle and fear. Although we may be tired of hearing them, the root of the words have truth: economically, things are tricky right now.
It’s always good advice to get the most out of what you already have, but in these uncertain times (there, I had to say it), this advice becomes crucial. How can you keep older pieces from deflating in value faster than necessary? What are some strategies to keep used items valuable for your operation instead of feeling old and slow?
While farms are considered essential businesses and haven’t been shut down during the pandemic, to say growers are operating under a "business as usual" philosophy couldn’t be further from the truth, especially when it comes to equipment and financial management strategies.
Looking ahead to this winter and with a little forethought, every grower can make the most out of the tagalong equipment and technology that may be around for another year or two – or more. Agronomic and technological tools are often thought of as too expensive or inaccessible, but there are many ways to upgrade equipment without buying brand new.
Investing in the Existing Growers’ equipment that was slated for a sale or trade-in at the local dealership may now have to remain fixtures in the fleet for another year or two ... or even more. New technology solutions they hoped to add this year may have to be put off for the time being.
With the economic road ahead still unclear, here are four ways to invest in existing equipment and technology.
But this isn’t a bad thing. Buying new machines and technology are not the only ways growers should invest in their business and remain profitable.
A seasoned piece of equipment may have new value by properly utilizing its features fully, particularly when it comes to technology. Too often, growers fear technology, seeing it as something unknown they have to learn. However, in many cases that “new” technology isn’t necessarily that new, it’s been there all along, and fully-utilizing it may mean increasing productivity and reducing cost and time spent.
As a follow-up, one grower asked me to come out and show him how to use the Operations Center. As I was going through the different tools, he was engaged in the opportunity and asked if he needed to upgrade from his old display and GPS equipment to utilize the software. The answer? No upgrades were needed! What was even better, the software was 100% free.
Story from the Field I was recently calling on hundreds of growers that needed to accept terms and conditions on agronomic software through our equipment partner, John Deere. I learned, not only were many of them not using the software, they were not even aware of it and what it was capable of doing for their farm management. More importantly, they did not know how much value they were leaving on the table by not using the technology and John Deere Operations Center, an account which they already had access to. In fact, a couple of them thought I was trying to sell them the program, not simply encourage the use of a software they already had.
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
He will now be saving money with map creation next spring – a task which he had paid for and relied on from his seed dealer – as well as saving time with his sprayer record-keeping – which he could have been utilizing with his rate controller – among other things. Total extra cost to this grower? Zero dollars. Added benefit of fully utilizing technology already purchased? Priceless.
New features and technology are among the most attractive reasoning for buying new equipment, staying ahead of the curve and remaining competitive. When new machine purchases just are not feasible, it is good to know that most new opportunities from equipment manufacturers can be retrofitted back to the previous year’s equipment. Instead of buying that new piece of equipment, growers may be able to give reasonably newer pieces of equipment a quick upgrade. Story from the Field Earlier this spring, a brand-new John Deere R4033 sprayer sat outside a grower’s shop. We excitedly looked around the straight-out-of-the-box (quite literally) sprayer that he had received to demo and was going to use the next day. As we did our pre-start walk around, we went over the agronomy and business highlights of some of the features – but I could tell he was uncomfortable. When he had signed up for the demo, he had been eager and optimistic about adding the new sprayer to his fleet, particularly because he was interested in its Deere Exact-Apply™ system. Now he had arrived at a demo day and was becoming acutely aware that a new sprayer wasn’t likely to happen in the next year or two. But he still had a fundamental need for the Exact-Apply for production success.
When he admitted this, I explained that Exact-Apply could be retrofitted onto any R-Series 2014 or newer. Rather than break the bank buying new, he might be able to find a used sprayer on the market and retrofit it with Exact-Apply. This is a valuable lesson, not only for growers, but for trusted advisors as well. For advisors especially, it might be worth building a retrofitting plan for a grower, one that focuses on utilizing value-added or newer features on existing equipment as a way to keep it functional and high-performing for a few more years. This can also be a good strategy for increasing the trade-in value of the equipment down the road, even during some critical years of depreciation, a trade-in during that window of opportunity isn’t affordable. It certainly cannot stop depreciation, but it might make it manageable until it is affordable to update keystone pieces of equipment.
While it may not be this year or even next, if there are plans to trade in a tractor, the best advice right now is to maintain and care for that machine at 100%.
into a tractor. Some growers don’t want to bring in their equipment for annual inspections with their dealer partner but all should be handling their own maintenance – then recording the work that has been done.
Story from the Field “I felt like I had to take my shoes off before getting into the cab!” my co-worker quietly exclaimed as he got out of a customer’s tractor. I laughed because I expected nothing less from this grower and anything he owned. Even his riding lawnmower had a gleaming finish. The tractor was a 2010 Deere 8285R but you would never guess it’s a decade old by looking at it. One could assume it was fresh from the factory in Moline, Illinois. The interior was pristine, the oil ran clear and the grower had documented – down to the last filter change – what work had been done in his shop. Simply put, well-documented and systematic maintenance, along with meticulous cleaning and upkeep, is the simplest yet most underutilized value that can be put
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
Not only is it a solid investment in extending the life of a machine, but the proof of routine maintenance and overall care is also evaluated on a trade-in. It is hard to replace a first impression so taking the time to care for the machine and keep it in good condition can go a long way in adding value. Plus, there’s the simple value of working in a cab that doesn’t have an anxiety-building amount of dirt, garbage and clutter. As my mom used to say, mud is incidental, grime takes time. While a trade-in may not happen this year or next year, a strategy of care and cleaning establishes the opportunity to get the best value when that time comes.
FARM MACHINERY | CONSTRUCTION EQUIPMENT BUSINESS LIQUIDATIONS | LAND SALES PLEASE VISIT .COM RESOURCEAUCTION NG MI FOR MANY UPCO S ION CT AU QUALITY 21 20 & 20 20 IN
Decades of Knowledge, Steady Innovation and Top Results We specialize in converting your agricultural land, farm, construction, or commercial assets to working or bankable capital. Whether you have land or equipment to sell, youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll have our promise of commitment and attention to detail.
GRAND FORKS AREA CONSIGNMENT EVENT NOVEMBER 2020 - AT THE ALERUS CENTER
Live on-site with simulcast online auctions or timed online bidding
resourceauction.com 2702 17th Ave. S, Grand Forks, ND 58201 | 701-757-4015
Speaking of investing in today’s equipment for tomorrow’s trade-in, the added value growers can put into their machines goes beyond cleaning and maintenance, to also include more significant upgrades and repairs. Story from the Field As an example, consider precision equipment firmware updates. One of my customers is the proud owner of a 12-year-old Deere 7R Series that still had a 2600 display and a StarFire iTC™ geolocation system. She asked my coworker and me to look at it for an appraisal and, as we jumped in, learned it was the fastestbooting 2600 we’d seen in years. It took only seconds to load and was ready to work even before we were. The simple reason: the grower had been updating it, like clockwork. Every time there was a new update, she was downloading her data into Operations Center and deleting it off the display as soon she was done with it. A simple but effective practice is making sure updates are done and the data is managed. Someone who had not been so diligent may have needed a new system, one that would cost thousands of dollars. In this case, the grower was able to keep the system and upgrade out of the iTC (which was going to be non-functional in a few months) for less than half the cost.
The concept isn’t just in precision technology that needs occasional fixes. How many times has something non-vital broken off and you just shrug your shoulders? I am as guilty as anyone; almost everything I own has a part broken off that I just never get around to fixing. However, those little repairs can make an item feel managed and increase the experience of sitting in that cab an extra year or two, not to mention increase trade-in the value. Many times, especially on ground-engaging equipment like tillage equipment or planters, it is advantageous to do repairs before trading it in. An example: consider replacing disk blades on a planter. While it may cost a few thousand dollars, it will cost the dealership taking the trade-in much more, even double. The costs, such as paying for the parts and the labor from certified technicians on staff will be reflected back on the grower in the trade-in value. It doesn’t matter if you’re holding onto a piece of equipment just to get through a hard time or pursuing the opportunity to milk it for every last bit of value before trading in. Investing in a machine or technology now, in any of these four ways, will pay off now and down the road.
The Latest Addition To Your Investment Portfolio
ou can easily invest in stocks, bonds and real estate ... so why not farmland? AcreTrader set out to make investing in farmland easier and more accessible than ever.
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
Transparency: No hidden fees. Simple. Straightforward. Always.
Security: AcreTrader uses 256-bit encryption, the highest level of encryption commercially available, to ensure that every transaction, financial or otherwise, is secure with the maximum level of protection.
Flexibility: Invest online in minutes and access potential liquidity through the AcreTrader marketplace.
Carter Malloy CEO and Founder
er When AcreTrader founder and CEO Carter Malloy was working in public market investments in San Francisco, he remained true to his Arkansas farm roots and continued to buy and sell farmland with his father. He had his foot in the door and sang the benefits of investing in this asset class. So when a neighbor approached him wanting to buy some land with him, Malloy was ready to help. However, what Malloy thought would be – and should be – an easy process turned out to be the opposite. When searching for farmland to invest in online, the two came up dry. "There was just this moment of realization that here's this multitrillion-dollar asset class – with pretty incredible asset performance and investment performance – and no simple access to get it for most people," said Malloy. "It was really about asking how we could simplify access to this exceptional asset class." Exhibited on the front page of AcreTrader's website reads the Mark Twain quote, "Buy land, they’re not making it anymore." So to provide investors the ability to do just that, Malloy created AcreTrader. At its
core, AcreTrader is a farmland investment platform. "Rather than having to go out and buy a whole farm, we simply compile groups of people to buy farms together," said Malloy. This is achieved with really great underwriting and really great software, making it easy for people to come online, invest in farmland and build their portfolio. "Users can buy small slices of farms in [places like] Arkansas, Mississippi, Indiana, Illinois and California and invest in a diversified portfolio across the U.S. for far less than they'd have to spend to buy the whole farm," Malloy said. Since it's founding in 2018, AcreTrader has seen tremendous growth and support. "The business is growing like crazy. We've doubled our business from last quarter to this quarter and we are seeing really tremendous growth," Malloy said. AcreTrader is growing its team, which currently comprises of just over 20 bright, exceptional and curious people. "I can't stress how much it's a team effort here and how incredible the people that work at AcreTrader are," Malloy added. "I'm more excited today for our business than I ever have been." In any new innovation, potential users have a lot of questions. To get to know AcreTrader better, we spoke with Malloy to answer some of those big questions. FIRST THINGS FIRST, WHAT IS ACRETRADER? Through a proprietary online investment platform, AcreTrader utilizes a method similar to crowdfunding to aid people who want to invest in farmland. AcreTrader removes the grunt-work traditionally associated with land ownership by handling all aspects of administration and property management. From insurance and accounting to working with local farmers and improving soil sustainability, you can be hands-off in all aspects beyond the initial investment.
Equity Build Up
I KNOW ABOUT STOCKS AND BONDS AND THOSE TYPES OF INVESTMENTS. HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT OR BETTER? Land is one of the oldest investment classes in existence, producing enormous wealth over generations. United States farmland represents an attractive, long-term investment while providing significant relative capital preservation during times of economic turmoil. No matter the economic swing, land and food remain crucial to our existence and therefore will remain valuable. Our global population is growing and the amount of U.S. farmland acreage is shrinking, making the laws of supply and demand in favor of farmland investing. As a result, farmland has consistently beat out other asset classes over time. Perhaps more impressive is the consistency of farmland returns over time. While the value of gold or stock markets can go down over 40 percent or 50 percent in a single year, farmland returns have been positive every year since 1990 (the first year of the index). Investing in farmland makes for portfolio diversification away from the mainstream financial system. Instead of (or in addition to) investing in the lofty ideals of financial institutes, investing in farmland is a real asset that produces an essential commodity: food. Even during "bad years" on the farm, low historical volatility suggests a limited downside in these times. So even in economic turmoil, investment in farmland has helped its investors maintain wealth.
WHY SHOULD I TRUST ACRETRADER?
WHO IS BEHIND THIS AND HOW IS IT FUNDED?
Malloy himself states that the most important thing the company does is doing the right thing. AcreTrader's core theme of transparency and liquidity is one they are most proud of, even as a fresh and new business.
At the core of AcreTrader is a highly qualified team with decades of experience and billions of dollars in revenues and investments. Currently serving on their Board of Advisors are Don Robert, Chairman of the London Stock Exchange; Warren C. Jenson, CFO of LiveRamp (formerly Acxiom) and former CFO with Amazon.com, NBC, Delta Airlines and Electronic Arts; John Wright, former Vice President of Operations with J.B. Hunt; Jay McEntire, Manager of Glennoe Farms, Chairman of Utah Gas Corp., Chairman of Asset Revitalization Solutions and former CEO of Cogency Software Inc.; and Barry Knight, Head of Indigo Research Partners and formerly CEO of Cresco Ag, CCO of Pinnacle Ag Holdings and President of Jimmy Sanders.
"Without a doubt, [credibility] was our biggest barrier, and remains so today," said Malloy. One way AcreTrader has tackled this barrier is through transparency and sheer volume. The more transactions and the more successes that AcreTrader creates, the more positive word-of-mouth spreads. To get that credibility-achieving volume, AcreTrader ensures all their documents and verbiage are clear and honest so that users feel confident in the process. On their website (www.acretrader. com), they provide informational documents, videos, graphs and even a 21-page risk factor document to answer virtually any question a user might have. "What we do as a company to address the trust question is to be transparent always, about everything. Our documents are very clear, they are very favorable to the investors and farmers we are working with," said Malloy. WHO CURRENTLY UTILIZES ACRETRADER? AcreTrader has two sets of customers: farmers and investors. While there are lots of farmers on the platform, Malloy says that most of its investor-side users are people outside of the agriculture industry. "We have investors all over the country and in big cities. And then we also have people who invest in farms that are down the road from them, in their communities," he said. "It's all of the above. And that's what we are really excited about, is that we can make it accessible to both the farmer down the road and to he doctor out in Charlotte who didn't have access to investing in farming before." As a visual token of their investment, investors are sent a small vial of soil from the farm they bought into. These glasses of soil also serve as great conversation starters when displayed in the office or home.
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
In addition to a strong team of advisors, AcreTrader has heat behind its funding. This past year, AcreTrader raised over $5 million in funding, by RZC Investments, a private equity firm owned by members of Walmart's Steuart and Tom Walton.
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE FOR ACRETRADER? WHAT'S THE BIG PICTURE? The farmer's market is notoriously confusing and there's not a lot of information out there to remedy this. From the start, AcreTrader has had the intention of improving the overall experience of farmland investment, and they continue to make this a priority. "Improving the speed of transaction and improving transparency in that process is close to us. It's what we are most excited about," he said. A two-sided marketplace business is known to be a win-win for all partners involved. Businesses like Airbnb or Uber have unlocked the successes of this business model, also known as a "Platform Business Model." So what if we could make a similar win-win experience for farmland investors and farmers alike? Creating a similar business model for farmland is what AcreTrader is interested in perfecting in the long-term. HOW DO I INVEST IN LAND? For investors, step one is creating a free account with AcreTrader. Upon registration, users electronically sign documents within the platform and link up their bank account through a third-party provider, Plaid. Plaid provides a similar service as a Venmo or Paypal, meaning the staff at AcreTrader never sees the user's personal information and none of the login information is captured by the company. Once online, AcreTrader provides portfolio tools where the user can see everything you own, even the ability to view them spread out on a map of the United States. AcreTrader prides itself on the seamless, easy-to-use user interface and its ability to allow investments to take place completely electronically. "Quite literally, you can go on our website and within five minutes own U.S. farmland," said Malloy.
BEFORE ACRETRADER An investor’s options were very limited in gaining exposure to this alternative asset, and the few options there were: • carried the burden of high fees • required significant capital and time commitments • gave investors little or no control over portfolio composition
AFTER ACRETRADER Investors have access to a vast number of options for gaining exposure in this alternative asset with: • low management fees • an easy-to-use online investing portal • ability to diversify farmland holdings across the country in minutes
When investing, the user is purchasing shares in the entity that owns a farm. Each entity is divided into shares equivalent to 1/10 of an acre. So, if the user buys 20 shares, their ownership represents the equivalent of two acres of land and the associated distributions. HOW DO I KNOW THE LAND IS WORTH THE INVESTMENT? AcreTrader's key to success is its thorough underwriting process. Through an incredible team, they eliminate over 99 percent of the parcels that they evaluate, which means there is often downtime between offerings. Each accepted farm and its legal title are then placed into a unique entity (usually an LLC) and a real estate contract with the landowner is established. Since the landowner is provided ample time to complete due diligence, legal work and fundraising on AcreTrader, new listings are only available every one-to-two weeks, and this land goes quickly. To give investors a fair shot, users are notified as new offerings become available. Up until they go public, AcreTrader also conducts webcasts on the land and provides that crucial educational key. When the rush to buy happens, users were provided with enough information beforehand to feel confident in their investment. HOW DO FARMERS WORK WITH ACRETRADER? For farmers, the first step in getting started is filling out a form online on AcreTrader's website. An AcreTrader representative will reach out and gather more initial information to ensure you are a good fit. Next, the AcreTrader team will conduct in-depth land valuation work and provide recommended next steps to determine value. Once the foundation is there, AcreTrader will work with you (the farmer) to sell their land through the method of sale that best fits their needs. AcreTrader is dedicated to working alongside the farmer throughout the process, answering questions along the way. Acre Trader acretrader.com
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
Genesis Feed Technologies CEO and co-founder Peter Schott 68
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
PL GGING IN WITH
By Marisa Jackels, Digital Marketer at Genesis Feed Technologies Photos provided by Genesis Feed Technologies
Reflections from Genesis Feed Technologies on the Plug and Play experience and how it provided validity and that extra push.
Peter Schott (center) proudly representing the Plug and Play Food Batch #7
The story of how Genesis Feed Technologies (GFT) first connected with Plug and Play is a testament to the strength of Fargo-Moorhead’s startup ecosystem. Like many connections in this ecosystem, it began with an invitation. Emerging Prairie, a Fargo nonprofit dedicated to connecting and celebrating the local startup ecosystem, hosted a Pitch event in 2018. The intention was to bring together founders and investors from the Midwest and provide an opportunity to meet and present new ideas. Genesis Feed Technologies was seeing early success, and CEO and cofounder Peter Schott was invited to speak.
Not long after, Schott was in Colorado for a speaking gig when
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
“Oh it was exciting,” Schott said. “Looking at the other leaders in AgTech and food tech in that cohort, I knew I was in good company.”
“The fact that we were selected gave us validation of our business model and what we were doing. And now have access to their corporate sponsors from around the world.”
In attendance that day was Brian Tetrud, the Global Director of Food & Beverage with Plug and Play. Plug and Play is a tech center based in Silicon Valley with a mission to “make innovation open to anyone, anywhere.” After hearing Peter Schott pitch, Tetrud introduces himself, and GFT was added to the “Playbook” — a startup program developed by Emerging Prairie, Microsoft and Plug and Play.
he got the e-mail: GFT was one of 30 out of 1,000 companies chosen to pitch at the Food Batch #7 pitch event in Sunnyvale, California.
Out of the 30 pitches, 13 continued on to be part of the Plug and Play accelerator program. GFT was one of them. The program was three months long and consisted of meeting with mentors, introductions to corporate groups for pilot programs and networking events with other founders in the cohort.
Unfortunately, the final Plug and Play graduation ceremony had to be virtual due to COVID-19, rather than flying the cohort out to Sunnyvale one more time as planned. However, the unique circumstances also brought the founders together as they grappled with running a business in a pandemic. “I really was able to build great relationships with the other founders. We were able to collaborate with each other on
strategy, on how to respond to COVID, and how a pandemic would affect our business,” Schott said. After the program ended, Schott continued to see the benefits of being a Plug and Play graduate. Through Plug and Play and Emerging Prairie, he got to know Melissa Carmichael and Mark Shober at Bremer Bank, who were corporate sponsors of the Food Batch. They became invaluable resources for GFT as the company continued to grow. Thanks to the exposure from Plug and Play, Schott was also asked to speak at a Kansas convention about animal health. The experience also gave credibility to GFT when applying for loans. In the summer of 2020, GFT was chosen for $300,000 in funding from North Dakota’s new Innovation Technology Loan Fund (LIFT). “It gave us some visibility into the marketplace that we didn’t have before,” Schott said. “The fact that we were selected gave us validation of our business model and what we were doing. And now have access to their corporate sponsors from around the world.”
stories from their individual entrepreneurial journeys. “Calling yourself an entrepreneur — you feel like a fraud for a while,” Schott said. Joanne Zhang, founder of Phytoption, and Orianna Bretschger, founder of AquaCycl, both part of the Food Batch cohort, shared similar sentiments. “It’s still weird to say I’m CEO and founder,” Bretschger agreed. “Sometimes I even feel ashamed,” Zhang said. “But there are always ways to keep going and keep your spirits up.” For Schott, it’s a combination of meditation, yoga,and conversations like this one. This is where connections from Plug and Play are incredibly important, he said. “It’s always nice to meet other founders because not everyone can relate to the struggles of opening a business,” Schott said. “It’s nice to have people who can relate, that you can talk to and encourage each other.”
A few weeks after graduation, Schott joined a Zoom call with a few other founders from the cohort. A Plug and Play representative guided them through a reflection, and they shared
A Look Back At
big iron 2020
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
For the past four decades, The Big Iron Farm Show has displayed a commitment to the agriculture industry and its importance to our region. From September 15-17, The Big Iron Farm Show celebrated its 40th anniversary at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds in West Fargo. Big Iron was founded when a group of local agribusinesspeople put on the first event in 1980 at the North Dakota State University Agronomy Farm near Casselton, N.D. Only ten companies
701.232.4853 1.800.624.8824 Serving the community with pride and pleasure since 1960!
RESIDENTIAL COMMERCIAL AGRICULTURAL Order Online at
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
participated, but more than 1,200 people attended â&#x20AC;&#x201C; nearly triple the number of attendees the organizers anticipated.
as "Big Iron," rather than the original, lengthy title "the Red River Agribusiness Equipment and Service Exposition."
To account for this popularity, the second year's event took place at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds, with about 100 companies participating and 10,000 people attending. The other big change in the show's second year came with being officially branded
While this event has shifted and grown over the decades, a few things remain steadfast. 1) Free admission, 2) the three-day duration and 3) a requirement that all exhibits must be ag-related.
As a publication, Future Farmer is in our first year of business, but we recognize and celebrate the legacy Big Iron as left and will continue to create. We here at Spotlight and Future Farmer Magazine had the honor of being the day sponsor for the first day of the event this year. Here's what we saw and experienced.
Over 25,000 attendees
Starting in 1980, this year marked the 40th anniversary of the Big Iron Farm Show
Over 400 exhibitors from around the country attended
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
After its first year, Big Iron moved from Casselton to West Fargo
Original Big Iron posters by artist Wayne Grindberg were on display, commemorating the big anniversary
Exhibits were spaced out over 350 acres
Missed out this year? Mark your calendars for next year's Big Iron: September 14â&#x20AC;&#x201C;16, 2021
With harvest season upon us, Emerging Prairie and the region's entrepreneurial ecosystem have also ramped up their operations. Each issue of Future Farmer, Emerging Prairie, the folks behind the Grand Farm initiative, offers insight into what's new and notable in the crosssection of start-ups and agriculture. This month we are excited to share news from the Grand Farm, identifying how it will solve grower's problems in unique ways. We also have an update from Intelligent Ag's General Manager, Joe Heilman, on the challenges of the modern farmer and how they spark innovation.
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
CONTENTS 80 83 94 80
Grand Farm: Solving Growersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Pain Points Through Technology Part of the future of Grand Farm is highlighting pain points growers are facing right now in hopes that industry will work together to solve these problems. With small businesses, corporations, higher education, research institutions and government agencies on their side, Grand Farm is ready to solve these problems.
Less and less of the population is involved in the agriculture industry, but the population continues to grow. With more mouths to feed and fewer farms, how do we achieve this? Intelligent Ag's Joe Heilman provides some insight.
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
Solving Growers Pain Points Through Technology Problems are what drive innovation – and it’s what drives Grand Farm. The Grand Farm Initiative was created to solve the biggest problems facing agriculture. From sustainable ag practices to grower profitability, Grand Farm will bring small business, corporations, higher education, research institutions and government agencies together to create the farm of the future. However, at the heart of Grand Farm is the grower. If Grand Farm isn’t solving real problems that growers are facing right now, we’re wasting our time.
That’s why throughout the summer, a collection of growers and industry professionals gathered at the Grand Farm Test Site to discuss pain points facing growers. From crop and soil management to data visualization to autonomous systems and the farm of the future design, dozens of pain points were identified and outlined. Part of the future of Grand Farm is highlighting pain points growers are facing right now in hopes that industry will work together to solve these problems.
Before we dive into those problems, it’s important to understand the goal of Grand Farm. As we work toward creating the Grand Farm “user story”, we look to move towards the Integration-of-Systems. This is the connection between autonomous technologies, internet-of-things and the digitization of agriculture. The purpose is to more-efficiently execute on the agriculture lifecycles. We’ve broken it into three different phases: Pre-cultivation phase: Identifying more effective methods to determine crop selection, land selection and access to credit. Crop cultivation and harvesting phase: Effectively prepare the land with a focus on sowing, water management, fertilization and pest management. Final phase of post-harvest: Includes go-to-market, transportation, packaging and food processing. Achieved through a strong agriculture ecosystem focused on collaborative innovation. Here, we’ve broken the story into different Grand Farm chapters. As you read through the pain points, we’ve identified which Grand Farm chapters align with which pain points. This illustrates how with small business, corporations, higher education, research institutions and government agencies to solve these problems.
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
Bringing new crops into production with new uses in agriculture. This includes the importance of land stewardship and the opportunity costs associated with changing crops.
The tools which automate tasks on the farm. This includes everything from the to the truck taking crops to the elevator to the decision making tools providing insights.
The collection of data, including standardization of that data across technology solutions, data privacy and cyber security and the ability to turn data into information and insights for the grower and the supply chain.
This includes sustainability practices and how to approach different farm management principles. Other concepts may include farming as a service and agriculture technology as a service.
The impact on humans connected to the farm. This includes everybody from the grower, their community, the workers in the agriculture supply chain and the consumer. At the end of the day, everyone is connected to agriculture in some way.
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
• Investment based in Silicon Valley • Much of the capital investment in agriculture and agtech is based in Silicon Valley. This leads to a disconnect between the end-user and the investor. By focusing on growing businesses that have roots in an agrarian society, there will be a clearer understanding of pain points facing growers. • Grand Farm Alignment: Farm of the Future Design
• Knowledge transfer from older generation to younger generation • According to the U.S. Census of Agriculture, almost 70 percent of growers are over the age of 45 and almost 30 percent are over the age of 65. Over the next 10 years, there’s going to be a great transfer of knowledge that needs to take place in order for the next generation of growers to succeed. This problem is heightened by the fact that in previous generations, growers were more apt to share best practices. However, there is a potential for there to be larger disagreements about neighbor’s farming practices as run-off from one field can impact another grower’s crops. • Grand Farm Alignment: Improve the Human Condition
• Land availability & profitability • In order to be more profitable, growers often have to rent more land. However, as land is often passed down from generation to generation, relationships often play a big part in land rental. This means that if you don’t come from a lineage of growers or there’s land in your family, you’re at a disadvantage. This is evidenced by the fact that approximately 39 percent of the 911 million acres of farmland in the contiguous 48 states was rented, according to a USDA’s Economic Research Service study of farmland ownership, tenure, and transfer in U.S. agriculture. • Grand Farm Alignment: Soil and Crop Management
• Integration of Systems • While the AgTech ecosystem is robust, the integration of systems remains a struggle. This means that there may be 20 different softwares that are accomplishing niche problems for growers, but they don’t integrate together into an enterprise system. This is often because agtech is built up of small companies who don’t have the capital or resources to dedicate to properly integrate with bigger corporations’ systems and the larger players in agriculture are often reluctant to allow other software companies to integrate with their systems. • Grand Farm Alignment: Information Flows FUTUREFARMERMAG.COM
• Lack of robustness around risk assessment • The variables that go into risk assessment are complex and are really only understood by domain experts who have been involved in farming for years. This means that it’s difficult for growers who want to invest in new opportunities as there’s so many unknowns. When looking at risk assessment, it boils down to impact and profitability so the question is: How do you create simpler risk assessment so growers can properly plan and take on new risk? • Grand Farm Alignment: Information Flows
• Fragmentation of farm practices • Throughout much of history, farms were one large ecosystem where a number of plants were harvested and raised. For instance, a farmer may grow corn, soybeans and other crops while also raising pigs. However, farms are becoming more specialized and have lost that interconnectivity with the ecosystem. As technology develops, there’s been a fragmentation of farm management techniques, which is creating more complexity. It takes a lot of time to learn different tools, which also creates inefficiencies in farming. • Grand Farm Alignment: Soil and Crop Management
• Unpredictable Seasons • The complaint of unpredictable seasons is not a new problem. However, as new farm management practices are created, a disconnect and distrust have been created between the research being done and the growers. This is often because these new farm management techniques are being created for bestcase scenarios involving weather, which frequently don’t exist in the real world. This problem will only be compounded by climate change. • Grand Farm Alignment: Soil and Crop Management
• Economics of Soil Health • In terms of proper soil health, a lot of the healthy practices don’t make economic sense and regulations are poorly aligned with best practices. In fact, many of the proper farming practices don’t align with regulations. There is a greater need for connectivity between proper soil health, regulations and grower profitability. • Grand Farm Alignment: Soil and Crop Management
• Lack of Traceability • Consumers are asking for greater clarity on where their food is coming from. However, to get to full traceability in agriculture, growers need to have an economic incentive. This is especially true when you consider that tracing produce increases complexity and resources a grower has to dedicate. Another note on this is that as indoor farming becomes more widespread, this was identified as a way to create greater profitability for those farmers. • Grand Farm Alignment: Information Flows
• Pricing Transparency • In agriculture, many pricing structures can be very complex and hidden by gatekeepers. This is further compounded by the fact that certain pricing (e.g. seeds) are transparent while with other items (e.g. chemicals), growers have to go to talk to different sales representatives in order to find prices. Even co-ops and checkoff organizations felt like they couldn’t easily get access to pricing structures. It is very difficult to plan when growers don’t have a clear understanding of their expenses. • Grand Farm Alignment: Information Flows
• Complex Systems • Many growers are managing their farm through simple spreadsheets, which often only have basic information. As more technology is developed around farm data visualization, the way it is presented is very complex and often more than what growers actually need to know. Those developing farm software need to focus on simplicity and solving real problems as growers won’t adopt new technologies unless the value has clearly been demonstrated. • Grand Farm Alignment: Information Flows
• Disconnect around proper farming techniques • There’s a wide disconnect between growers around proper farming practices. For instance, two growers who are neighbors could be utilizing drastically different farming techniques. This is further complicated by the fact that there is no clear or trustworthy resource to figure out what makes sense for their farm. Growers don’t know what’s their opportunity cost, when’s the best time to do certain techniques, etc. • Grand Farm Alignment: Soil and Crop Management
• Adoption of new crops • Planting new crops is a risky undertaking for growers. Utilizing hemp as an example, when it was legalized in North Dakota, growers didn’t understand what tools were available to plant, harvest and work the new crops. Most growers either planted hemp and lost money or didn’t go into it because they didn’t have full clarity on the process. As new crops emerge, it’s important for that information to be transparent. (E.g. Where contracts come from? Who’s going to buy hemp seed and oil? How do you know you’re going to make money on that crop?) • Grand Farm Alignment: Soil and Crop Management
• Soil erosion • Soil erosion is a very complex topic and varies from field to field. There is confusion on how growers can properly gain correct information on their field. While there are a number of systems and software that growers can use, the challenge often comes in making sense of the data. • Grand Farm Alignment: Soil and Crop Management
• Too many agtech companies are branching out from their strength • Most small businesses launch because the founder is passionate and knowledgeable about a problem. That founder then successfully brings a new product to the market. However, as the company expands and begins to obtain a presence in the market in their niche, it often expands it focuses on problems that are outside of the realm of their expertise. This creates frustration from the user and fails to solve the problem • Grand Farm Alignment: Information Flows
• Product adoption is very slow • Production adoption is difficult in many sectors. However, the adoption of new technology in farming is compounded by the fact that the equipment is so expensive and impacts so many different facets of the farm. This creates a problem as more agtech is invented. How do you encourage quicker adoption amongst the grower and industry? • Grand Farm Alignment: Information Flows
• Finding operators for farm equipment is hard • As rural communities continue to see a population exodus, finding qualified labor is becoming an increasing challenge. While many of the jobs are minimal (driving trucks, farm labor, etc.), the workers simply are not in the community to accomplish this job. This problem is further compounded by the fact that machines are becoming more complex and need a lot of technical knowledge in order to operate. There remains a lack of training in order to operate the machinery. • Grand Farm Alignment: Farm of the Future Design
• Accurate mapping of fields • Autonomous systems and vehicles require accurate digital mapping of the field in order to operate properly. While there are many mapping softwares out there, many fields remain poorly mapped, which creates problems for these autonomous systems. • Grand Farm Alignment: Autonomous Systems
• Incentivization for sustainable practices The land owners have incentivisation to encourage sustainable agricultural practices as this will ensure their land will remain profitable and thriving for generations to come. However, most growers don’t actually own the land they farm so they don’t have the same incentives to use those sustainable practices as the grower may only farm the land for the next five years whereas, if the grower knew they were going to farm the land for the next 100 years, they would may use different agricultural practices. Grand Farm Alignment: Soil and Crop Management
• Willingness to innovate The current economic crisis of trade wars, covid and other market factors are impacting growers’ willingness to launch new initiatives. This creates a much smaller window of error for growers to try new products or practices. The ability/willingness to “bet the farm” during hard economic times becomes much smaller. Grand Farm Alignment: Farm of the Future Design
• Funding models • Many farm loans from banks are year by year. This makes it difficult for growers to test out new software, equipment or practices as these may take several years to see an ROI. Because of the structure of the loans, the growers must be focused on making a profit immediately. • Grand Farm Alignment: Farm of the Future Design
• Securing funding for indoor farming is difficult • Many banks are skeptical of the feasibility and profitability of indoor farming so there is a large reluctance to fund these operations. Plus, the barrier to get into indoor farming is very high, which is causing immediate problems in growing the industry. • Grand Farm Alignment: Farm of the Future Design
• Lack of a clear ROI with new technology • For growers, it’s easy to justify the expenses associated with certain equipment (eg. a new combine) while other expenses are difficult to see the immediate ROI. This creates a barrier to entry to innovate with new technology as the growers are so focused on profitability. • Grand Farm Alignment: Information Flows
ABOUT GRAND FARM The Grand Farm Initiative, powered by Emerging Prairie, capitalizes on the region’s potential and expertise in the agriculture and technology industries. The Grand Farm Initiative will accelerate the research and innovation into technology which will be present on the farm of the future – impacting North Dakota, the United States, and the World by solving challenges in the agriculture industry and developing new opportunities. The Grand Farm Initiative is designed to inspire collaboration among businesses, organizations and researchers to develop the future farm, which we believe will solve issues critical to farmers worldwide. Learn more at grandfarm.com FUTUREFARMERMAG.COM
How the public fell out of touch with their food By Joe Heilman, Intelligent Ag
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
A Quick Glance In The Article
• LESS AND LESS OF THE POPULATION is involved in the agriculture industry. • THIS SHIFT HAS BEEN PROPELLED by advances in agriculture mechanization and technology adoption that has radically improved productivity. • MEANWHILE, GLOBAL POPULATION GROWTH has dramatically increased the need for affordable food. • AS THE POPULACE HAS MOVED OFF THE FARM and into the cities, the understanding of how food is produced and makes its way to the consumer’s mouth has been lost. • SOCIAL DEMANDS are requiring more information about how their food is produced. • AS AN INDUSTRY, we need to accept that this trend will continue and adapt to it. • NEW TECHNOLOGY ENHANCEMENTS will be critical to meet these challenges. • WAITING FOR THE MAJOR EQUIPMENT MANUFACTURERS to introduce the technology will be slow and expensive. • SLOW ADOPTION of these practices in the face of rapidly changing social understanding will only lead to more disruptive regulations, restrictions and other social demands. • MORE REGULATION, RESTRICTIONS and other social pressures will likely reduce the overall food output, increase prices and decrease access to those who need it most. • THE INDUSTRY CAN PARTICIPATE by more actively sharing the story of farming and supporting those who do. • PRODUCERS CAN EMBRACE NEW TECHNOLOGIES from smaller companies to upgrade their current equipment to address problems and prove that food is produced safely
he modern grower is facing more challenges today than the previous generation could even imagine. Smart weeds, advanced seed genetics, social pressure, increasing regulation, advancing equipment, usage restrictions, etc. On top of all that, everyone tells us to produce more food, more affordably, but use fewer chemicals, fertilizer, water and land. What the heck!? How did we get here? One-hundred-fifty years ago, it is estimated that the majority of the U.S. workforce (about 60 percent, according to the Visual Capitalist) was involved in the agriculture industry. Think of that for a minute. It was more common to work on or around a farm or ranch than anything else. Today, it is the exact opposite. The estimates today are that less than three percent of the workforce is involved in agriculture. In less than two generations, North America has, by and large, moved off the farm to do something else. This has been made possible by enormous improvements in mechanization and the general use of technology leading to an explosion of productivity gains.
ABOUT JOE HEILMAN Joe Heilman grew up on a farm near Rugby and is currently the General Manager of Intelligent Ag. Intelligent Ag aims to help growers get the most out of their equipment by providing them with innovative technology upgrades with a high return on investment. Intelligent Ag has emerged as a market-leading innovator of game-changing agricultural products and services. Learn more by visiting intelligentag.com.
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
Meanwhile, over the same 150 years, the world population has gone from around 1.3 billion people to now almost 8 billion people. Those people want to eat! One would think they would be highly supportive of the ag industry since we’re the ones feeding them. Unfortunately, it seems like people have only gotten more critical of how their food is produced. It’s true, but in my opinion, it’s not their fault. It’s an unfortunate evolution of modernization and productivity. As the populace has moved off the farm and into the cities, the connection to the farm has been lost and thus people have become clueless about how food is produced. It reminds me of this quote from an unknown source, “What we don’t understand, we fear. What we fear, we judge as evil. What we judge as evil, we attempt to control. And what we cannot control … we attack.” With only three percent of the workforce involved in agriculture, the opportunity for someone to have even a remote connection to a farm is very small. So, it’s no wonder there seem to be more attacks on the industry or attempts to control it.
visualizing 150 years of u.s. employment history
(retail and wholesale)
utilities business + Repair services
education household work
government financial services
Less and less of the population is involved in the agriculture industry.
A Changing Workforce Over time, the job landscape tends to shift dramatically for almost any economy. In the above graph, we show the share of U.S. employment provided by each sector between the years of 1850 and 2015. How will AI and automation shape the future of employment:
Agriculture's share of U.S. employment was close to 60% in 1850, but today it represents just 3% of jobs.
Manufacturing represented 26% of U.S. employment in 1960, but it is below 10% today.
While these declines seem significant and fast, in recent years China has seen an even more stunning change: between 1900-2015, a full 1/3 of China's workforce moved out of the agriculture sector.
There are demands for more food traceability, strict recordkeeping and usage restrictions on critical inputs like fertilizer, herbicides/pesticides/fungicides, water, land ... the list goes on and on. How can we keep up? Well, to be honest, we probably can’t stop the trend. But, we CAN adapt and hopefully slow down some of those changes and protect our way of life a bit better. So, how do growers and others in the ag industry PROVE to society that we’re doing a good job and producing a good product? There are a couple of things that come to my mind: • Help tell the story of farming • Use technology to up our game and show the results
Help Tell The Story of Farming I have been struck by the recent explosion of YouTube farm channels (and other social media outlets). Some of the popular channels I follow are Millennial Farmer, Welker Farms, Larson Farms, Fast Ag Montana, Mike Mitchell, Brian’s Farming Videos, Cole the Cornstar and This Farm Wife Meredith Bernard. Collectively, this group is attracting hundreds of millions of video views around the world. What’s unique about these channels is that they’re generally family-friendly and wholesome content. It’s real people doing real work. It helps put a face on agriculture. Once you can put a face on something, it’s much harder to attack. Just look at some of the comments on the videos on these channels. You’ll see people commenting on how cool it is or saying, “I had no idea it was done that way.” Never before has the industry had such a platform to share the story of
farming. We need to use the platform wisely and consider it a gift to our way of life. No, I’m not suggesting that everyone get a selfie stick and start vlogging their daily lives. But, we can support those who do and try to help share the story.
Use Technology to Up Our Game and Show the Results Today, we’re blessed by a host of technologies to solve problems. While there is a LOT of talk about how to use farm data to make better agronomic decisions to boost yields or reduce inputs, I think there is a more important use of that information. If the general populace had any idea how much technology is used to ensure we’re not abusing land and only giving the plant what it needs, I think they would be shocked. There are reasons we apply a certain amount of fertilizer or use a certain chemical, but the public really has no idea. So, we need to prove it. Here are some examples of concerns a consumer might have and how we can answer: "I’m concerned that you’re using too much fertilizer and it’s having other consequences on the environment." Well, here’s a technology I’m using that helps prevent overapplication and overlap in the field, here’s my application map to prove it and my soil tests to show you how much of that fertilizer my soil can absorb. "I’m concerned you’re just spraying too much chemical and it’s going places it doesn’t belong." Well, here’s a technology I’m using that helps monitor my sprayer’s performance in the field. It logs the weather
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2020
conditions and all the other factors I need to consider to make sure I can spray safely. It also tells me if my application has any problems or if my droplets are at risk of going somewhere they shouldn’t. Here’s my application map that proves I sprayed every acre according to the EPA’s approved usage guidelines. These are only a couple of examples, but hopefully, you can start to grasp how we need to use all this information we’re generating to help inform the public and policy-makers that we do a pretty darn good job of safely producing a highquality product. Are there ways to improve the job we’re doing? Absolutely! I’ve never met a farmer or machine operator who doesn’t want to do a better job! In the past, growers and other operators have waited for the main equipment manufacturers to bring them the technologies that enable this functionality. While the manufacturers do implement these technologies and usually do a pretty good job, it usually takes a lot longer to get to the market and it’s usually only available on brand new machinery. So not only is it slow to market, but it’s also expensive to adopt. Slow and expensive is not a good recipe for mass adoption and doesn’t lend itself well to fast-changing public pressures. That’s where smaller, more nimble technology companies can play a major role. We can help change the mindset of the industry, prove the value of certain solutions and drive industry-wide adoption. Our company, Intelligent Ag in Fargo, has done just that with our retrofittable Recon monitoring solutions and Engage section control upgrades for air seeders and fertilizer floaters.
With our Recon monitoring products, air seeder and fertilizer floater operators can monitor the flow of material to the ground. This helps ensure the accurate and proper application of seed and fertilizer and alerts the users to problems that may be occurring with the machine. This makes the best use of land and ensures the right product is getting applied to the right place in the field. With our Engage section control upgrades for select air seeders and fertilizer floaters, we take it a step further by preventing the overapplication of product in the field caused by implement overlap. Invariably, because these machines are very large, a field must be overlapped in some areas to fully cover the field (usually for to 15 percent of the total acres or more). Overapplied seed can create more disease pressure, crop lodging problems and reduce yields. Overapplied fertilizer can cause the same issues and even run off into the water supply because the soil cannot absorb it. By upgrading the section control capabilities of these machines, we can help prevent much of that overlap, which not only saves the money of overapplying products but also reduces the risk of the other issues I described earlier. So, in closing, it is possible to upgrade current equipment to do a better job and it is getting easier to tell the story of how food is being made. Will you participate in helping to shape the dialogue? The choice is yours!
I would love to keep the dialogue going! Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch with The Grand Farm to keep the conversation moving forward.