Gearing Up For Growth

Brian George and Chris Light

For Tim Norris, CEO of Ag Info Tech LLC, a precision technology and consulting business in Gambier, OH, 2010 was year of healing. The previous year on Thanksgiving weekend, his business burned to the ground, taking all of the computers and virtually every bit of technology inventory he had in storage.

For a brief moment he considered packing it in, but the days after revealed that he had true friends among his clients and associates, and solid relationships with insurance representatives and vendors who were more than willing to help get him restarted in his time of need.

Refreshed, recovered and reloaded, he and his team put the company on an aggressive growth path forward, fueled by capital generated from a newly formed partnership with Town and Country Cooperative. The deal split the ownership of Ag Info Tech 50-50, giving him access to the administrative and financial resources he needed and allowing him to truly consider expansion. This year, it was time for the business to turn the corner.

On the resourcing side, two employees were added in 2011 to fill key roles. Chris Light works in the office a customer relations specialist, managing billing, receiving, customer communication and following up on service calls to ensure satisfaction, all the small things that make a significant difference to the customer experience that in many small offices would go undone, or half done.

Brian George was added as an installation specialist, which Norris says has significantly improved the quality and timeliness of new installations. His methodical approach to installing equipment has been a complement to the fast moving Ag Info Tech team.

The Next Big Thing

New ideas drive innovation, and one of the most important sources of these has been the Precision Ag peer group that Norris joined last year. He and nine other precision-focused consultants and equipment providers gather twice annually to share what’s working in their businesses and come up with new approaches to improving their operations.

“We’e all going through the same struggles, such as finding and retaining good employees,” says Norris. The finding part is particularly challenging going into this off-season, Ag Info Tech is providing precision products and services to Western Reserve Farm Cooperative in Middlefield, OH, with clients stretching from Canton north to Lake Erie and east to the Pennsylvania border, and the search for a territory manager has become a nine-month odyssey.

Keeping track of inventory is another unsolved issue, and the peer group has provided some success stories. “Personally, I am struggling with inventory management, and a couple of the guys are doing some interesting things. For example, one consultant is using a barcode system, and technicians use their cellphone to scan any piece of equipment that leaves the warehouse. From the phone, the information is collected and centralized to streamline inventory tracking.” It’s something we are looking into, he says.

While some ideas were put into the under investigation hopper, some were immediately actionable. Based off the success of the consultant Peer Group, Norris formed a grower peer group called the “Back to the Data Club.” The concept of growers coming together to share ideas is nothing new, but the creation of a formal group of the most progressive growers seemed to be the best way to proliferate the best thinking and strategies for collecting and managing data.

Norris and his consulting peers discussed the evolution of precision technology and the focus in recent years on efficiency building technologies such as automatic steering and planter clutch control. While important, it served to distract growers from collecting and utilizing data, and turning the data into a decision-making tool.

“Growers have really forgotten about the power of data, and the original reason precision agriculture started,” says Norris. “We’re trying to return precision back to its roots, and growers are interested. They’ve already invested in GPS and controller technology, and they want to know what else they can do with it.”

To make it an effective and efficient program, the group was limited to 10 members. Attention was paid to ensuring there was a healthy mix of personalities and experiences in the club to facilitate positive discussion. Prior to the first meeting, the members had to answers a set of questions that would serve as profile information about the farm operation, and what they perceived as their biggest challenges related to data collection and use.

The group meets twice a year, and meetings are highly structured to ensure full participation and maximum value. During the meeting, growers are asked to come up with three actionable goals that they would report on to the full group at the next meeting, creating accountability.

Another idea to come out of the consulting peer group was the concept of “market yourself first.” In the eye of the customers, Norris had historically emphasized its affiliation with its key vendors, namely Ag Leader and Trimble. This year he made a significant investment in developing the identity of Ag Info Tech by developing an information package designed around the company logo, and fitting the entire team with Ag Info Tech embroidered logos.

Finally, Ag Info Tech created a service plan option for growers to purchase to rein in the number of service calls being received during peak seasons. Growers who purchase the service plan receive unlimited tech support, in addition to spring and fall equipment checkups to update firmware and get things set for planting and harvest. Growers who do not purchase the service plan pay an hourly rate for calls made that exceed 10 minutes.

Norris admits that the fee is barely enough to cover three service calls, but having it in place has reduced the number of relatively unnecessary calls.

This past year, Ag Info Tech added or explored a number of technologies and practices to help growers explore the improvement of yield and efficiency.

Exploring New Techniques

Drainage Tile Layout. Using new capabilities from Farm Works Surface Software, Ag Info Tech is designing drain tile installations for grower-customers. For DIY customers, Norris can use the program, using a Trimble FmX to do the surveying, to create a georeferenced map that can be exported and used by the growers to install tile.

Imagery. Ag Info Tech is offering NDVI aerial imagery to growers to provide insight into in-field pest and fertility issues in season, and expected yield at pre-harvest. Pre-harvest mapping is proving to be a very accurate harbinger of yield, in some cases providing a more accurate indication of yield than the actual yield map, says Norris. It can also reveal machine problems, such as malfunctioning planters, by pointing out areas of low or no vegetation. “We’ve had maps show clear as day where a planter clutch got stuck, and you’ll see a streak of red on the map that should be green,” says Norris.

With an expanding sales territory and an ever broadening menu of services, next year’s visit to Knox County should be fascinating.

Leave a Reply

Data Management Stories
Data ManagementEFC Announces FieldAlytics, Adapt-N Expanded Integration
July 17, 2017
EFC Systems is pleased to announce an expanded integration between its FieldAlytics product and Agronomic Technology Corp’s Adapt-N nitrogen recommendations Read More
Data ManagementOpinion: Benchmarking in Precision Agriculture is Big Statistics
July 17, 2017
Benchmarking has become a buzzword in precision agriculture recently and before we get too excited with all of the profound Read More
Yield Data Image
Data ManagementYield Data: More Than a Pretty Picture
July 13, 2017
It is mid-July, which, for the Australian cotton industry, means that picking is still going on for some growers. A Read More
Helena Spreader
Data ManagementDriving Value Through Machine Data
July 5, 2017
Telematics data is readily becoming common place thanks to smart edge devices in ag equipment. Many groups have begun storing Read More
Trending Articles
Yield Data Image
Data ManagementYield Data: More Than a Pretty Picture
July 13, 2017
It is mid-July, which, for the Australian cotton industry, means that picking is still going on for some growers. A Read More
BASF Maglis Grower Tablet
ProfessionalsPatience Needed: Lessons for Getting New Tech onto the Farm
July 6, 2017
A popular joke within the tech industry was trotted out at GAI AgTech Week in Boston, MA, speaking volumes about Read More
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
EventsPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
Gavin Newsom Forbes AgTech-Summit
ProfessionalsAgTech Summit Aiming High for Modern Farming Solutions
June 12, 2017
THRIVE AgTech, in partnership with SVG Partners and Forbes, is hosting the third annual Forbes AgTech Summit June 28-29 in Read More
Quantix Drone Farmer
DronesTop 10 Most Intriguing Technologies in Agriculture
June 3, 2017
This may be a bit of stating the obvious here, but we’ll throw it out there anyways: as much as Read More
Farming iPad
Data ManagementOpinion: ROI or Die in Precision Agriculture
May 12, 2017
The thought of $3.50 corn for the foreseeable future seems pretty disheartening. However, if you look at the precision ag Read More
Latest News
Resistant-weeds-in-Brazil
InternationalUsing Precision Agriculture to Control Herbicide-Resist…
July 24, 2017
The occurrence of weeds in agricultural fields of grain and fiber production has caused losses to farmers for a long Read More
John-Deere-and-Farm-Dog
Grower Services & SolutionsFarm Dog Strengthens its Integration with John Deere Op…
July 24, 2017
Farm Dog, the leading pest and disease management platform for growers and agronomists, has completed the second stage of its Read More
Industry NewsLindsay Corp. Names Dow’s Timothy Hassinger New C…
July 19, 2017
Lindsay Corp. has  announced the appointment of Timothy Hassinger as president and CEO and a member of its board of Read More
InfoAg 2015
Events2017 Awards of Excellence Winners Announced
July 18, 2017
PrecisionAg Institute is pleased to announce its Awards of Excellence winners for 2017. Honorees of this year’s prestigious award are Read More
Interseeding Cover Crops
ProfessionalsA 3-Step Approach to Interseeding Cover Crops
July 18, 2017
As growers continue to search for opportunities to create healthier soils and increase yields, more trusted advisors and farmers are Read More
Rod Weimer and Paul Schrimpf
Excellence AwardsPast Recipients Of The PrecisionAg Awards Of Excellence
July 18, 2017
Since 2007, the PrecisionAg Insititute has sponsored the annual Awards of Excellence program. Here's a list of the past winners. Read More
Data ManagementEFC Announces FieldAlytics, Adapt-N Expanded Integratio…
July 17, 2017
EFC Systems is pleased to announce an expanded integration between its FieldAlytics product and Agronomic Technology Corp’s Adapt-N nitrogen recommendations Read More
Data ManagementOpinion: Benchmarking in Precision Agriculture is Big S…
July 17, 2017
Benchmarking has become a buzzword in precision agriculture recently and before we get too excited with all of the profound Read More
Yield Data Image
Data ManagementYield Data: More Than a Pretty Picture
July 13, 2017
It is mid-July, which, for the Australian cotton industry, means that picking is still going on for some growers. A Read More
Industry NewsQuick Rewind: Ohio Dealer Talks Deere-Precision Plantin…
July 12, 2017
A few weeks ago I took a quick trip south down I-71 to Central Ohio (for you non-Buckeyes, I-71 runs Read More
DronesSentera Launches Versatile Quad Sensor for Drones
July 12, 2017
Fully Customizable Filters on Sentera Quad Sensor Allow for Unique Crop Health Detection Capabilities Sentera introduces the latest update to Read More
Hortau Irrigation Management Software
Sensors/IoTHortau Named Finalist for CogX Artificial Intelligence …
July 10, 2017
Hortau was recently named a CogX Award finalist in the Best Artificial Intelligence Product in Agriculture category. The awards were Read More
Grower Services & SolutionsVantage South Atlantic Announces Mid-South Expansion
July 10, 2017
Vantage South Atlantic announced that it has joined Trimble Agriculture’s global network of independent Vantage partners to provide farmers, advisors, Read More
Ag Retailer and Grower WinField United
Decision Support SoftwareAgronomic Technology Corp Surpasses Daily Nitrogen Reco…
July 6, 2017
Agronomic Technology Corp, a leader in agricultural field modeling for soil, water, crops, and fertilizer, for the first time surpassed Read More
Precision IrrigationDealership Celebrates 25 Years in the Irrigation Game
July 6, 2017
25 years ago, Bobby Kempenich had an idea. An idea to launch a business that combined his knowledge of irrigation Read More
BASF Maglis Grower Tablet
ProfessionalsPatience Needed: Lessons for Getting New Tech onto the …
July 6, 2017
A popular joke within the tech industry was trotted out at GAI AgTech Week in Boston, MA, speaking volumes about Read More
Deere R4023 cab
Business ManagementOpinion: Reality vs. Hype in Precision Agriculture
July 6, 2017
I think there is a certain word that can accurately describe much of the precision ag and/or ag tech industry right Read More
Events2017 agBOT Challenge Winners Announced
July 6, 2017
Driverless robotic machines entered the fields of Gerrish Farms in Rockville, IN in June 2017. Universities and entrepreneurial teams showcased Read More