Jimmy Sanders: Technology In Overdrive

Jimmy Sanders Team

It cannot stand alone. It has to be weaved into the fabric of the business.

When it comes to technology and precision agriculture at Jimmy Sanders Inc., this is the simple golden rule for making it work. The top-down commitment to integrating technology into every aspect of grower service has put Sanders among the nation’s most imaginative and innovative users of agricultural technology.

“What has separated us is that we have not risen and fallen with the tides in terms of technology,” says Jeff Dearborn, who has been in charge of implementing technology at Sanders for more than a decade. “It’s never been a fad — we integrated it into the way we do business.

“I have been fortunate in that the owners have known where they wanted the company to be on technology,” he continues. “They always felt it was going to be a long-term investment, not a quick buck. We have had some tough times when it has been more difficult to show the value, but it has been good for the company as a whole. I have always had a seat at the table with seed, fertilizer, and chemical planning, and technology influences the decision in every aspect.”

From the beginning of its technology integration movement, Jimmy Sanders aimed at creating a holistic precision offering that took grower-clients from planning to planting to harvest. It started a decade ago, when the retailer launched its OptiGro program. Pioneering for its time, OptiGro was designed as an all encompassing full-service precision program for growers with clearly defined services and value.

“It started with our commitment to accurately record and map the field boundaries for every customer’s field,” says Dearborn. “It took a lot of time and effort, and field salespeople had to accept that it was part of their responsibilities to get it done,” he explains, but he and his crew knew that it would be the key to all other services.

Jimmy Sanders has continuously built on that foundation of data year after year, and the retailer provides a full menu of precision services and data management under its OptiGro program. “The data has had business benefits for us as well,” notes Dearborn. “For example, it provided us a lot of market share information, and showed us where products and traits were going in our market area. We could spatially sort and process the data in a massive way vs. field by field.”

Looking For The ‘Next Big Thing’

Keeping on top of technological trends in agriculture requires constant evaluation of new technologies. Dearborn says he is fortunate to have two individuals on his team who have been instrumental on this front, Clint Jayroe and Carey Webb.

“Every year we evaluate new technologies. We need to commit the time to understand how they work, how to market them, and how to incorporate them,” he says. “One person can’t do it all. We rely on them to do the heavy lifting.”

One of these new technologies is the AutoProbe, a GPS-guided, automated soil sampling machine manufactured by AgRobotics. Dearborn’s team is working intimately with AgRobotics to make best use of the technology in Sanders’ operation, while also helping the company get the technology off the ground.

“We’ve been working with Sanders on getting out the logistical kinks and making it a viable service for them,” says Jeff Burton, AgRobotics president. Working with Sanders, AgRobotics has evolved into a service organization, which owns and operates the AutoProbe units and provides the georeferenced soil sampling service to Sanders customers.

Adding Telematics

Jimmy Sanders’ recent integration of telematics is another manifestation of that commitment to improving service and efficiency using smart technology.

In short, telematics marries global positioning systems with mobile communications and computer technology to bring a whole host of powerful tools to an end-user.

The telematics trend was one of the concepts that Dearborn watched closely as it became more prevalent in the consumer market. The most visible manifestation of telematics technology has been the growth of the OnStar system in cars, but the increasing power of handheld communication devices like the Blackberry and iPhone also revealed the potential of telematics technologies.

Not unlike many technological breakthroughs, telematics has been slow to emerge in agriculture. It can be frustrating to wait and watch, but Dearborn feels it also provides an advantage. “We have the luxury of being at the tail end of adoption,” he says. “All you have to do is follow general trends in technology to predict what’s coming.”

A couple of years ago, Dearborn got the opportunity to get in on the ground floor. Equipment manufacturer GVM was developing a suite of telematics-based tools specifically designed for custom applicators called AgJunction. Being long-time partners on the equipment side, Sanders became one of the first retailers to sign up for the new product, GVM Telematics.

Aaron Hunt, who heads up the AgJunction initiative for GVM, says that there are three primary functions that Sanders is using. First, sending and receiving data and transferring files wirelessly; second, tracking the movements of machinery in the field; and third, monitoring and recording machine efficiency, performance, and maintenance.

To maximize the benefit of these capabilities, Hunt worked with Dearborn and his team to integrate the capabilities into Sanders’ OptiGro program to ensure that the systems worked efficiently and in harmony. The connectivity made possible ensures that every piece of machinery operates like a remote office, sending and receiving data as if the rig cabs and locations were cubicles in an office building. On the equipment side, Field Application Equipment Manager Bob Griffin at Sanders was in charge of making sure that the system was going to work in the retailer’s fleet.

The GVM Telematics package is virtually turnkey today, with all of the hardware, software, and cellular subscriptions provided. The rig system includes a cellular signal receiver and a programmed in-cab computer — the Raven VIPER because it features built-in wireless communication capability.

“GVM Telematics will work with more in-cab displays in the future as they come out with wireless capabilities,” says Hunt. Development emphasis now and in the future is on building a system that works anywhere with any color machine or brand of display.

Hunt notes that the cellular contracts are purchased and maintained by GVM to eliminate confusion and make things more streamlined. Cell service can be added or changed by Sanders using GVM as a third party.

All Systems Go

The system used by Sanders starts with a work order. That order is tied to a field boundary, and is assigned to an asset. The software in the VIPER downloads the work order to the cab, and it is ready to go. After completing the work, it generates an as applied file and an invoice and automatically changes the job status — all of which is transferred wirelessly to the main office.

Tracking Assets

Where is that anhydrous tank? I can’t find an irrigation pump! These and other missing asset statements could become a thing of the past with the addition of asset tracking. In the near future, GVM’s Aaron Hunt sees the potential for a low-cost asset tracking system for loaner units like anhydrous tanks and toolbars and other equipment that leaves the yard for long periods of time.

A big time saver? You bet. “Back in the old days, when a work order had to be changed, you just naturally took out two disks because one would fail,” says Hunt. “Flash drives are better, but you still need someone running them out to the field. This technology virtually eliminates that problem.”

Back at the main offices, an Internet-based software program gives every manager access to a screen that shows the location of all the retailer’s assets on an electronic map in real time. Assets can be monitored and reassigned based on customer requests or even expected weather events.

On the back end is a rich pool of data for managers to consider and make future decisions. Machinery operation data reveals how much product is spread over any period of time, as well as time spreading vs. time driving. The data help managers make decisions about logistics, equipment replacement, and find holes in an applicator’s performance.

It’s also helped solve the elusive “shrinkage” problem. “Every location has found spread acres that did not get billed, especially with fertilizer,” says Dearborn. “It’s a constant battle to remember what got done when you’re working so hard, but with the system we have a better handle on acres applied and product shipped.”

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Jimmy Sanders: Technology In Overdrive

  1. Jiangsu Flag Chemical Industry Co., Ltd.,are basic manufacturer of agrochemicals in China, and have operated in this area for nearly 10 years. flagchem,Our overseas business extends many regions, including Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Central and South America. We have gained wide recognition from our overseas customers due to competitive prices, high quality, data supports and value-added services. If any of the products meets your interest, please let us know, we shall be glad to give you our lowest quotations upon receipt of your detailed requirements.
    Jessie Wong
    Sales Manager
    Jiangsu Flag Chemical Industry Co., Ltd.
    Email: jessie@flagchem.com;jessiechivalry@gmail.com Website:http://www.flagchem.com
    Add:21A1, Shangmao Century Plaza, 49 Zhongshan Road. (South),Nanjing,Jiangsu, P.R. China,210005
    Tel: 0086-25-81786215 Fax: 0086-25-86890135

CropLife 100 Stories
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Acquires Lemon Ag Services
August 4, 2014
The acquisition of Lemon Ag fits BRANDT’s aggressive corporate strategy of providing superior agronomic advice and services for customers in central Illinois. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis To Relocate Agribusiness Division To Denver
July 16, 2014
The move Eastward will allow Wilbur-Ellis’ Agribusiness Division to be more accessible to relevant geographies and is expected to enhance communication and collaboration among the division’s nearly 3,000 employees. Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Acquire Illinois River Energy Ethanol Plant
May 1, 2014
CHS has signed an agreement with Sinav Ltd. to acquire 100% of the company's stock, which includes Illinois River Energy, a 133-million-gallon-per-year ethanol plant at Rochelle, IL. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location In Indiana
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
corn field
CropLife 100The Andersons’ Humic DG Now Available In Canada
February 13, 2015
The Andersons, Inc. Turf & Specialty Group has announced its Humic DG product is now available to customers in the Canadian turf, agriculture and horticulture markets. Read More
Farmer on tablet
CropLife 100Southern States Co-op: An Inside Look At Our Aerial Imagery Program
February 8, 2015
Now is as good a time as any to explore the basics of what a retail aerial imagery program looks like today. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Inks Satellite Imagery Agreement
February 3, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Company has reached an agreement with Planet Labs to bring satellite imagery to the AgVerdict software platform. Read More
Latest News
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location I…
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
Management2,4-D Celebrates 70 Years; GROWMARK Uses Super Bowl Ad …
February 27, 2015
Jim Gray, executive director of the 2,4-D Research Task Force, lays out planned activities to mark the chemistry’s 70th anniversary. Read More
HerbicidesUniversity Of Arkansas Flag The Technology Program Adds…
February 27, 2015
Started in 2010, the Flag the Technology program provides a visual reference for applicators to distinguish between fields planted with different herbicide-tolerant trait technologies. Read More
Luckey Farmers, Inc.’s Berkey Farm Center
Industry NewsLuckey Farmers’ Berkey Branch Certified In 4R Nut…
February 26, 2015
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced Luckey Farmers Inc.’s Berkey Farm Center in northwest Ohio has been added to its growing list of nutrient service providers to achieve certified status. Read More
Crop InputsWinField Unveiling NutriVision Technology, Ascend Dry F…
February 24, 2015
New for 2015 are NutriVision Technology, a unique tool for monitoring in-season plant nutrient availability, and Ascend WSG plant growth regulator, a new dry formulation of Ascend plant growth regulator. Read More
FertilizerNew Formulation Of NutriSphere-N Protects High Volume U…
February 24, 2015
Verdesian Life Sciences is launching NutriSphere-N HVTM, a new polymer formulation of the proven NutriSphere-N Nitrogen Fertilizer Manager that protects high-volume applications of UAN. Read More
EquipmentIowa Ag Secretary Northey Names Hagie Water Quality Lea…
February 24, 2015
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has named Hagie Mfg. as a recipient of the Secretary’s Water Quality Initiative (WQI) Leader Award. Read More
FungicidesEvito Fungicide Gives Canadian Wheat Growers New Diseas…
February 24, 2015
EVITO fungicide from Arysta LifeScience North America gives Canadian wheat and barley growers a new option for disease control. Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Commodity Classic Turns 20
February 23, 2015
Two decades in, this annual gathering of all things agriculture has become a must-see event. Read More
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
ManagementCropLife Retail Week: On The Road Edition
February 20, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss their recent trips to the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville and the Read More
Crop InputsLand O’Lakes Acquires FLM+ Assets
February 19, 2015
FLM+ will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Land O'Lakes, Inc., and the company will retain its employee base after closing of the deal, which is scheduled for the second quarter of the year. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnited Suppliers, Stine Seed Form Marketing Alliance
February 19, 2015
The new alliance will greatly expand sales opportunities for Stine Seed with the United Supplier Seed Link Owners. Read More
Crop InputsVilsack To Deliver Commodity Classic Keynote Address
February 19, 2015
The secretary will deliver a keynote address to several thousand farmers and ag allies during the event's General Session, to be held Friday, February 27, in Phoenix, AZ. Read More
Crop InputsSoybean Storage Tips
February 19, 2015
On-farm storage of soybeans requires some special considerations compared to corn. Read More
Monsanto Sign
Crop InputsBioAg Alliance Delivers Promising Field Trial Results
February 19, 2015
In its first full year of field trials, the BioAg Alliance reported that the top 10 microbial strains tested in corn and soybeans showed very promising results. Read More
National Farm Machinery Show overview
EquipmentNational Farm Machinery Show Attendance Up By 16K
February 18, 2015
The 2015 event saw the second highest attendance total of all time as 310,589 attendees that included exhibitors and agribusiness professionals traveled to the Kentucky Exposition Center to participate in the nation’s largest indoor ag trade show. Read More