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 100Map: Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings Acquisitions In 2014
May 29, 2014
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings continues to expand its agricultural retail distribution business through these key acquisitions in 2014. Read More

Trending Articles

Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScience
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Offers New Support For Ferguson, Area Communities
October 8, 2014
Monsanto Co. has committed $1 million in new support for several collaborative efforts in Ferguson, MO, and surrounding communities in North St. Louis County. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnapproved Genetically Modified Wheat Found In Montana
October 3, 2014
USDA reports that one year after discovery of Monsanto's unapproved wheat in a single Oregon field disrupted U.S. wheat export sales, the GMO wheat has again been found in Montana. Read More
Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
The deadline to vote for the 2014 CropLife IRON Product of the Year is October 31. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
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

Latest News

InsecticidesValent U.S.A., MGK Form Marketing Agreement
October 24, 2014
Valent has formed an agreement with Minneapolis-based MGK to manage the marketing and sales of MGK’s crop protection line of insect control products within the U.S. beginning April 1, 2015. Read More
StewardshipFlorida’s 4R Advocate Keeps Improving
October 24, 2014
Florida farmer Alan Jones uses the 4R principles of nutrient stewardship as the core of his fertility program, which allows him to maximize production and keep costs in check. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Named One Of The World’s Best Multinational …
October 23, 2014
Monsanto ranked No. 8 in the world’s largest annual study of workplace excellence that identifies the top 25 best multinational companies in terms of workplace culture. Read More
Crop InputsArysta Hires Former Agri-Chem, CPS Employee For Delta S…
October 23, 2014
New Territory Sales Manager Mark Peel’s primary role will focus on working with growers regarding fungicides in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Announces Appointments In Plant Food Division
October 22, 2014
GROWMARK, Inc. has announced the three key staff changes in its Plant Food Division. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Appoints New VP Of Finance And Risk Management
October 22, 2014
Wade Mittelstadt has been named GROWMARK Vice President, Financial and Risk Mangement, effective December 1, 2014. Read More
FungicidesEPA Approves BASF In-Furrow Corn Fungicide
October 22, 2014
Field trials show Xanthion In-furrow fungicide provides more rapid emergence, extended residual control and improved seedling health than untreated crops. Read More
EquipmentAgraScout App Available At No Cost To Universities
October 21, 2014
AgraScout, a fast and easy to use mobile crop scouting app, is now available at no cost to University students, Read More
LegislationNew Farm Bill Program To Provide Relief To Farmers Affe…
October 21, 2014
The USDA has implemented a new Farm Bill initiative that will provide relief to farmers affected by severe weather, including drought. Read More
ManagementGreenfield Scholars Program Aims To Sustain Agronomy Wo…
October 21, 2014
The program encourages talented students to study agronomy, crop and soil sciences while cultivating networks to develop the necessary workforce to sustain the profession. Read More
Paul SchrimpfPrecision Ag: Taking It To The Hill
October 21, 2014
A new coalition took the good news message of precision agriculture to Washington, DC, last month. Read More
ManagementUSDA Awards $18 Million In Small Business Research Gran…
October 21, 2014
The grants will provide high quality, advanced research and development that will lead to technological innovations and solutions for American agriculture. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Terminates Merger Discussions With Yara I…
October 21, 2014
CF Industries Holdings and Yara International have terminated their discussions regarding a potential merger of equals transaction. Read More
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Ranked A Top 10 Biotech Employer For Third tim…
October 20, 2014
Syngenta ranked in the top 10 among the world’s top biotech employers, according to an annual survey conducted by Science magazine. Read More
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Break Ground For New Facility At Kennebec
October 20, 2014
Wheat Growers has broke ground for a state-of-the-art shuttle loader grain handling, fertilizer and agronomy facility in Kennebec, SD. Read More
FertilizerVerdesian Life Sciences Signs Agreement With Los Alamos…
October 20, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences has signed a licensing agreement with Los Alamos National Laboratory to develop and market LANL’s latest nitrogen enhancement technology for plants. Read More
MicronutrientsStoller Group Announces Groundbreaking At New Office Bu…
October 20, 2014
Jerry Stoller, founder and president of Stoller Group, announced the groundbreaking at the site of the company’s future headquarters in Read More
Crop InputsBioSafe Systems Opens New Production Facility In Nevada
October 20, 2014
BioSafe Systems has completed construction of a state-of-art production facility in Sparks, NV, for its line of activated peroxygen products. Read More