The InfoAg Conference rolled into Champaign, IL, with a roar in July as more than 650 attendees filled the Crowne Plaza Hotel to share ideas, sit in on educational sessions, and walk the vendor booths in search of new products and ideas.
It was 15 years ago that the very first InfoAg Conference was held, at a time when retailers and growers were just waking up to the potential of two powerful technologies: global positioning and the Internet. Harold Reetz, president of the Foundation for Agronomic Research and co-host of InfoAg, has been there since the very beginning.
“When I think about where we were when we started, it’s remarkable that the things that we dreamed about back then are being done — and a lot more,” says Reetz. “It’s time to get the new dreams going.”
Well-attended sessions focused on new wireless technology for use in managing logistics and data management, but in particular InfoAg focused on putting technologies to work for better agronomy and profitability.
“I enjoyed hearing dealer and grower presentations and how they are adopting different technologies in their operations, and how it has changed the way they do business and make money,” says Ty Finkenscher, precision agriculture coordinator at CPI Cooperative, Axtell, NE. “With so many new technologies hitting the market, I see it as an advantage to identify new products coming down the pike and how they could potentially be applied to our business.”
Reetz notes that what stuck with him was the level of enthusiasm and energy at the conference. “I sense that people are really excited by precision ag,” he says. “By the numbers, by the number of exhibitors — the mood of the place was very positive. People were not complaining about what is going on; they were looking toward the future.”
Taking The Pulse
The trends at InfoAg 2009 continue to be how growers and retailers are using technology to efficiently manage their inputs with a lot of emphasis on variable rate seeding and variable rate nitrogen, notes Chris Kluemke, HarvestLand Coop. “As a company we are trying many of the same things that were presented this summer. Listening to the talks gives us confidence in what we are doing, as well as some fresh ideas to tweak what we are doing.”
Kluemke expressed interest in telemetry technology, which has taken off since the last InfoAg Conference. “While HarvestLand has already picked a program to use, it was interesting to see and hear how other retailers have used the tool to make their operations more efficient,” says Kluemke. “Getting updates on the new technology coming down the pipeline and hearing the ‘what if we could do this’ ideas are a couple of things that I look forward to hearing at the next InfoAg Conference.”
Paul Fixen, senior vice president for the Americas Group and director of research with the International Plant Nutrition Institute and event co-host, says the event is especially valuable because it is focused on finding solutions.
“So many events today only describe problems and fail to get to what you do about them,” Fixen explains. “The technology continues to advance, but what I saw at InfoAg was that the right people with the necessary knowledge and skills remain essential for putting systems together that really work well.”