Wilbur Ellis’ AgVerdict Creates Connections, Efficiencies

National retail organization Wilbur-Ellis Co. has historically focused on using ag technology and precision practices to improve efficiency and service to growers. In recent years, it invested significant resources into developing a program called AgVerdict, which is helping to connect each local outlet with its grower customers. Along with a strong service regimen, AgVerdict provides a web platform that allows growers extensive access to data, analysis, and decisionmaking tools.

We recently caught up with Jerry Coupe, director of information management solutions, and Jason Ellsworth, AgVerdict product manager, about current and future plans for the program.

How did AgVerdict come about?
Wilbur-Ellis: For precision ag and data management we started using a package called AgFleet several years ago, but there were some very specific things that we wanted to do, so we decided to go our own route. AgVerdict was put together in conjunction with two companies: Agrian for label-checking and some record keeping needs, and Ag Junction for site-specific and telematics.

In developing AgVerdict there were three different market areas we were interested in addressing. The California and any fresh produce market features a lot of regulations and reporting requirement at both the state and county level. Then we have the more traditional recordkeeping and spatial precision agriculture side, and third, the telematics – communicating to the controllers, equipment, and staff.  We feel we have put together a solid product that we intend to improve each year. We want to get our customers on it and using it in their businesses, and we want to use it to improve our efficiency and level of service.  

One of the really important functions we needed was an enterprise tool that we could administer on a national level and maintain centralized control, while providing usability at the field level. Another critical function is the ability to roll up information across branches and regional geographies and view it on a national level. At the International Conference on Precision Agriculture this past July, data management and “big data” was the hot topic.

What sort of data are you interested in collecting and analyzing?
W-E: If you look at the Midwest, they are interested in fertility and variety-specific populations. Those are not prevalent in California, where precision is less supported. Information on tank mixes and product uses is another big area, as is what we call the “total nutrition system.”

We’re trying to better understand what Monsanto and some of the other companies are doing with fine tuning the variety specific and population specific recommendations, so that we can take those and be able to fine tune the fertility side. With all of the industry’s development on the genetic side, I think we have fallen behind on fertility. There are opportunities for variable-rate application that will be important to focus on, because public universities are not doing it to the degree they did in the past. I think you will see more grower programs like Tracy Blackmer’s Iowa OnFarm Network that help us improve our understanding of variety performance and fertility.

Are growers getting the message that a focus on fertility is critical?
W-E: I don’t think it is understood. Some do but very localized. The marketing has been so much on genetics and pest issues that we have not focused as clearly on fertility as we need to. On our end, one of the things that we have not had is a good way of managing all the information.

How do grower customers sign on with AgVerdict?
W-E: Growers work through the local Wilbur-Ellis outlet. Where AgVerdict is available, the outlet will have access to a person called the field technology specialist. We are actually training and filling those positions all the time. It’s important to have that local connection.  

The services available through AgVerdict include aerial imagery, Veris EC sampling and mapping, traditional soil sampling, and of course variable rate application of seed, fertilizer and crop protection.  

All services are administered locally and on a one-on-one basis. It is more and more common for us on the technology side to be working with a son of the farm owner, or somebody else in the office. That individual will be the one actually logging into AgVerdict and using it, while the grower himself will get the reports and records to support decision making.

As you get to the bigger farming organizations, you have more people logging in. But generally it is one or two people in the operation who are logging into AgVerdict.

The one-on-one relationship is important to training and in-field support as well. We have to have the one-on-one contact where the local field technology specialist is helping with things like calibration, answering questions, and then helping the grower feel comfortable with things like uploading data.

This is a cloud-driven product. How are growers receiving technology solutions that reside in the cloud?
W-E: It runs to both extremes when you look at the total customer base, but if the customer we deal with is interested in AgVerdict then they will not have a problem with using some type of cloud service. Most of them have an Android or an iPhone and they are using the computer and are comfortable with that.

They’ve also seen some of the ag programs that are desktop based, and they realize that when they enter all the information on one office based computer that they are limited in how much access they have to data. The importance of being able to get to that data from anywhere is increasing, and a cloud-based system lets anyone with security clearance and an Internet connection have access to that data. 

How do you view Monsanto’s new IFS offering?
W-E: Monsanto is a piece of the whole package, and we think it will be a piece that we can bring into our system and make fit quite nicely with the services we want to deliver.

I think that there will be quite a few growers that are going to say no to sending Monsanto data and others will say, “They know the seed so go ahead and let them do the VRA maps.” There are going to be two camps and Wilbur-Ellis will have the tools to accommodate both of them.

Leave a Reply

Precision Ag Stories

The Tule ET sensor in wine grapes.
Precision AgTule Technologies: Monitoring Water Stress Can Unlock Potential
February 2, 2016
Although we mostly stick to the things we know around these parts (corn and beans), we’ve strayed from the traditional Read More
SST Analytics
Precision AgSST Analytics Helps Ag Retailers Navigate Down Economy
January 21, 2016
The next few years may be tough for ag retailers. High yields continue to depress grain prices while the global Read More
Casey Niemann AgriSync
Precision AgAgriSync App Named Finalist In AFB Competition
January 18, 2016
An Iowa-based agriculture technology startup company, AgriSync, participated in the American Farm Bureau Federation Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge. They were one Read More
Trimble FmX TMX-2050 Field-IQ SwitchBoxes
Precision AgRate Controllers Tied To More Precision Tasks
December 11, 2015
Rate controllers reduce input costs — bottom line — and every grower is looking for ways to decrease seed and Read More
Top 100 Articles
Elburn Cooperative
CropLife 100Elburn Cooperative Members Vote To Join CHS
December 28, 2015
With 81% of eligible producers voting, 94% cast an affirmative ballot for Elburn Cooperative, a diversified agricultural retailer based out Read More
West Central Cooperative, Jefferson, IA
CropLife 100Farmers Cooperative-West Central Merger Approved
December 21, 2015
The members of Farmers Cooperative Co. (FC), Ames, IA, and West Central Cooperative, Ralston, IA, have both approved the merger Read More
Wheat Growers Innovation Center, Bath, SD
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Opens Innovation Center
December 21, 2015
Wheat Growers’ commitment in providing its farmer-owners with the latest in technological advancements now has a one-of-a-kind focal point, as Read More
CropLife 100ARA Selects The Andersons As 2015 Retailer Of The Year
December 9, 2015
The Agricultural Retailers Association today named Maumee, OH-based The Andersons as its Retailer of the Year for 2015. The award Read More
CPS Washington Court House John Deere Sprayer
CropLife 100Application Equipment Report: It Is Easy Being Green For Top 100 Ag Retailers
December 5, 2015
On The Muppets television show, Kermit the Frog is famous for singing a song about the troubles he encounters in Read More
Fertilizer Bin
CropLife 100Fertilizer Sales: Another Down Year For Top 100 Ag Retailers
December 4, 2015
In pure number terms, the fertilizer category still dominates all crop inputs/services among CropLife 100 ag retailers. In 2015, for Read More
Latest News
Crop InputsBayer Contests EPA’s Decision On Valuable Insecticide F…
February 5, 2016
Crop Science, a division of Bayer, has announced it has refused a request by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to Read More
Wheat Field North Dakota
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Wins Seed Fraud Suit Against South Dakota Grow…
February 5, 2016
Syngenta has obtained a $25,000 settlement from Paul and John Mayclin, Mayclin Farms, Plankinton, SD, in response to their Plant Read More
ManagementOABA Annual Conference Wraps Up In Columbus
February 5, 2016
More than 300 Ohio AgriBusiness Association (OABA) members and industry professionals were on hand to engage in collaborative learning and Read More
Crop InputsBayer To Contest EPA Flubendiamide Decision
February 5, 2016
Crop Science, a division of Bayer, announced today it has refused a request by EPA to voluntarily cancel the uses Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechNot So Fast: ChemChina Syngenta Takeover Could Draw Nat…
February 5, 2016
State-owned China National Chemical Corp. (ChemChina), which plans to buy Swiss seeds and pesticide maker Syngenta, will promptly start preparations Read More
Rendering of Syngenta Seedcare Institute expansion
Seed/BiotechExpansion Of Syngenta’s North America Seedcare In…
February 4, 2016
As demand for seed treatment knowledge and products grows among farmers, retailers and others in the seed industry, Syngenta is Read More
Soybean Field
Industry NewsArysta LifeScience Strengthens Sales Team
February 4, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced three new personnel additions: Jake Cook and Peter White are Territory Sales Managers for Read More
Davor Pisk Syngenta COO
Crop InputsSyngenta COO: Why ChemChina Offer Beat Monsanto’s
February 4, 2016
Syngenta Chief Operating Officer Davor Pisk says he is confident the proposed acquisition by ChemChina will ultimately help preserve choice Read More
Young corn plants in soil
Crop InputsKoch Biological Solutions Invests In Pathway Biologic
February 4, 2016
An affiliate of Koch Biological Solutions, LLC has acquired a minority equity position in, and entered into collaboration with, Pathway Read More
Crop InputsABG: China Signs Off On Monsanto’s Roundup Ready …
February 3, 2016
Monsanto Co. on Wednesday announced it plans to launch its Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans in time for the 2016 Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop Inputs6 Things To Know About The ChemChina-Syngenta Deal
February 3, 2016
After months of rumors and speculation, Syngenta has announced that ChemChina has offered to acquire the Swiss-based company. “In making Read More
FertilizerPhosphorus: Is Band Or Broadcast Application The Better…
February 3, 2016
Is band or broadcast application the better method when it comes to phosphorus? The answer to this question depends mostly Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsChemChina Nearing Deal To Buy Syngenta For Record $43 B…
February 3, 2016
China National Chemical Corp. is nearing an agreement to buy Swiss pesticide-and-seeds-maker Syngenta AG for about 43.7 billion francs ($42.8 Read More
Herbicides2015 ASA Trials Demonstrate Valent Fierce XLT Herbicide…
February 2, 2016
Valent U.S.A. today announced that new Fierce XLT Soybean Herbicide ranks in the top tier among growers for length of Read More
Crop Protection Products in storage
Paul SchrimpfCrop Input Selling: Return Of The Price List
February 2, 2016
It was a good 15 years ago, shortly after I first started writing for this esteemed publication, that it all Read More
Potash storage at Growmark
FertilizerThe Phosphate And Potash Outlook For 2016
February 2, 2016
Like other commodities, prices of the leading plant nutrient products dropped sharply in 2015. At this writing, the price of Read More
Chesapeake Bay
StewardshipKeeping A Watch On Water Issues
February 2, 2016
During a down cycle in the market, it’s difficult to think about investing for the long term. For retail businesses, Read More
Young Corn Plants
FertilizerNutrient Considerations For Low Corn Prices
February 2, 2016
Corn prices are low and many producers are asking tough questions about their nutrient management programs. Here are some suggestions Read More