Three Main Reasons Why Size Matters

- Ketty Nilsson

Size matters, but bigger is not always better. The world is changing to smaller and smaller equipment in most aspects of our lives, especially if you are on the cutting edge. However, it is important to keep in mind that smaller machines do not equal less capacity. Footprint, efficiency and corporate sustainability are three reasons why size matters.

Today’s seed treatment plants are often equipped with large size machinery, despite having very little available space. Furthermore, new trends are spreading where seeds are treated with more products, adding more value which often requires a seed drying system. Due to this, equipment footprint is vital to each organization within the seed treatment industry. The solution is a more compact seed treater which utilizes space more efficiently. Investing in a more compact treater will also make room for a seed drying system.

NoroGard seed treaters have become cutting-edge technology for the mobile seed treatment industry where it is especially important to use a small space for high capacity equipment. Keeping electricity consumption to a minimum is another consideration on mobile seed processors. These issues all relate to the environmental factors within seed treatment equipment, an area where NoroGard is continuously working to make improvements.

NoroGard seed treaters were originally designed by a local blacksmith with an aim of using as little material as possible for economic reasons. This led to the company spirit we stand for today. Nonetheless, NoreGard continues to strive to come up with new innovations and solutions to improve corporate sustainability and minimize our environmental impact by, for example, minimizing electricity consumption with improved designs. Compact seed treaters require less material which saves natural resources and thereby decreases our environmental impact.

The third reason why size matters is the cleaning procedures of your seed treatment equipment. Not only does cleaning of a compact machine minimize the environmental impact by decreasing the amount of contaminated cleaning water to discard, it also provides higher operator safety and improved operator working environment.

NoroGard seed treaters have very few moving parts. The compact size makes it easier for operators to safely clean the equipment with less chance of accident or injury. Easy cleaning also provides quick and efficient cleaning procedures which result in less downtime and higher productivity.

Compact equipment size not only utilizes small spaces more efficiently, it may also provide higher capacity, opportunities to decrease environmental impact, improve corporate sustainability, minimize the amount of contaminated cleaning water and minimize electricity consumption.

Make a Connection Today

- Shawn Brook

Does Florida Georgia Line know their audience? You bet! I think we all like to believe we can connect with people – connect with ideas, connect with opportunities, or connect on an emotional level. Most of my world is driven by three simple words:

1. AUDIENCE – Identify and understand who you are connecting with.

2. MESSAGE – Confirm what you want to share.

3. CHANNEL – Determine the best possible vehicle to deliver it.

With this simple concept, it becomes quite possible to systemize our efforts to connect with our customers.

The other day our Vice President of Client Services, Lindsay Hoffman, commented that the demand for our Content Lab continues to grow because our clients are seeing spectacular connection.

“Everyone wants to generate great content and everyone has some great ideas, but not everyone can generate content that connects with people… this is where our seed industry journalists are moving the needle,” she explained. Together with our clients, the Content Lab team is generating engaging, informative and entertaining content.

I am consistently asked to help our clients define topics that will connect with the seed industry. The reality is that any topic of personal interest and/or expertise can be a topic to make a connection. The key is sharing authentically. Show people what you know and that you care – excitement and passion is contagious.

If you had 10,000 potential clients in front of you what would you tell them? Would you share content that would educate and entertain your audience? Present an offer too good to be true? Share a fresh idea? Create a ‘call to action?’ All are very important components in building a connection, and all part of the recipe you need to connect with your audience.

For those of us that lead businesses, please remember that ‘follows’ are great, re-tweets show engagement, but getting your target audience what they need (when they need it) is what drives revenue and generates success. Content is king and a core element of making connection.

Connection is the beginning of trust and trust is necessary for sales.

How do make connections? Would love to hear your ideas! Email me: sbrook@issuesink.com.

Working with Like-Minded People

- Tim Birkel

In the global market, Nufarm has been an independent player in the seed treatment business for more than 40 years. In the past 10 years, we’ve been investing our resources in the U.S. market to understand our customers and the products they supply.

Every seedsman I have ever known takes pride in delivering high-quality seed. As a supplier of a complete line-up of seed-applied crop protection products, Nufarm Americas appreciates the opportunity to work with like-minded seed companies and chemical distributors.

We recognize a great deal of like-mindedness in the seed industry as we develop, and market, innovative seed technology solutions. Perhaps our greatest sense of commonality is the independence and freedom we and our customers share in providing products that most appropriately serve farmer customers.

Nufarm provides products in three forms. Basic, straight active ingredients are available for customers who have their own blending lines and produce their own seed treatment products.

For customers wanting the simplicity of premixed products, Nufarm provides registered combinations using registered products that are blended in the right proportions with the proper polymers and colors. These products minimize EPA paperwork and are available to seed companies and distributors over-the-counter through our channel partners.

Finally, for customers wanting a custom-made, private label seed treatment formulated for their specific environment, Nufarm has the experience and knowledge to create a product that will perform as well or better than mass-market products costing three or four times as much.

We have found a like-minded attitude with our customers toward product quality. Every seedsman I have ever known takes pride in delivering high-quality seed. We have the experience to know what can go wrong with a seed treatment product from production, active ingredient stability, and flowability, and the knowledge to make sure it never does.

We have spent time with our active ingredient suppliers and the suppliers of soft products – polymers, flow agents, colorants, etc. – to make sure our products will work with seeds and not clog seed production plants or plug farmers’ planters.

We are not just another supplier offering cheap prices. Nufarm has put together a quality business to develop quality products that perform. We and our customers have a like-minded attitude toward quality. We both strive to achieve the highest standards for our products.

Storage and Marketing are Inseparable — Here’s Why

- Glenn Friesen

As 2017 winds to a close, everyone involved in the seed and grain business is thinking about next year. What did I do right this year? What did I do wrong? What do I need to know so that I can ensure my success in 2018? These are all common questions.

Thankfully, there’s a simple strategy for giving you peace of mind when it comes to looking ahead to 2018. You have to think of yourself not just as a grower, but also as a marketer. Storage and marketing are intertwined, and whether we like it or not, we’re in the marketing business.

Grain storage is essential to any operation since the commercial grain handling system in Western Canada cannot store the entire grain crop.

In a recent survey, Alberta had approximately 25 million tonnes of permanent on-farm storage capacity and about 15 per cent of grain stored in temporary storage such as grain rings or bags.

On-farm storage is important for marketing — prices are typically the lowest at harvest, and storage becomes crucial. Also, the market simply cannot absorb the whole volume of crop in the three-to-six weeks of harvest.

Even in years of record production, the need to increase storage is essential. Permanent storage provides piece of mind that your grain is protected from weather and wildlife damage. If you operated a store, you wouldn’t dream of standing by and allowing the roof to leak and make the product on your shelves wet. Why treat your seed or grain like that?

Most things in agriculture can’t be controlled. Be it weather or the markets, it can be stressful to ponder the fact that the majority of what happens on a daily basis is completely out of your sphere of influence.

However, your ability to store seed and grain is something you have total control over, and proper storage is what enables you to market your own product and reap the best returns possible, regardless of what Mother Nature or the markets throw your way.

Farm storage is a marketing tool and can increase net returns.

Remember that, and you’ll enjoy a better night’s sleep and be better prepared for what 2018 is bound to throw your way.

Seed Production and Turkey Trots

- Jim Schweigert

Turkey trots are almost as popular of a way to celebrate Thanksgiving as eating turkey! In fact, according to runningusa.com, nearly 1 million runners completed more than 700 Thanksgiving Day races in 2016. The story, however, isn’t that all these people completed races, but that they spent the months before training and preparing.

It’s just like preparing for a seed production season. November, while it marks the end of one crop year, also signals the beginning of the next. It can seem daunting to start planning for 2018 while still finishing the 2017 seed crop, but just like training for a race, the earlier you start, the easier it is to perform at your best.

Below are three ways to get ready for your next season.

1. Everything Impacts Performance – Review it All!

There is no shortage of information collected during a seed production season. It’s easy to just focus on the big things. However, no detail is insignificant. Instead of only focusing on your running times, details like how your shoes fit or how you carry your arms are critical to having a great race. Similarly, seed yields are important, but factors like comparing stand counts to ear counts, ear size and kernel rows and a whole host of other agronomic and statistical information will give you the insights necessary to be at your best in 2018.

2. Improve Your Knowledge

You can’t be an expert by running just a few races. The same is true for seed production. Think about it this way: having 20 years of experience in seed production sounds impressive. However, that means you’ve only planted 20 crops. Would you consider yourself a running expert after only 20 races? Building a network of professional resources makes all the difference. Spend the winter interacting and exchanging information with experts in the field and you’ll perform at a much higher level.

3. Do Something New Every Season

I’m always trying out new running gear to shave off a few seconds. We also do this in seed production. We conduct multiple trials every year to test new chemistry, methods and challenge the status quo. This creates a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. The constant testing and evaluation, combined with continuing education means we get better every year and consistently beat our “personal best.”

In closing, the time to get better is now. It’s the same in running and seed production. Put in the work, make the effort and you’ll be rewarded with your best possible performance.

Why Innovation Can Weaken Even the Best Salespeople

- Rod Osthus

Do you spend time every year worrying whether or not your salespeople are going to achieve their sales goals? Most managers do, and for good reason. Salespeople are getting weaker. It’s not because the marketplace is getting tougher, and they’re not losing the sales skills you taught them — they’re just not using them.

Instead, they’ve been wooed by our industry’s constant release of new product innovations that promise winning on more farms, making selling easier. What seller can resist those kinds of promises?

When new product releases become the primary source of excitement and motivation on sales calls, sales go south. Selling to a farmer starts with a trusting relationship between the farmer and the seller and not with the products he buys. Buying seed is a very serious purchase for every grower because it determines his entire livelihood. Farmers need someone they can rely on to help them raise yields to levels they never thought possible.

Leading with new products automatically puts sellers into proof of performance contests. Growers ask them to prove the worth of their new offerings in plots or side-by-sides — strategies diametrically opposed to relationship building. That’s why truly successful seed sellers abandoned those strategies years ago.

It sounds silly to think that innovation can hinder sales, but it does. It’s not that there’s too much innovation, it’s that we’ve allowed our product innovations to make selling skills appear obsolete. When field sellers analyze the amount of time their managers have them training on new products versus honing their selling skills, it leaves them with the impression that selling skills are becoming obsolete. As a result, they change from relationship builders to innovation sellers.

Profitable sales growth always starts with talented salespeople who know how to sell themselves first, their company second, and their products last. That strategy will never become obsolete because we sell seed — a living, breathing organism that farmers need help managing. The primary goal has to be creating long-lasting relationships with growers who allow field sellers to assist them in their crop production system, not just in variety selection.

Don’t let innovation weaken your sales force. You don’t need a constant flow of new products for farmers. You just need to make sure your sales team knows the role innovation plays in the selling process.

Petkus North America Introduction

- Jon Moreland

Our industry in North America has seen some challenges in the last three years. There, I said it. Denial is no longer just a river in Egypt.

There are certainly some bright spots but generally speaking, since about 2014 forward, our business environment has been a bit lackluster for my taste. There are too many economic factors to dare to detail, but agriculture as a whole and the seed industry as a microcosm of such have seen some challenging times.

Leading indicators like farm income certainly tell part of the story – things peaked and have corrected (I could have said “declined” right?). Because you can’t take the effect and make it the cause (think about that one), consider that mega-mergers are a pretty good lagging indicator that even the largest (not necessarily the healthiest) are shoring up their business strategies. Potential changes didn’t create the situation, but they may exacerbate it with indecision. Change always includes some fear of the unknown.

Why Create a Direct Business Entity?

So all that said, why would a company like Petkus Technologie GmbH decide in the same timeframe to push the envelope in North America by creating a direct business entity?

I think the answers are pretty simple and straightforward, maybe even practical. Through technology, innovation, engineering and services, in a tight marketplace where margins and efficiencies have to be constantly considered, Petkus can offer value.

Value through technology matters in both the products we create and in how we create them. You are not utilizing the same equipment that the previous generation used. Even if the equipment still screens or separates in the same mechanical fashion, automation and controls have improved efficiencies. To serve our customer as a manufacturer, we also need to be concerned with manufacturing such advanced technologies at a justifiable, competitive cost. Investments is technology streamline our processes and benefit the end user with lower production costs.

We deliver value through innovation with the cooperation of the Roeber Institute. Essentially an independent R&D group, The Roeber Institute was established within Petkus as a catalyst for innovative developments and subsequent product market entry. To compensate for a lack of technological progress in our industry over several decades, the Roeber staff is investigating and developing new optical sorting techniques, aerodynamic elements and remarkably outside the box solutions for seed treatment and pathogen elimination.

Engineering and services are the final, key pieces to establishing our value. They are best delivered in person. That is the baseline reasoning for creation of a business unit in North America. Products are inevitably only as good as their support. Through development of local staff who can also leverage expertise from Germany, our goal is to do business where you do…whether it’s in Nampa, Idaho, the Netherlands or maybe both.

Beyond a simple introduction, my point is to establish that with changes at hand, opportunities abound. Because after all, this is North America and if you want to be a global leader, you have to lead here.

Going Above and Beyond in the Removal of Dust and Debris

- Jason Kaeb

Anyone who has worked in a seed-handling facility knows that you can clean your facility and within 24 hours (regardless of the amount of activity), it will be dusty again. Whether you’ve got trucks driving through and unloading seed, or you’re moving seed in a seed treatment system, it’s just the nature of the business. Some might believe that creating a low-dust environment will happen “when pigs fly.” Let me tell you, we’ve got some flying pigs.

In the past several years, companies, operators and employees have become less tolerant of dust for a number of reasons, including operator health, equipment longevity, treatment costs and environmental stewardship. We didn’t just listen and sit back. We took action and as a result have designed a dust extraction system and a seed filtration system — two different components designed to help minimize dust and debris before the seed is treated.

Even though the seed being moved has already been cleaned and conditioned, it can still create a dust plume that eventually impacts the operator and equipment. If it’s not cleaned or removed, dust can accumulate on electronic pieces and affect operation, including metering and calibration. The dust extraction system sits on top of the hopper and extracts the dust outside the facility using a blower fan specifically sized for each particular system. Its purpose is two-fold: to create a cleaner facility and to provide a more operator-friendly environment.

While the dust extraction system benefits the operator and longevity of the equipment in the facility, the seed filtration system (patent pending) is there to make the seed treatment process better. As seed is moved to the treater, we introduce air and run it through a double filtration system, which removes any remaining dust, half seeds and hulls from the seed. This means you’re not applying a treatment to debris, which will never germinate, or to dust, which could gum up your system and/or, eventually, the planter in the field. Less chemical waste and more accurate seed treatment application means the seed filtration system improves environmental stewardship and adds to your bottom line.

What makes this unique is that the seed filtration system features a closed-loop, in-line filtration system, completely recirculating the filtered air so that nothing goes outside or back into the environment. Our seed filtration system is undergoing advanced testing and lab analysis in some of the world’s most advanced research and testing facilities. We are doing a limited release of the seed filtration system for spring 2018.

Remember: Taking a proactive approach often yields a better outcome and improves relationships versus taking a reactive approach, which is often driven by an unfortunate event or regulatory pressures.

Site Visits Foster Customer Relationships, Offer Long-term Benefits

- Devon Ingo

When it comes to marketing and fostering customer relationships, there are a number of approaches that can be used. These include distributing a company newsletter, attending tradeshows, hosting educational sessions, making a personal phone call, or better yet a face-to-face site visit. Each of these offers advantages and disadvantages, and one should not exclusively rely on a single approach. Instead, a multi-pronged approach must be taken.

Whether you provide a product or a service, we all recognize that value is defined by our customers. As such, this year we have strategically decided to focus our resources on visiting customers at their facilities and in their offices. There is no better way to get a full understanding of a customer’s needs, challenges, successes and the value that we can provide customers than by meeting them in their locations. This means we won’t be at some of the trade shows where you might normally see us, but you can count on us to be reaching out to visit you in your plants and offices. While trade shows are great for networking, showing industry support, broadening your prospect base and building brand awareness, the trade show environment makes it difficult to engage in quality discussions that allow us to build relationships and add the most value for customers.

We want to help customers grow their business, and the best way for us to do that is to better understand the unique needs of each customer. Seeing their facility and sitting across from them will allow us to custom tailor our recommendations and help them find solutions.

Oliver Manufacturing is a family-owned business and we want our customers to feel they are a part of our family. We want to ensure that they are fully satisfied with the solutions and equipment coming out of our manufacturing facility in Colorado. As such, we have three teams of two Oliver representatives hitting the road for two to three weeks to visit customers. We’ll be visiting customers each week and look forward to learning more about their businesses, the unique challenges they face and any feedback or recommendations they might have for us.

While this is a significant investment, we believe the value garnered from these site visits will yield substantial insight.

Call me today to see if we will be in your area. I can be reached at 719-254-7813 and look forward to talking with you.

Today’s Regulatory Framework Doesn’t Work for Biologicals

- Molly Cadle-Davidson

When it comes to agriculture, innovation and the regulatory arena, there’s no shortage of concerns. Most everyone recognizes that the U.S. regulatory system needs to be updated; however, how it is updated and the definitions associated with certain products and methods are up for debate.

One area that concerns me is how and to what degree biologicals are regulated. Should a biological be treated the same way as a manmade chemical? For instance, if you make a disease control claim, the product is automatically regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), regardless of whether it’s a chemical or biological. Generally speaking, chemicals are synthetic. The problem with this approach is that crop protectants fall somewhere on a continuum — it’s not black and white.

There is a whole spectrum of agents that can be used to control Pythium, from metalaxyl to biologicals. Metalaxyl doesn’t exist in nature and is purely manmade. There are effective control chemicals extracted from nature, and chemicals, such as salicylic acid (aspirin), that are found in nature but produced synthetically. Functional control agents can be produced by and extracted from living organisms or the organisms themselves (biologicals) can be used. All of these methods can be used to control Pythium, and they are all regulated in the same manner.

As you can see, there’s a great deal of variation along the continuum, and just because something is found in nature doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good — LSD and many other toxins, neurotoxins, allergens, and poisons are found in nature. Because of this continuum and because we can’t say that all biologicals are safe, there’s a lot of pull on both sides of the spectrum when it comes to regulating them.

EPA has placed biological products into a reduced risk category that is designed to be different from standard chemistry. That said, a lot of the required data are the same. So, while biologicals registrations are touted as more straightforward, nothing is a foregone conclusion when a package is submitted to EPA. Uncertainties in the process can trigger classification of what should be a safe organism (according to the scientific literature) into something requiring significantly more time, money and data.

I’m in favor of updating the regulatory system, and we as an industry need to work together and with the government to provide guidance, expertise, and feedback throughout the process. At the same time, we need real-world researchers and people who understand science and agriculture, and all its complexities, in government and helping to

set the foundation for an updated regulatory framework. There are a lot of revenues to be earned from products of this type and we need to be certain that, as an industry, our conflict of interest in how we are regulated does not outweigh honest application of scientific results. There are a number of associations working on this front; I encourage you to get involved, provide feedback and your expertise and help to get a framework in place that can take us into the future and support the goal of increasing production while using fewer resources for a growing global population.

Is Your IT Team Contributing to the Business?

- Mike Dorris

Working for a company that provides business software solutions, I get to work with a number of information technology (IT) teams. Through the years, I’ve come to realize that most IT teams can be split into two distinct groups: those that are really engaged and an integral part of the business, and those that are there to buy new computers and make sure email works.

Generally speaking, how integrated an IT team is to the rest of the business is dependent on the personality of the IT director. Some are very proactive, continually conducting research and seeking answers and working to find solutions; others are more reactive and wait for a need to be brought to them and then, they look to see what exists.

I often wonder if company leaders know what they are missing out on when their IT team falls into the latter group. There are so many “cool” widgets that are out there that can help leaders get the information when they need it and where they need it, and there are real solutions that put business critical information at their fingertips.

Don’t let a status quo attitude hold you and your company back, especially in this age of technology.

The most successful IT teams are always out of the office talking to customers, sales representatives, software vendors and those in the workforce. They bring new ideas and new software solutions to the table and show what options exist that might be of most benefit to the company and its customers, suppliers and vendors.

Good software vendors don’t just sell a piece of software and then disappear; a software vendor should work to become a trusted, long-term partner that teams with the company and its IT department. The goal is to listen and then help find, define and solve current and future issues and challenges.

These IT partnerships and solutions become even more critical for larger companies with offices and facilities in a number of locations. You need a way to track, collect and report data in the same way across all your sites. You need to be able to easily pull reports and look at the metrics without having to rely on someone else to compile it for you.

Everyone talks about giving farmers real-time data and making it available in the palm of their hand, but I have to ask: Are you giving yourself access to real-time business data? If not, why? Might you be waiting for a recommendation from your IT team?

When Comparing Equipment, Look Beyond the Sale Price

- Jason Kaeb

When a conveyor can cost twice as much as an auger, it’s really hard to justify the costs until you do your research. There are several factors one should keep in mind when evaluating augers and conveyors — or any equipment for that matter — including product lifespan, operational costs, safety, product handling and versatility. Some of these attributes are fairly well known while others are not.

Let’s start with product handling and versatility. As you already know, transporting product (be it seed, grain or fertilizer) by conveyor is less abrasive than transporting it by auger. This is especially important when handling seed, as you want to prevent any damage. Versatility is also important. The low-profile conveyor can be used to unload grain from a bin to a semi in about 10 minutes. It can also be used to move seed from a bin to a semi truck or a seed tender to a planter.

The low-profile conveyor is also versatile in how it operates. Traditionally, it’s powered by an electric motor but it also has the option to run off a gas or hydraulic motor. This means it can be taken into the middle of a field or virtually anywhere you would want to use the conveyor.

As a company, safety is very important, both for our employees and our customers; we strive to make our products as safe as possible. On-farm noise has always been a challenge when it comes to the operation of equipment. Many see it as just a part of the environment that comes with production agriculture and operating equipment. But this noise creates a hazard, preventing operators from being able to hear if something else isn’t going right, the presence of another person or what another person might be trying to say.

Conveyors are naturally much quieter than augers because you don’t have metal on metal, and that’s one benefit customers often say they really appreciate — just how much quieter these are when in operation. Plus some conveyors feature an optional hydraulic field mover package that can be added, which makes it easier for users to move the conveyor without having to strain their joints and bodies or worry about backing it up precisely into place.

Finally, there’s product lifespan and operational costs. On average, a conveyor will last two to three times longer than an auger. So, it’s likely that you would purchase two augers, maybe three depending on the quality, during the time that you would purchase one conveyor. Couple that with the energy efficiency that comes with a conveyor, and it’s an all around better return on investment.

Remember: You just have to look beyond the initial price point to see just how far your dollars will go.

So How Much Do You Think Your Seed Company Is Worth?

- Dieter Mulitze

Have you ever thought of selling your company, or might you be part of a merger? One consideration that comes into play is your data, and its mismanagement, or relative inaccessibility, could actually devalue your company. There are many aspects that go into the valuation of a company, some of which include future prospects of the business, the risks of the business and the cost of capital. But for any seed company, it’s the germplasm that’s worth the most. What’s the potential of that genetic material? Is it $5 million? $10 million? Maybe $1 billion?

If a potential buyer asks the value of your germplasm, are you prepared to give a response, and do you have the data to back it up? Any experienced breeder can look at the data and get a sense of how the program has been managed.

As an example, a potential buyer asks to see the data associated with the Top 10 lines. The breeder with Company A has to sort through piles of Excel sheets and then transfer the data to another sheet so it’s all in one place. The breeder with Company B hits a few keystrokes and automatically pulls up the Top 10 lines and all associated data. Now if you’re the buyer, which breeding program do you want to inherit? It’s a “Trust me, it’s all there” situation versus being able to say “Here it all is. Do you need anything else?”

If the data isn’t very useable, it’s going to cost the buyer. For instance, we met a cucumber breeder in the U.S. who had just started with a company. When he arrived, he found all the data in old binders and cryptic sheets — not even in Excel! The data was not in a form that allowed him to use it. This was just this year, not back in the 1970s. The information there might be valuable, but it’s hard to decipher and use.

As a breeder, you should be able to easily pull requested data (all parents or all populations) and show it to a potential buyer. You might also have to prove there is no patent infringement. The best way to prove this is to have a highly relational database where nomenclature is standardized and one can search by variety name or number and everything associated is called up. As a new owner, if this step is ignored, the penalties could end up costing you more than what you paid for the company — not a comforting thought.

If you have a strong, well-organized database, this increases the value of your germplasm and genetic material. When you consider all this, the cost of plant breeding software is minimal; it has the potential to pay back 10:1 or maybe even 100:1. Properly managing your data in a highly relational database has a compounding effect over time.

If you have good material and you have the data to back it up, companies will line up to buy it.

Importance of Preliminary Trait Purity Testing in Corn Seed Production

- Brenda Johnson

When producing traited seed, trait purity testing is not an option – it’s both a necessity and a requirement by the trait provider. The seed producer has two options for trait purity testing. One option is conducting trait purity testing on the finished seed lots at the time of bagging only. The second option is testing hand-screened samples as they arrive from the field, also known as preliminary testing. If the hand-screened samples meet trait purity requirements, a reduced number of seeds may be tested during finished seed lot trait purity testing. In other words, is it worth the expense to conduct preliminary testing ahead of conditioning?

“Trait purity testing has significant value to seed producers apart from their licensing agreements with trait providers,” says Brenda Johnson, Registered Genetic Technologist (RST) and Manager-Operations, Eurofins-US, River Falls, Wisconsin. “Ultimately, the value of seed comes down to how well it yields and performs for its end user. This requires that corn seed meets the highest standards for trait and genetic purity. At the same time, seed producers want to manage risk and get the most value from their seed production. For them, knowing an incoming lot’s trait purity can help determined how that seed is sized and conditioned. This is especially important for corn hybrids with male donated traits.”

When best practices for seed production are followed and growing conditions are optimal, the parents nick and pollen is received uniformly throughout the developing ear. But when conditions during pollination are less than ideal – too windy, too hot, too rainy or too dry – the plants do not always nick, and the resulting seed has less than the required male-carried traits. In this sense, no two years are alike, even for the same hybrid.

“A preliminary trait purity test is a risk assessment tool that provides the information a seed producer needs to adjust the conditioning process for a seed lot that might otherwise fail its final test,” Johnson says. “Even when field production follows all the best practices, environmental factors can still play a role. The cost of getting the information needed to salvage a seed lot is far less than the cost of discarding seed that fails its final trait purity test.”

Johnson says that when a seed lot fails a preliminary trait purity test for a male-donated trait, the deficiency can often be isolated by seed size. Resizing strategies can be used to salvage the portion of a seed lot that meets quality standards. Preliminary trait purity testing provides important information that allows the seed producer to prepare for sizing and conditioning operations to maximize the amount of high-quality seed available for sale.

Stop Managing Your Salespeople — Coach them Instead

- Rod Osthus

How do you develop top salespeople in your company? How do you get everyone from new hires, to your so-called veterans, to achieve their sales goals? Too often, neither one of those groups meets their company’s expectations because they’re missing the key element needed to succeed in sales — coaching.

Coaching is the opposite of managing. Managing is monitoring WHAT salespeople do, while coaching is monitoring HOW they do it. Coaching focuses on the processes needed to achieve the goal instead of the goal itself. It analyzes HOW salespeople are doing their job, not just WHAT they are doing in their job. By focusing on the HOW, coaches allow sellers to take charge of their own successes by helping them think through their own problems in order to devise solutions.

It also means, once a sales goal is set and the processes are in place, that sales goal does not need to be looked at again until the sales year is over. The only thing that matters is executing the processes to achieve the goals. So, the next time field sellers have a question, a problem, or can’t get a sale, they search for solutions on their own to keep the processes moving forward instead of running to their managers to find the answers. The result is that coaching creates leaders, whereas managing creates followers.

Coaching is the most neglected strategy available to companies when developing a top performing salesforce. Instead of hiring coaches, companies hire managers to watch over their field sellers and make sure they know WHAT they are doing every minute of the day. Managing salespeople is a total waste of time, energy, and money. Every company needs to stop managing their salespeople and start coaching them.

Are you one of those companies who has a stable of managers, each one with a different title, charged with keeping track of WHAT everyone in sales is doing? Do you get weekly reports from your field sellers telling you how many farm calls they’ve made or how many people they’ve talked to?

The problem is, when the end of the year comes and sales and profit targets aren’t met, those reports can’t tell you why. That’s because the only road to success is writing orders and that requires improving the execution of the processes to get those orders.

Improving execution of sales processes can only be done through coaching — not managing.

Not Your Standard Field of Dreams

- Jon Moreland

Build it and they will come? I doubt it. Although it is located in Iowa, Shoeless Joe Jackson hasn’t made a miraculous appearance out of the cornfield. Recently, I was running samples at our latest project (a new testing facility) in Des Moines, Iowa, and the movie “Field of Dreams” came to mind.

The Petkus N.A. Test Facilities are capable of conditioning and treating seed at full commercial rates, meaning no more lab tests with questionable capacity mockups. This project mirrors an expansion or small-line project that a seed company would take on, and neither should use the same project planning approach as Ray Kinsella — maybe if I reference Kevin Costner you will recall?

Volumes have been written about project planning, so let’s push the engineering and equipment decisions downstream. I want to focus on the early stages. Before considering possibility and feasibility, we should first consider reasonability, or “why?” It is inevitable that this is the first part of the process. It might happen at ASTA meetings, at the bar or on the back of a napkin, but it’s still planning, or brainstorming, if you will.

For our test facility project, the “why” questions were numerous and some pretty obvious. We are focused on bringing innovative processing equipment to market, and on bringing a full product line into a new market. We have a point to prove in developing equipment that addresses specific issues in the market.

For example, our data show the operational characteristics of the Petkus MultiCoater reduce Heubach values in seed treatment application compared to standard batch treaters. While the data is intriguing, we knew we would have to prove it. We needed a solid testing model to prove this at commercial levels, with your seed and on your terms. Not only does this give us concrete, relevant results, but the facility also allows us to discuss and prove larger, broader concepts than just what we might be focusing on that specific day.

For a seed conditioning facility, the “why” questions of capital improvement will surely revolve around similar questions:

· Are facilities antiquated to the point that inefficiency costs more than a new facility investment?
· Do your capacities need to increase to stay relevant?
· Would a niche line off to the side create additional cash flow? Think processing organic product with segregated conditioning lines.
· Or are you, like us, bringing new product to existing markets or breaking into new markets with existing product?

For your next strategic planning session, sub out Ray Kinsella, Terence Mann and the micro bus and bring in your key staff. Spend time posing the “why” question, and I think you’ll be pleased with the feedback and direction. If the “why” makes sense, then explore the possibility and feasibility, allowing you to go the distance. Who knows, solid planning may keep your brother-in-law from foreclosing on the family business.

The World Needs YOU!

- Jim Schweigert

Harvey. Irma. Maria. Las Vegas. The list of recent devastating events is long. In times immediately following such tragedies, many wonder what they can do to help. These events can bring out the best in people, and the support is swift and powerful. However, in the weeks and months after such events, support wanes and folks return to their regular lives. This is when we can all do better.

All over the world, and right here at home, people struggle. Millions live in poverty, in hunger and without access to clean water, shelter and proper healthcare. In many ways, they live in a perpetual state of disaster recovery.

Like many in the industry, I have a passion for helping to feed, clothe and fuel the world, but my day-to-day activities don’t feel all that connected to that greater mission. This incongruity is where the world’s needs and your passion can connect.

A few years ago, I was asked to join the board of directors for Seed Programs International (SPI). Its mission: “to provide good quality seed, expertise and training materials to humanitarian organizations working around the world to alleviate hunger and poverty.” SPI receives donated seeds and makes those available for free, or at a very low cost, to impoverished communities.

Through this initiative, I became more connected to the cause and mission, serving as the chair of SPI from 2014 to 2017. In this role, I felt a deep sense of accomplishment in that I was truly helping those who needed it most. I still serve on the board and am proud of the progress SPI is making. I also have the honor to work some outstanding seed industry veterans such as Brian Love (current chair), Don Wertman, Jack Bernens, Sharon Hanson, Alexis Ellicott, Karl Fiander, Tamiko Gaines, Gary Kushner and John Batcha (SPI founder).

Seed industry professionals offer an incredibly important skill set to humanitarian organizations. Your knowledge and experience in crop and food production, distribution and breaking down global import barriers to get seeds where they are needed are unique and critical. In addition to supporting disaster recovery efforts, I’d like to challenge each of you to put your skills to work in providing ongoing support to the less fortunate. If we all take an active role, then we can truly say “we are feeding, clothing and fueling the world.”

Partnerships Help Make for a Better End Product

- Jason Kaeb

As a manufacturing company, partnerships are vital to our success and sustainability as a company. As with many other businesses, our network of relationships that must be maintained and fostered is extensive. Some of these include suppliers, accounts, end customers, internal, distributors, financial and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).

If one of these relationships becomes strained, it has the potential to impact the whole production process. Of special importance to us is OEMs. We are set up as an OEM for many of our providers, as we integrate their equipment and devices into our solutions that we provide for the industry. On the other hand, we work with a number of equipment manufacturers that incorporate our equipment into their product offerings to enhance their solutions in the marketplace.

In fostering these relationships, it’s about understanding what our core competencies are and creating a synergy that allows us to develop a solution that neither one of us could do, or would want to do, on our own. It’s important for us as a business to recognize that we are a small fish in a very large lake with many great agricultural manufacturers. As such, it’s imperative that we understand our strengths and focus on those, rather than try to move into an area outside of our strengths.

We don’t need to be designing and engineering motors, load cells and other hardware — that’s not our area of expertise. Now if someone needs a conveyor or bulk handling automation solution, then we’re the go-to source.

In many cases, we are able to expand our business and product footprint through establishing OEM relationships, where our equipment is used as part of another manufacturer’s equipment. For example, the KSi cleated-belt conveyor, when mounted to different models of planters, air carts and seed tenders, adds value to our partners’ products.

By partnering with other OEMs, you must be receptive to feedback and open to listening to different perspectives. As a business owner, it’s easy to be inward looking, and it takes intentional effort to be outward looking.

We are proud to be an OEM for John Deere, CNH and others, but these relationships don’t just help our bottom line, they help us to be a better business and, in turn, create better products. As a small company, these partnerships have helped us grow when it comes to documentation, product quality and service … and that’s good for everyone, both internally and externally.

Remember: Know your strengths and work to develop partnerships with others for a better end product.

5 Reasons You Should be Doing Content Marketing

- Shawn Brook

If content marketing is not at the top of your company’s to-do list, it might be time to take the plunge. Today’s sales prospects want good information that helps them make good decisions, but they don’t like being sold. Most of us research products and services online before making a purchase, so it is important to have a non-sales voice available to buyers, who are in the research phase, to ensure your brand is represented.

Here are 5 great reasons why you should engage in content marketing today:

1. Build trust.

The more content you create and share with your target audience, the more people see it and the clearer it becomes that you are a thought leader in your field. People trust experts and want to hire them to help solve their problems.

2. Increase brand awareness.

Because people usually find information on a given topic through organic searches there is a chance to expose potential customers to a new brand (aka your company) they might not have been familiar with before. From there, you can use content marketing to significantly increase traffic to your website and build a following for your content.

3. Enhance SEO.

When you open your browser and type a keyword or phrase into your search engine, the most relevant information regarding your search query appears. When you create expert content, with the goal of sharing useful and valuable information to your ideal target buyers, Google recognizes your content as “clean” and will generally rank it higher in the search results. Additionally, regularly posting new content to your website also improves SEO.

4. Develop lead generation.

Content marketing enables strangers to discover you through your useful and informative content. Most of the time, this is before they are even ready to make a decision to buy, meaning your competition isn’t even in the picture.

5. Prioritize ideal buyers

When people find you via content marketing at the start of their purchase decision, you benefit from having only people who are really interested in what you have to say. Of these readers, only those who are genuinely intrigued by your brand are going to proceed down the sales funnel. This means you’ll have filtered out the weak leads, and your sales team will only be dealing with warm leads.