By Carroll Smith
If standing the test of time is an acceptable measure of success, then AgriEdge Excelsior, which has been in place for 15 years, satisfies this requirement. What started off as a cotton program from Syngenta has evolved over time into a whole farm approach.
Reagan DeSpain, the Southern and East Coast AgriEdge manager, says the four fundamentals on which the program is based are Syngenta’s broad portfolio, Land.db farm management software, dedicated AgriEdge specialists and a risk mitigation component.
To get started in this region, the farmer signs an agreement to buy $45,000 of branded Syngenta products if he or she has one crop, such as grains, or $60,000 if two or more crops are involved, such as grains and cotton, peanuts or vegetables. The farmer has choices and is not restricted to just applying Syngenta products. Ag Connections, a subsidiary of Syngenta, houses the Land.db farm management software. Two farmers – Pete Clark and Rick Murdoch – developed Land.db and are co-owners of the company.
An AgriEdge specialist installs the software and is available to the farmer either on-farm or via phone at the farmer’s request. Farmers can also talk to their retailers about the program, and Ag Connections can troubleshoot any issues related to Land.db. Although the software typically is installed in the farmer’s office or home computer, it also is accessible via mobile devices in the field.
Based on information inputs, Land.db enables the farmer to track almost anything related to his farming operation except labor costs. If a cotton farmer has access to e-cotton through his gin, he can input information from his gin tickets so his yield records will be available as well. DeSpain notes that a breakeven number also can be obtained for all the farmer’s commodities, depending on how well he keeps up with his records.
The fourth pillar of the AgriEdge Excelsior program is a risk mitigation or cost-sharing mechanism that gives growers an opportunity to earn financial rewards.
“The data belongs to the farmer, who is the only person allowed to grant access to his database,” DeSpain says. “If a farmer asks that we send information to a third party, we must have written consent from the farmer to do so.”
Bryce Wilde, who farms cotton, grain sorghum, sugarcane and corn in Lyford, Texas, has taken advantage of the AgriEdge Excelsior program to keep up with his entire operation for about four years.
“It’s definitely a farmer-friendly recordkeeping tool,” Wilde says. “We can pull reports from past years in terms of services and chemical applications to better understand what we are doing on the farm. When it comes to marketing, we are able to figure out what we need to get for our crop. The program also contains a large database of crop protection products. When we input a chemical that we want to use, the program accesses the label. Information such as the re-entry interval or the pre-harvest interval for the product is available if we need it. If a label is not in the database, we can request that it be added.”
Wilde reviews the information he inputs to get a better idea of what he can afford. “It’s a real eye-opener. Although there are a lot of variables to consider, we are working with the program to more accurately determine our breakeven point.”
Seminole, Texas, producer Otis Johnson, who farms cotton, peanuts, corn and grain sorghum, has used AgriEdge Excelsior for all his crops since 2012. Johnson says one of the biggest benefits of the program is the recordkeeping system that allows him to efficiently keep up with input costs on each field and farm. “I have several landlords and buy everything in bulk,” he says. “I can print reports for any input on any farm. It’s easy to go back to a particular date to get that information. The program is very versatile in that regard. For example, I can access how much peanut seed we planted on each circle on each farm, then bill my landlords their shares. The program also accesses weather data so I don’t have to keep track of it myself.”
Today, AgriEdge Excelsior has a 96 percent retention rate. “Through trust and long-term business relationships, we are here to help farmers become better managers and better stewards of their farms,” DeSpain says.