Iowa entrepreneur launches ‘Amazon’ for ag

By Leah Call
Entrepreneur Brad McDonald — recently named one of Forbes magazine’s 30 visionaries under 30 years old — thought it was odd that he could purchase just about anything online, except the things he needed for his farming operation. He then jumped at the opportunity to launch Agroy Inc., an online marketplace for agricultural products such as seed, fertilizers and chemicals.
McDonald started the business 2 ½ years ago after seeing a LinkedIn post about European-based Agroy, which was selling ag products online.
“I took an interest in it, and found out they were actually looking to branch out beyond Europe,” McDonald said. “They had proven the model was working, and they were looking for someone to implement it in the U.S.”

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Tech Tilling: Precision ag is here and now

In addition to changing the way farmers approach their work, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technology is demanding a new set of skills for everyone involved.
“Using GPS to precisely track what’s being done in farm fields puts the focus on production and profit concerning each acre, while factoring in topography and drainage,” said Randy Tenpas, department chair of Fox Valley Technical College’s (FVTC) agriculture programs in Wisconsin.
Much of today’s agriculture equipment comes with systems needed for precision farming installed at the factory.
“Farmers and their agronomists now have technology to bring operations to the next level,” added Tenpas. “Other schools have classes on precision farming, but Fox Valley Tech offers the only program in the state designed specifically for working adults, in addition to the latest equipment, thanks to several partnerships, including Service Motor Company.”
The one-year Precision Agriculture Technician program at FVTC is very accessible and provides a solid foundation of skill sets related to optimizing crop production, in addition to the application of electronically controlled systems and customer service experiences.
“You learn how to collect data, analyze it, and then turn it all into useful information,” said Tenpas. “Our students gain real skills that are needed to make precision farming a part of their everyday work in agriculture.”
The 32-credit offering is held on FVTC’s Appleton campus with additional locations supported by several regional partnering farms. For more information, call (920) 735-5672.

Growing Graduates
Fox Valley Tech’s programs in Agri-Business Agronomy Technician, Agri-Business Dairy Technician, Agri-Business Management Technician, Agri-Businesses Science Technology, Agriculture Equipment Service Technician, Agriculture Power Equipment, Farm Business & Production Management, Farm Operation, Outdoor Power Equipment Technician, and Precision Agriculture Technician all experienced 100 percent graduate employment, while infusing more than 115 skilled professionals into Wisconsin.
Source: 2018 Fox Valley Technical College Graduate Employment Research Report

Farmers use drones to better manage their operations

Jeff VanderWerff uses a drone for multiple purposes on his farm in Sparta, Mich.

By Leah Call

Drone technology is becoming an integral part of precision agriculture practices throughout the Midwest. This aerial eye in the sky enables farmers to increase efficiencies and boost productivity. With drones, farmers can monitor crops and livestock and manage inputs through surveying and mapping with spectrum, thermal and near infrared imagery.

“Drones are an interesting piece of technology to utilize,” said Jeff VanderWerff, who farms 200 acres of apples and 2,000 acres of crops with his father, uncle and brother in Sparta, Mich. “We use them primarily for scouting purposes and for management purposes in our orchard.

“When you get a group of workers out into an apple orchard, it is hard to keep track of where all the workers are, where all the bins are,” VanderWerff continued. “The drone allows me to find my workers and find my fruit bins quickly and efficiently versus spending half an hour on the Gator driving through an orchard. I can just fly over and get an aerial view of what is going on.” Continue reading “Farmers use drones to better manage their operations”

Apps help farmers keep an eye on the weather

By MaryBeth Matzek
MAA Editor

There is no doubt weather plays a vital role in a farm’s success. Thanks to technology, farmers now have access to essential weather information in the palm of their hand, providing them with information about what to expect in the coming hours and hard data about the previous 24 hours, as well as historical data.

The Internet is crowded with weather apps, but farmers need an app specifically designed for their needs and includes specific information, such as precipitation totals and precise information about wind speed and direction. Developers have rolled out multiple applications to meet farmers’ needs.

The DTN Ag Weather Tools app, which is only available in iTunes, debuted five years ago and relies on information from weather stations across the country. The app – one of the first designed exclusively for the ag industry –  features GPS-based roaming alerts, forecasts and touch screen interactive displays.

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