Ag Leader President, Al Myers, Explores European Agriculture
Early August 2013, Al Myers, founder of Ag Leader Technology, visited several European countries to further his knowledge of their agricultural practices and to evaluate the adoption of Ag Leader’s products.
The first stop was in the Netherlands where he visited the farm of Jacob Branderhorst. Jacob is a bigger farmer in the Netherlands, and farms 180 hectares (445 acres), on which he grows 120 hectares (296 acres) potatoes, and 60 hectares (148 acres) wheat. Jacob also grows several varieties of specialty potatoes. Al spoke with Jacob about the specific needs, when having several smaller fields with high value crop, such as potatoes. The planters and sprayers were explained in detail. Al was very surprised with the frequency of spraying potatoes - which can be as many as 15 applications in one season!
During the visit, Corne Kempenaar, of Wageningen University, gave a scientific look at European agriculture. Corne is a leading researcher in precision farming at the university. Also present was Jan Hadders, an agronomic consultant in Europe. She presented on the importance of data management, crop moisture and pest control.
Al also met with various distributors across the country. The distributor for the Netherlands and Belgium, the Louis Nagel Company, stressed the specific needs in precision farming in North-West Europe. Because farms in Europe average 60 hectares (148 acres), the needs are slightly different than those of the farmers in North America. Small fields of high-value crops, make farming practices highly intensive. With such valuable crops being planted on small areas of land, every hectare counts!
Our next stop was Kiev, in the Ukraine. Farming in this Eastern European country is opposite of the Netherlands. Farms smaller than 100 hectares are not taken very seriously. Agricultural investors have hundreds of thousands of hectares, and labor is cheap. We visited Ag Leader distributors, AgroInvest and Konkord, while we were in the area. While there, they taught us that Europeans often use equipment that is much different than the models used in USA and Western Europe. Additionally, precision farming is in a very early stage in the adoption process, but the potential is infinite. So far, Ukraine has started to only just adopt guidance, and will adopt more sophisticated systems in the foreseeable future. Also, farm management, fleet management, remote control and service, and data transfer, are hot topics of conversation to the most innovative growers.
We then visited a well-developed farm with 50,000 hectares (123,552 acres) equipped with the some of the latest, large machinery. This farm seems to be ready for precision farming, but has not yet adopted the technology.
The last stop of our journey was in Italy, close to Milan. Ag Leader distributor, ArvaTec, showed us farming in the rich agricultural area of the Po River. The main crop, among others here, was rice. The average farm in Italy is about 20 hectares (49 acres). There are some farms in the area around only 10 hectares. One unique need of rice growers is flat ground. Farmers spend much of their time leveling the ground. For this reason, the farmer owned two trailed dozer blades and one scraper of his own. Land leveling is paramount and is done year-after-year in the area.
Overall, our tour through Europe gave Al a great understanding of the different markets and the varying needs in those markets. Ag Leader has tremendous growth opportunities in Europe and the future is looking very bright.