I took the opportunity last week to travel to the north of England and visit a contractor who has now been running a Sands Horizon sprayer fitted with an Ag Leader® Integra and DirectCommand™ ISOBUS liquid control for about a year now. My intention was to talk to him about his experience with Ag Leader over the last year but if I were to be completely honest, the conversation went way beyond just Ag Leader!Keep Reading
I have recently returned from my annual trip to South Africa, which as some of you now know is one of my favourite places to visit!
The annual NAMPO Harvest Day was held again in May and was bigger and better than ever! It has grown each year since my first trip in 2007, and this year as no exception. Visitor numbers were up and the sun shone!
This week I had the privilege of visiting Mr. Frans Nouws in the Netherlands. Mr. Nouws is a lettuce grower who is now farming around 200ha, entirely for lettuce production. However, it was not always done on this scale. He started in partnership with his mother-in-law on 2ha about 25 years ago. They started off growing all kinds of produce including leeks, carrots and cucumbers but eventually specialised in lettuces. Now farming 200ha and exporting to places such as Moscow and Dubai, Mr. Nouws can be considered a specialist and certainly an innovator.Keep Reading
During the first 2 weeks of June, we hosted two of our test engineers from the testing department in Ames. Bob Heston and Joe Holoubek started their trip at the EMEA office in the Netherlands where our own Service Manager Gerrit Emmens kept them busy testing a variety of equipment throughout the Netherlands. They then made the trip over here to the UK where we carried out further testing, but also had some time to chat with customers about their thoughts on the Ag Leader products and where they felt we could improve.Keep Reading
Back in the middle of February, I took my annual trip down to South Africa to meet our distributor Nel Precision Farming. Mac has been working with Ag Leader for several years already but it was only in 2011 that he started his own company to distribute Ag Leader products in South Africa.
My visit in February coincided with his first sales meeting for his dealers since starting the company. It was a good turn out and all were happy to hear about the new features that are now available in version 4.0. Of course, there was also a lot of good constructive feedback for product improvements and features for the future.Keep Reading
Last week, I had the opportunity to catch up with some of our UK users of OptRx and see how they are getting along.
Last year was a particularly tough year for a lot of UK farmers. It rained most of the summer which lead to a difficult harvest, reduced yields and then tough drilling conditions for the subsequent crops. This ultimately lead to some uneven, patchy emergence and in some cases, winter wheat has only just been sown in the last 2-3 weeks!Keep Reading
During the week of January 14-18, Ag Leader held its annual distributor training at the PTC+ in Ede, The Netherlands. As in the past, this was a 5 day training session covering all the Ag Leader product lines so was very intensive but also very interesting and valuable to the distributors. It was great to see so many attending, and numbers were higher than the previous year.Keep Reading
It has been a busy start to 2012 and already I feel like I’ve travelled around Europe a dozen times! In reality, it is probably not too far from the truth. The month of March also sees my fifth year with Ag Leader Technology – how time flies when you are having fun!Keep Reading
Perhaps a little belated now but I would like to take the opportunity to wish everyone all the best for 2012. During the first month of 2012, Ag Leader held their 3rd International Distributors training in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. As before, we had over 30 attendees from 18 countries, though it has to be said that some could not make it due to prior commitments. I would like to thank those that did make the effort and were able to come. Prizes for farthest travelled go to Derren Helprin (Ag Leader Asia-Pacific Territory Manager) from Australia and Rodrigo Ortega from Chile. But an honourable mention should also go to Kamil for his 14 hour drive from Poland! It took the whole week to cover Ag Leaders extensive product range, which included technical training on all items such as OptRx, DirecCommand, Guidance and Steering and SMS Software.Keep Reading
It is not normal (from a weather perspective at least) that I wish I was in Iowa! However, given the recent weather and temperatures here in the UK, Iowa has proven to be worthy of consideration as a destination to warm up a little! With temperatures down to -13°C (9°F) (according to my car at least) and several cm’s of snow, we have experienced some of the worst weather in decades. Airports, motorways and even some essential services have ground to a halt, which brings me to my first comment.
I was at the Ag Leader Dealer Meeting in 2009 - which was when Ag Leader Academy was officially opened - and overnight there was about 45cm’s (18”) of snow that fell, and the temperatures were none too warm either! But whereas in the UK that type of weather would pretty much shut the country down, the Iowans just kept going and the meetings went ahead as planned. This was despite having to dig through snow drifts 1-2m (3-6ft) deep and the task of clearing roads, but nonetheless people appeared to go about their daily business as normal. To be fair to the UK, we do not expect weather like this to occur very often and therefore don’t have the provisions in place to deal with it, whereas Iowa and other places around the world can pretty much set their clocks by when the snowfall comes and are therefore used to it and can plan for it. But this also brings me to my point for this blog: Being Prepared.
It is not always easy to be prepared for the unexpected, but there are still a lot of things that we do expect and can prepare for. Snow and sub zero temperatures in Iowa is one of them (though I am not sure I’ll ever get used to it!). But whilst most fields are not accessible during this time, there is still plenty to be getting on with in preparation for next spring, which will inevitably arrive next year. And sooner than you think:
- Machinery maintenance. Going through all equipment that will be used next spring and double checking it, servicing, replacing worn components, fixing those small but annoying leaks, etc... will lessen the panic in spring when the silly season hits again.
- Matt Pifkin recently wrote about winter storage of GPS equipment , so please take heed! Mice and cables do not mix so minimising this risk will lead to less stress and expense next year.
- Insurance. This may sound like a no-brainer, but in recent weeks I have heard stories of machinery being stolen, and when it comes to making a claim, the displays and electronics mounted in or on the tractor are not always covered. In some cases, this can be very expensive and very annoying! Double check your policies and make sure these items are covered. Removing items such as displays can minimise this risk, but of course they often remain in the cab throughout most of the year.
- Data. Perhaps it is time to go through the data you have collected and analysed over the last year and tidy it up a bit? In the heat of the moment it is easy to be entering data, importing and exporting data and make mistakes that you can’t be bothered to correct. Now is the time to correct those mistakes! Spell the field names correctly, or perhaps move trees around in SMS so they are where they should be.
- Planning. According to Hofstadter's law, planning may be a fallacy, but I tend to disagree. I think careful planning for upcoming events and situations will lead to a smoother execution of said events and situations. Even if it does take longer than expected! This could be planting strategies for next year, capital purchases or even the spouse’s surprise birthday party.
But most importantly, this is the time of year when we most definitely should be planning to spend time with family and friends. And whilst we are on the subject of Christmas and the New Year, let’s not forget those that are less fortunate than ourselves; it is also the time of year for giving. Merry Christmas!