Planting with Pierce and Peelen - Ep. 02
As planting season approaches, so do the stressors that come along with it. Keep listening to find out how you can reduce some of these stressors by placing the seed in the right place, at the right time, in the right position, with the right technology to help you do it!
Andrew, Brett and Russ Background
Russ: So planting season is right around the corner. You know, even though I got up this morning, start the truck, come to work, and it said two degrees, we’re two thirds of the way, right around getting to planting. And the stress of the weather and the decision making, there’s always things that tend to follow along with that. So today I’m joined by product sales specialist, Andrew Pierce and Precision Ag Specialist of 5th Gen Ag, Brett Peelen to discuss some of the benefits of upgrading your planter with Ag Leader and some of your predictions for plant 2023.
So first of all, Andrew and Brett, thank you for joining me for the episode of the podcast today on season two.
Andrew: Excited to be here.
Brett: Sounds good.
Russ: All right, so first all, just a little bit of background. I suppose I’ll start out with Andrew here. Tell me a little bit about yourself. I mean, I’ve worked with both of you guys, for a while as co-workers, as dealers, good friends. I knew Andrew, heck, he lives and grew up, not five minutes from where I grew up at. So we’ve kind of always lived in the same neighborhood.
I was told that, I should probably maybe ask Andrew about his ginormous, excellent tailgating prowess at Iowa State football games. But Andrew, tell us a little bit about yourself, where you went to school at, little bit of a family background. How you came to Ag Leader.
Andrew: Yeah, so as you mentioned, with growing up close proximity, I grew up on a small family farm about 30 miles west of Ames.
Spent a lot of my childhood riding in the tractor cab as many farm kids know the joys of doing, and as we get older being able to get turned loose on your own, out in the tractor in the field was just always fun. And it came time to decide on college; I always had a love for technology, so combining some of my passions: working on the farm and agriculture, I went to Iowa State to major in Ag Systems Technology.
While I was there, I took an internship here at Ag Leader on our technical support group, and worked there for a couple years. Then moved over to our training team over at the academy for about six years and then just started this position here, the first of 2023. In free time spend, as Russ mentioned, have a love of going to Iowa State football games and tailgating. So that’s a lot of what we do in the fall anyway, outside of harvest. My other activities include, working on the farm, helping dad with that. And also in the summer I do plan our town celebration.
Russ: So we were just talking about that this morning. Ogden Fun Days.
Russ: Hopefully I’ll make the car show this year. I tell you, I’m gonna be there every year and I find an excuse not to show up, so. You know, another thing that I learned about you over the last couple of years cuz you have helped me out personally. A lot of things is, you are a very good problem solver. A lot of the structures in our current training department, you had a big hand in building, a lot of row unit stuff.
I know you and I have worked a few Saturdays together, getting stuff ready for me for a tradeshow for you for training. So you’re definitely not afraid to put in the work and invest the time. Kind of the Ag Leader way, so to speak. So I think your newer role here as a product sales specialist, being somebody that can think out of the box is gonna fit very well. Plus, your background in agriculture. So, thank you for that Andrew.
Now, on to Brett. So Brett and I have actually had a fairly long history. He actually worked at Ag Leader in technical support for several years before going out and working with a co-op and then started 5th Gen Ag. How many years ago was that, that you started 5th Gen, Brett?
Brett: Business was mine, February in 2019.
Russ: So it’s been a little bit.
Brett: For over three years now.
Russ: It’s just cuz of the circles that I’m in, but one of my more memorable things about you working at Ag Leader was your Dodge Ram. I always remember that darn thing. What year was that?
Brett: That was the 86 Ram Charger.
Russ: Yeah. Yeah. I will never forget one.
Brett: Yeah, the ’86 Ram Charger and the ’73 Dodge Dart.
Russ: I forgot about the Dart. I forgot about the Dart. I was also told that you are seven foot tall and may very well be a Viking.
Brett: My dad is seven foot. I’m only six seven.
Russ: Okay. You may be a Chiefs fan. So you’ve, got some things going on right now.
Russ: and your family farm, is it a century farm?
Brett: Oh yeah, yeah. A century farm for, oh, what would that have been? ’18, I think’s when we became a century farm.
Russ: Well, I think that is not terribly far from when ours did as well, alright.
So I’ve blabbered on a little bit. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got to be where you’re at today.
Brett: Yeah. I grew up up in northwest Iowa between Sheldon and Sanborn. Family -I grew up on the second acreage. I now live on the original home place. Went down to Iowa State, , for agronomy, started in Ag Bus., decided econ was not for me, and went to agronomy instead. Really enjoyed agronomy, always have.
Brett: When I was actually at the job fair, one year, I ended up talking with Mr. Matt Leinen, who was manning the Ag Leader booth.
Brett: And I was actually waiting to talk to Cargill and started talking to Matt and he goes, “Hey, fill out an application.” And I was like, well, the application says ag engineers and ag system tech. “Fill it out anyway,” he said. So yeah, that kind of became history. I think they had like 165 applicants and I was probably the first agronomy major they’d ever hired to work tech support . That was back ’03, ’04 when I worked there, and that was, you know, we introduced a lot of stuff that time. That was the Insight came out. EZ Steer, a lot of that stuff.
Russ: Yeah, it was a pretty big time. I’d only been an Ag Leader for about 75 years at that time, so, .
Brett: Right .
Russ: Okay. All right. Very good. Very good.
Brett: You had a little more hair then .
Russ: A little more hair and a little more color in my hair.
Russ: Exactly. Yep. Exactly.
Brett: All right. Yeah. I ended up, after working there at Ag Leader, then I went and worked for a co-op over at Eldora/Grundy Center until I moved home and worked for the co-op where eventually I ended up just buying the Precision Ag business out of the co-op in ’19, named our business 5th Gen Ag beacuse I’m the fifth generation on our farm, and, yeah, it’s been great. Business has been booming.
Boots on the Ground
Russ: Cool. Cool. All right. Well, without further ado, I do have a couple of questions I’ll probably ask both of you guys and, feel free to step in. We’re just having a conversation here. We’re having fun. The only thing we’re missing is, of course, bourbon and cigars, but it’s, as we’re recording this, it, it’s a little early for bourbon, I suppose, but maybe not. Depends on how you take it, I guess.
Brett, so, you know, obviously you’re boots on the ground talking to a lot of growers, communicating directly with Ag Leader customers, as you know, as your customers, what kind of things are they worried about as we get closer to planting? What are their pain points? What are they worried about, and what kind of solutions are you offering them?
Brett: Yeah, you know, the big thing in our neck of the woods has been moisture for a couple years here. Northwest Iowa’s been running pretty dry. We’ve been right on that line of severe drought, moderate drought, kinda depending on where you’re at.
There’s a lot of fertility that didn’t get used last year, just because we couldn’t, , get enough moisture to finish the crop out. So, you know, that’s the, the challenge right now is guys are, you know, what can we do – limit tillage, limit our passes across the field to. conserve as much moisture as we can.
And so one of the big things we’ve talked about is down force for guys this year. Because no matter what those field conditions are, we can get that seed to death if we’ve got good hydraulic down force. So that has been one of our biggest talking points, that one, and speeding up the planning process.
You know, when we get these windows where, you know, how Iowa is, , it seems like the weather, if you don’t like it, give it a day, it’ll change. So generally it seems like we get one of two ways. We either hit the field and we run until we’re done. Nobody ever quits. Or we plant for a day and wait a couple days, plant for a day, wait a couple of days.
So, at current equipment prices, it’s quite expensive to go to a bigger planter. So the conversation we’re having with a lot of guys right now is, well, what do you not like about your planter? I mean, if a guy likes the type of row unit he has, if he likes his meter, if he likes his, toolbar seed delivery system, we can change the rest.
So we can make that an electric drive planter. We can make it a high speed planter and we’re a lot cheaper than you can trade to a new machine.
Russ: That, that makes really good sense. And, and I know we have talked about, you know, you go to a bigger machine or you buy a second planter, well, you’ve gotta then have a second individual, and a second tractor, to run that second planter.
If you go to a bigger planter, well then you maybe, depending on where you’re at in the world, you’ve maybe got problems with older bridges, narrower roads, transport and maintenance. Cause there’s more parts there. Whereas if you can make improvements, on an existing unit, and just upgrade it, one, it’s a little less money and two, you know, you’re not gonna have those other expenses that, that we, you know, we’ve been talking about.
Brett: The other one guys forget is, are you gonna fit that, is that bigger plant gonna fit in the shed you have?
Russ: Yeah, no kidding. Not everybody as lucky as, as the Pierce farm to build a brand new Morton building at the home farm.
Andrew: It’s full already.
Brett: Never build them big enough.
Russ: That’s right. So same question to you, Andrew. You not only in your previous roles training, but you’ve now settled into you’re a sales specialist. You’re talking to folks, getting ready to do things as you’re talking to growers, you know, you’re going to be with me at a few of the bigger trade shows this year. What are you expecting to hear and, what have you been hearing?
Andrew: A lot of guys seem to be asking, just a lot about accuracy. Other big thing that’s on mind is input costs continue to seem to always go up. They never seem to come down as fast as they go up anyway, if they do come down. Just how, how can they kind of be a little bit more mindful and conscientious of that has it been big one. More recently, I’ve had a quite a few questions of people just kind of just stepping into the technology world. What are kind of the first steps? What kind of offerings do we have on that? So a lot of variation. A lot of it depends on where you’re located. As Brett mentioned, different areas had been really dry, some have been a little too wet.
Andrew: I know last year there seemed to be areas of both extremes. So, yeah, it’s quite a wide variety of different challenges out there.
Where to Start
Russ: Yeah, that’s definitely true. Brett, question to you, somebody customer of yours comes to you, Hey, I’ve got X brand of planter, I do wanna start doing some upgrades to it. You know, he’s got a very traditional planter. I wanna step into this incrementally. Where do you start them at and why?
Brett: So at that point, what we do is we start the conversation. So we gotta figure out what’s more important to the customer. Does he have a lot of point rows and not have a way to manage them? You know, does he not have individual clutches right now? Does he, is variable rate, is this ground really variable? Is variable rate on his radar? Is something that he’s thinking he needs to get into? Do we have the yield data to analyze and see if variable rate would make sense for him?
And then the other one would be, you know, what’s his soil conditions like? What’s his planter like? Is down force an issue? You know, a guy with a three bushel hopper, I don’t have to look at anything. I can tell him he’s got too much weight part of the time and he’s got not enough weight the rest of the time because that’s what happens with a three bushel hopper.
So we start with that conversation and get a feel for the guy. If the guy says, well, I’ve got individual clutches and they’ve been working pretty good. We might lean more towards starting a guy off with down force and let’s make sure we get that panter planting that depth, like we need it to get that row unit riding smoother.
Because what I have seen in the numbers around here is down force is generally the bigger pay. Now if a guy does not have section shutoff and he needs variable rate, then the electric drive starts to make sense or a high speed, whichever route you want to go, to be able to get that planter doing better.
Now we also gotta look at what he has for a meter. Does a guy have a finger meter planter? But he’s that guy that cannot keep his foot out of the throttle and he can’t keep it down at four and a half mile an hour. If he’s that guy running a finger meter at five and a half, we need to be looking at something different for a meter.
We might need to go to high speed and down force and jump in with two feet or look at some sort of a hybrid system for him to help him get that planter to be the best it can be for his ground.
Russ: That’s. Pretty darn good advice. I think I pretty much agree with that.
Andrew, same question to you. You know, even if it relates to your home farm, I know on some of our stuff at home, we’ve moved pretty slowly, intentionally and that works good for folks. Some folks are like, Nope, this is what I want. This is how we’re gonna do it. But as you’ve talked with guys, especially in your new role, how are you addressing somebody that comes up to you and says, Hey, talk to me a little about, about what you guys learned, about what pays, what works best, , what advice are you giving guys?
Andrew: Yeah. A lot of it comes back to what challenges are they seeing? As Brett mentioned with the individual row boxes, you’re exactly right. You’re gonna be some of the time putting too much weight down, other times not enough. As that seed box empties on, you know, and then as we get wet versus dry conditions, we need to be able to be aware of that and make very quick and efficient adjustments.
And so yeah, that’s kind of a really big one with Sure force – kind of starting there. From there, variable rate is, kind of that next conversation. Usually, a lot of ’em that I’ve talked to recently have had some kind of section control on their farm already, but maybe that next step of, hey, can we maximize where we put those inputs, some of those lower, producing areas maybe we don’t invest as much seed into ’em just cuz it can’t produce it. So being able to make those adjustments on the fly or being able to just be able to dial in your rate a lot easier than you would with a typical ground drive system.
Russ: It has been very amazing to me, and it’s been a lot of fun for me. The folks that I get to talk to, I, you know, at any given trade show, conference or event, I’ll talk to somebody that is all in for, for SureSpeed, SureForce and just the latest, they want to know what the newest thing is.
And at the same time, I will get, growers that are a lot more conservative. Maybe they’re even growers that run over a lot less acres but they want to get into something precision. And I get to talk about SureStop clutches. I mean, it’s something that runs the whole gamut. And, you know, we’re very fortunate at Ag Leader to have a good lineup of products for all of that. You know, if you’ve got somebody that isn’t sure he wants down force, he can just run sensors for a year and that will prove to him how much variability there are in the soils or, you know, in the amount of down pressure that is really needed. You know, somebody that, that just wants shutoffs for their point rows isn’t quite ready to make that investment into, into Surespeed or SureForce or SureDrive. We’ve got that handled as well. So it’s a good area that we are in, in our SeedCommand lineup.
I think both of you guys mentioned the ability to upgrade and that’s another thing I think that we do well. Brett, when you’re talking to somebody, I know, I get questions of, well, as soon as I buy this, it’s out of date… you know, maybe folks don’t realize that Ag Leader still repairs the first monitors we made back in 1992. I mean, who else does that in an electronics world? So when you’re talking to guys and you get maybe somebody that’s a little bit more cynical and is worried about buying into something that’s a dead end, you know, how do you talk to them about, Hey, this, this stuff is scalable – how do you address that to maybe lower their fears a little bit? Yeah. That tends to be a conversation we have quite often. You know, I like to say the reason that I sell Ag Leader is because Ag Leader works. The biggest issue we have with the old Ag Leader monitors is the fact that they refuse to die.
We can’t get guys out of PF3000s and YM2000s because the dang things still work.
About 10 years ago I actually found, YM 2000 number three.
Russ: Wow. Wow.
Brett: I wish I knew where that screen ended up, but I actually took it out of an 8820.
Brett: So he was talking about when Al came down and installed it himself.
Well, that would be it.
Russ: Number three. Yeah. I could definitely see because that even, although it is hard to believe, predates myself at Ag Leader so by, by a year or two, man, you mentioned Al going and do those, you know, for early on, taking technical support calls at night, you know, there’d be a reasonable chance you might even get Al on the phone in the first few years – We were a pretty small team, if we were all out on the road doing something, somebody had to be around to answer the phone. It was really kind of before cell phones were what they are today so it wasn’t like you could work at mobile as easily as we can today.
Brett: Yeah, and I, and I like to tell guys about that, how much Al started out hands-on on that company and he still has pride in his company to the point where, you know, Ag Leader is still fixing those old monitors.
So if a guy’s out there and he’s looking at, building a planter and we get that price point, in fact, I had this conversation yesterday. I got the guy he’d love to buy the InCommand 1200, and set up with a gen one and just do clutching and seed monitoring. But that InCommand 1200 is just a little out of range for him, so we’re looking at pricing him a used Integra and he’s worried about a used screen. And I said, well, here’s something for you to know: my combine is a CR 9060 New Holland. The modules on my combine started life in 2004 on my 7720 John Deere. It’s on the fourth combine now, and they still have the 2004 serial number.
Brett: They’ve just been moved a few times. Now. My flow sensor got updated to heavy duty, but, I am still running the original modules on a brand new InCommand. So I’m taking modules that were built for an insight and I’m running on an InCommand. Yep.
So Ag Leader has always been great about backwards compatibility. You know, you’ll get guys where, oh, I’m gonna wire everything up for the Integra and then I’m gonna have to go to an in command cause I want this. I’m have to change all my wiring. I’m like, mm, no, you, you will change it. You’ll buy a little one foot adapter to run on the Integra display cable, or we’ll change the cab cable if you’re gonna go to the newest steering, and that’ll be it.
Brett: And guys don’t understand that they’re too used to the ag market where from the OEMs where, well, you changing screens, everything’s gotta be new.
Brett: You gotta go get new brain boxes on your planter because they won’t talk and Ag Leader is not that way, Ag Leader has always been designed from what I mean, working in tech support, working in the industry ever since, Ag Leader, to me, has always been designed to start on your farm and build from there. So if you wanna start with yield monitor, you wanna start with the planter, you can build it in steps.
Brett: And when you decide you want to change generations, they give you a route to change generations without having to replace a hundred percent. And that, that’s always been impressive.
Russ: Yes. Yeah. Obviously.
And to anybody in our listening audience who, who wonders, Brett talks with his hands so that his hands hitting the desk next to his mic on his laptop is probably coming through really well.
Brett: I’ll have to quit doing that.
Russ: Don’t worry. I sit if, if I didn’t have a beard I’d probably rub my face raw as I’m sitting here listening to you.
Yeah, no, I completely agree with that. And I’m sitting here in the studio with Andrew and I saw him nodding along. You have anything to add to that as far as what he’s talking about?
Andrew: Yeah, definitely a lot of conversations I have is, you know, people come and start and say, well, I want the very basic, you know, as simple as can be, what do you got? And you start turning around and ask ’em, well, what do you want to do year two, year three, year four? And well, you know, maybe we’ll start to, add the variable rate, maybe we’ll look at a down force, you know, maybe by year four we might be interested in a high speed system.
So starting the conversation and maybe we can make some steps and be able to incrementally, get on that farm and kind of, you know, by year four, be outfitted with what they thought four years ago was just outta reach for ’em. So there is just some of that conversation of getting ’em forward, thinking a little bit and how can we, set ’em up for the best path to upgrade down the road as well.
Russ: That yeah, that’s always the tough part is you gotta ask somebody as you’re trying to figure out what they might need, what’s gonna help them out. You’ve, at some point, you’ve almost gotta predict a little bit of the future. But if you ask the right questions, you know, and when you’ve been in this as long as we have, you’re able to give advice just based on your own experiences, so that’s definitely true.
Managing Input Costs
Switching gears just a little bit, as we’re all aware, input costs have definitely not gone down, in recent years. Brett, how are input costs, as you’re looking at the upcoming season? You know, implementing something like SureSpeed or SureDrive or any of the planting products and Ag Leaders line up. How are input costs affecting that as far as your customers go and how are you talking to guys about that?
Brett: Yeah, so input costs are always a conversation, whether prices are high or prices are low. You know, most farmers, they don’t like to throw away a dollar, , especially when you live up here in northwest Iowa, Dutch country.
So, you know, some of these guys have that first dollar in the milk can buried in the backyard.
Russ: Well, you know, hey, burying money is not as bad as it seems.
Brett: know, anyway, what we talk about a lot is let’s make sure we can put all of your products are going to your farm out into the field. Let’s make sure we put ’em in the right place at the right rate, let’s try to do it at the right time. And that right time also has to do within the right position. Okay, so we talk a lot about down force, making sure that your seed is at the depth you want it to be at. If we get that seed at the depth we want, we get it with the right amount of force, the right amount of soil to seed contact without overdoing it.
we give that seed the best chance to thrive. And in the end with what seed costs constantly going up, you want every seed to grow. And one of the big things we’ve seen a lot of around here is bean populations dropping bean populations big time.
Russ: I was just gonna ask you about that because that Yeah. With, I know with some of our SureForce/SureSpeed trials that we have done, the amount of savings on soybeans, I think was a pretty big surprise for a lot of folks.
Brett: Yeah. I can’t get guys to drop seed as much as I’d like them to sometimes. And I used to sell seed, so I know the other side of it as well. But you know, Iowa State will tell you if you’ve got a final soybean stand of 90,000, don’t touch it. Don’t replant it. You’re good. So if you look at a lot of your germs on your beans, as long as you got a good germ in the bag, you should be able to plant 120,000 and have a good bean crop. Now, most guys, I can only get ’em talked down to about 140
Brett: But the days of planting 200,000 are gone. Beans cost too much. There is no reason to plant that many beans. I really, in my neck of the woods, drill beans should almost be gone as well. You’re just, you’re putting way too much seed out there… and drill beans tend to have issues with, you know, did you get ’em all under the ground? Especially in dry weather.
Russ: Exactly. I know our Eastern Iowa rep, Brett, he has video that he would show that he put behind his bean planter and how he would talk with his dad, and if there weren’t a few beans on top of the ground that you maybe weren’t planting enough. And his video showing the bean actually coming out of the trench and hitting the camera is just, you know, it’s amazing, how much of that seed gets wasted. And today we’ve got tools to help eliminate that. So I think that, yeah, I think that’s a thing. And I think that when most folks think about this stuff, they think about – as far as in the corn belt anyway – think about implementing for corn more than they do for soybeans. But the truth of the matter is there are lots of advantages for soybean growers, using precision ag, especially down force or SureSpeed or some of those products. You know, there’s a, there’s a lot of I think advantages that folks didn’t think about initially.
Brett: Yeah. They’re talking a lot more and more about, singulated beans, you know, instead of these planters that are dropping, I mean, I plant with a White, my White plants beans two at a time because of the way that seed plate’s designed.
Brett: So one of the things I’m looking at is, putting high speed on my planter with part of it being beans in mind.
If I can singulate those beans, I can drop that population a little better because I’ve got that better spacing.
Brett: Now, anytime you’ve get two seeds sitting on top of each other or close to it, they’re gonna act like a weed to each other and they’re gonna compete.
Brett: So we learned that in corn for years and how we don’t think beans are doing the same thing. Makes no sense to me. I mean, when you got two plants next to each other, they’re always gonna compete. So if we can keep that spacing better, we should have a better crop stand.
Brett: And, , You know, so that’s one of the things we’re, we’re talking a lot about is getting guys to go down to that single row bean plate and be able to plant beans and singulate ’em or even go into like Ag Leader’s, two row bean plate, which if you watch some of Brett’s videos, you can see those beans are actually pretty darn close to singulating off the two row plate even.
Russ: Yeah. Yep. I agree.
Brett: So we’re looking at that and all other inputs going on with that planter. You know, we got a lot of guys starting to get into starter and, liquid systems where we’re running those with the Ag Leader at the same time, and we’re trying to make sure we’re getting that liquid right there to help that plant get the best chance it can to get out of the ground. Because like I tell my customers, you only got it one chance to plan it. Right. That’s true. Anytime you push that too early, too late, too deep, too shallow, you screw it up and you’ll never fix it.
Russ: And you only got so many seasons of that all your lifetime anyway, so it’s not like you get 200 tries at this.
So as, as I’m sitting here, I’m watching Andrew agree with you a lot, but I think he’s, I think he’s got something to say. What are you seeing?
Andrew: Yeah, definitely with the soybeans, that’s always an interesting one. I know this last year we have two planters, , one for corn and, , an narrow row for, beans. But the bean planter is kind of old and neglected a little bit – needs quite a bit of maintenance work to it, and just kinda has the old brush meter. And this year dad decided he was gonna plant his one field of beans with we put the soybean disc in on the vac meters on the corn and planted with that just for getting a little bit better depth control. It had, some seed firm getting it pressed down into the moisture and just a little bit better planter performance overall and I think he kinda made his mind about the first pass in. He sent my brother and I a picture of the screen and how well I was doing and said, I think this is what I’m doing here on out.
So yeah, just maybe giving a little bit more attention to soybeans than some previous years. I’ve noticed that a little bit more in conversation the last few years that guys are starting to think about that a little bit more, give a little bit more detail to it than they have in previous years.
Russ: Yeah, I think, I think if you would’ve asked me that five years ago, I don’t think I’d have believed the amount of attention that we’re able to give to that today.
Precision Ag Adoption
Alright, let’s switch gears a little bit. I’m just curious, Brett, I’m sure you’ve had a grower or two, somebody that’s been… we will call ’em reluctant to get into some of this precision ag stuff – has come back to you and said, oh man, my only regret is I didn’t do this sooner. And I, and I’ll give to you an example.
The first time I put, a steering system, it was an assisted steering system on one of my cousin’s tractors and he was actually applying, spring anhydrous and texted me, farming’s gonna be fun this year. And that was, that was all he said. But it was strictly to do with the steering system that we put in the tractor.
I’m sure that you have got a story or two of some guys that their biggest regret, again, was just not having done it or maybe, maybe: you’ve even had somebody to where they had this equipment on there and if they didn’t have it, say, monitoring a particular row on the plant, or they noticed something was wrong, they might not have noticed until the crop started coming up. But tell me some stories that you’ve got from growers that might be kind of funny.
Brett: Yeah, so I’ve got one guy and it took a little bit to get him in on technology. He bought a Kinze planter, and Kinze planters were factory Ag Leader so he had ran it with an Insight.
But we got to where he decided he wanted to add steering and we went to the Integra and we put that Integra on his planter and for those that don’t know, as soon as you plug an Integra into a planter that’s got a seed tube monitoring module, you get a lot more information than you did from an. Insight. So his Kinze, while it still was an Insight, we actually had changed it over to Dickie John style seed tube sensors.
Brett: And then once we put the Integra on there, all of a sudden he’s seeing singles and doubles and skips by row and , he’s like, I had this one row and it just kept doing weird stuff – that bar would be doing just all kinds of odd stuff. And he said, finally I got out and I walked back there. I couldn’t find anything on the row unit. I took the seed box and I dumped it out into another box. And all of a sudden there’s a zip tie bouncing in the bottom of the meter. So he’d found a zip tie that had been hitting the fingers in his finger beating meter Kinze and knocking seeds out and was screwing up his population.
Well, fast forward about three years, the guy goes to an InCommand – same planter. We plug the InCommand in. Now the InCommand is mapping all those rows individually on screen.
Brett: Singles, doubles and skips. And he said, I never noticed this before, but I’m looking at the outside of my planter. And the outside of his planter happens to be a three row – there’s three rows running on that one piece of hex shaft – and what he’s seeing is the outside three rows, normal population, low population, jump right back to normal population, low population, jump right back. And it would do that repeatedly to where he would see these yellow blocks out in his field. And he got out, he went out there, he says, I’ve started taking those meters apart, I couldn’t find anything with the meters. And he said, then it dawned on me: all three rows are doing it – it’s the drive line. So he looked at the coupler and the two couplers were just touching, just barely, I mean, like overlapping like an eighth of an inch so when that planter would flex a little bit, they’d pop past and then catch again.
So what he had figured out is his outside shaft. The actual, lock collars had come loose and the shaft had slid over just enough that coupler was slipping past each other. He slid it back over and the problem went away.
And that’s something he never would’ve seen without the InCommand row-by-row mapping.
Yeah. Cuz like, like he said, you know, okay, you’d look at the bar graph and it’d twitch low and go back up and it did it so quick, you’re just like, ah, it was a fluke.
Brett: But with, with the InCommand, mapping it and showing it, he could see it repeatedly happen pass after pass after pass. Every time that planter would flex it pop past.
Russ: Man, that’s something else that, and again, without that row-by-row mapping on that screen, he would’ve never saw that and been able to go out and fix it. That’s pretty cool.
Brett: Yeah. And the part he loved is all he did is update screens and he got that feature.
Excellent. You know, since then we’re running the guy’s sprayer, we’re steering three of his tractors. We’re in his combine. We’re actually mapping when he puts manure on in the winter, so when the snow falls he doesn’t lose where he was at.
Russ: Yep, yep.
Brett: Just he’s, he’s found any and every use he can for that monitor.
Russ: Well, and that’s, you know, part of the beauty of it is, is those displays that, that we’ve made or are designed to be used, you know, in multiple things. I mean, we’re, like you said, steering, planting, running a tile plow, doing a manure application, harvest – your report card at the end of the year, so to speak. There’s just a, a whole lot of things that those displays can be used for.
Andrew, same to you. I bet in either some of your training courses, you’ve had dealers tell you stories or even at home. Have you heard some interesting stories about Ag Leader stuff?
Andrew: Yeah, personally at home, when I started Ag Leader, we added clutches to the planter and, you know, with the, , equipment and the Integra at the time, it was like, Hey, we could do this and we could do this, and kind of got pushed back, no, we don’t need that. It’s too advanced. And then, after a year or two it’s, can we do this and, , can we do this?
And so finally, kind of added a few more things and then we added the InCommand and took that data visibility into that planter a step further. And then when Z2 came out, I finally convinced, to get Ag Leader doing the steering as well and put that in and either the first or second field, I got a phone call from, my dad and he said, this is awesome. We, we should have done this sooner. so it, a lot of times it’s maybe the hesitancy to do it, but once they do it there’s usually not a, I was glad I waited or anything like that. It’s, why didn’t I do it sooner?
That’s usually a big comment we get year after year. Price sometimes is really hard to pull the trigger, but once they do, they never look back.
Russ: Have to think of it as an investment, I guess.
Andrew: Yep, yep. So have been, been pushing for a few years to try to maybe look at electric drive or, down force system. We’ve had clutches and hydraulic drives for, , going on nine years here now. Finally this year got him to pull the trigger.
And so hopefully kinda have another one of those moments of, wow, I I should have done this a couple years ago when you, when you mentioned it, cuz especially with just the chain drives there’s a lot of maintenance that goes into it and we’ve noticed the last couple years partway through, we just see on ’em or read it, it kind of starts to jump around and, you know, how do we level this out?
So try adjusting some valve settings and things and still just, its kinda erratic and sure enough we go out and couple cans of chain lube, lube the chains, problem gone. Took a little bit to figure that out the first year. This last spring in 2022, second to last field it started doing it. It’s like, well, have we lubed the chains at all? Nope, not since we started. Did that. Problem solved. So just, , some of the things that the display can kind of help clue you into what might be happening, , as a big, big one, or giving growers visibility to, , you know, see that they might have a problem they never realized they had so they’re able to stop and make those adjustments then and now in the field. Rather than, oh, crop is a foot out of the ground. , well, I guess we can look to do it next year, but generally that’s in June. They don’t touch the planter again until, you know, next February, March, and they forget that they had that problem and they’re just in a continuous cycle.
Russ: Yeah. Yeah, that’s very true.
Marriage Saving Technology
So we’ve talked about input costs and a lot of, you know, the tools that Ag Leader offer can help with that. Let’s talk about some things that might exist outside of that. For example a couple of years ago I was down in Texas doing some, work with one of our cooperators that was testing SureSpeed and in one of the interviews we did with him, one of the things he was most impressed with, with SureSpeed – yes, he got to go faster and get things done. It allowed him to spend more time at home with his family. This guy is was, he’s a very busy guy, he was always on the move and he found a tool that allowed him to spend more time at home.
On top of that, everybody’s aware of the labor shortages, folks being able to find good help. If you can upgrade some equipment and go faster, you might not need as much help. And again, we’ve always got this narrow window of planting time that we have: we have to get it in after the ground is this warm, but before it’s this far in the year, and we’ve gotta worry about rain, we’ve gotta worry about all these other things.
And so, Brett, as you are, as you are talking with folks, whether it be time with family or just being more efficient, what are some non-cost related things that precision ag tools that Ag Leader offers can help your guys with?
Brett: Yeah, so one of the things we a lot of times talk about is when we talk about steering, guys are always like, I don’t know how it’s ever gonna pay for itself.
Well, one of the things that we talk about a lot is when you drive a tractor all day long, putting in long days, you come home just absolutely beat up. Your brain’s a fog, you’re just done. You want to go home, you wanna sit in your chair and pass out. You get that guy. Yeah. I mean, you get that guy and you get him to run steering.
And that guy, I’ll tell you, man, I sat in the tractor. I talked to the wife on the phone. I called the kids. I was texting with people. I found the parts that fell off the planter last year – I saw ’em sitting out in the field. And I went in the house and I was still in a good mood, and the wife and I didn’t yell at each other.
I had one guy say it was probably the best thing he did for his marriage, was putting steering in the tractor.
Russ: I think we can use that in marketing. Help your marriage, buy an Ag Leader.
Brett: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, the thing is, when you can take that – the stress of keeping that planter on line, off of your mind and focus on other things, it makes that whole workday that much easier.
Russ: Yeah. I can definitely get on board that.
Brett: I’ve had a couple of guys, they said that is the reason that they put steering on everything.
I always tell people, watch out. Steering’s addictive once we put it on one, you’re gonna do everything. Yep. And they do.
Russ: Yep. I totally agree with that. Totally.
Andrew, you might, you might know this routine by now. Same question to you.
Andrew: Yeah. Well, that, that’s always a tough one to have conversations with customers cuz you know, they’re always looking at the dollar signs. How does it payback? They don’t think of some of those intangibles like coming home less fatigued at the end of the day. How does that just affect my quality of life?
They’re always looking at inputs, you know, when we think seed chemicals, and so forth. But one of the things, you know, when we added row shutoffs and things at home, I’m talking to other growers, is we’re not having to stop every time at the end of the field, , to raise the planter, turn around, stop again, roll over the planter to start.
We can just plant through it. So just thinking some of the wear and tear on the tractor of not pushing the clutch in two times every pass is a big one. Then that turns around back to your operator fatigue. That’s a lot more, wear and tear on your body, having to do that. Mm-hmm. . So that’s, that’s definitely a big, big one that’s, you know, maybe hard to put a true dollar value to it.
And then also just having some of that technology and peace of mind just allows you to keep your mind a little more focused on how’s that planter performing while going through the field rather than so many other things. Some of the technology can kind of provide that visibility. It’s not so hard to do, or you don’t maybe have to do as many manual checks, things like that. Just make that day easier.
And then we look at high speed systems, like SureSpeed, that’s definitely potentially making your, planting season either shorter or maybe you don’t have to run those longer days to get done beacuse you’re able to go a little bit faster, if those conditions permit. So a lot of different intangibles to think about and think about what kind of, return that would give you, maybe just outside the dollars and cents.
Russ: Yeah, it’s some of that stuff you just can’t put a, well, you could probably put a dollar amount to the divorce you’re gonna get if you’re always in a bad mood when you get home. Like, you know, it’s called 50%.
But yeah, you’re right. I mean, you get out of the tractor cab at night and your shoulders aren’t tight, you’re not stressed out. But yeah, some of those things are intangible that you just can’t put a value on, but they are extremely valuable and, I think guys see that and are now realizing that, especially with steering.
I mean, at first the steering was okay, it’s an accuracy thing, and it morphed into, yeah, it’s an accuracy thing, but it’s also a stress thing. I can pay attention to all the other things that are going on out there.
So. All right. By the time we get this thing ready to get on the air we’re gonna be even closer to planning than we are now. It didn’t seem like it this morning when I jumped in the truck, but you know. Over the past two years, we’ve gone from a waiting time period of six, eight months for certain products to now, you know, Ag Leaders able to get the majority of stuff out the door in two weeks.
So that’s been really good for us. Brett, as we get closer, are guys still gonna be able to get stuff installed on their planters? It’s not so much just getting the stuff to the grower, it’s finding time to do all the installs and stuff so when you’re talking with guys, Hey, do I still have time to get this, that and the other for my planter? How are you advising them as far as the timelines? So they’ll be ready to go and be successful this spring.
Brett: Yeah. So the guys that have already bought from us for spring, we’re on their case about, Hey, let’s get this planter in there and get it worked on.
And we’re doing a lot of installs right now. , we’re trying to do that so that those guys that are making the later decisions, we’re gonna have some time to get it put on. So as a business, you know, I’ve gone to the point now where I’ve got two full-time guys working for me and two part-time guys working for me and by having that amount of people, then I do have one or two other ones I could possibly pull in for extra help, we can do a lot of installs pretty quick. So yeah, right now what I’m telling guys is, hey, if you wanna do something for the planter, let’s get that ordered, you know, probably in the next 30 days.
I’m not gonna let a whole lot of guys order after February’s over, not for planter stuff. But, , if we can get it ordered in the next 30 days, I know Ag Leader’s gonna get it to me, we’ll get it on the docket, we’ll get it installed. It’ll be able to get done. As more and more guys have built better shops, you know, when we’re in the frigid northwest Iowa, a lot of guys realize it’s no fun to work on stuff. Yeah. If your shop’s not heated. So we’re getting a lot more of those nice shops and we can do a lot of work out there. Heck, we may end up building a shop for our own business to be able to do some of it here too. But yeah, that I’m not worried on the Ag Leader side to get parts.
There’s other companies I sell for that we’ve already stopped selling for Spring, because we know we won’t get it. Yeah. So with the Ag Leader side, I’m not worried.
When it comes to Ag Leader steering, sprayer, that kind of stuff, yeah, we’re gonna be able to get a lot of that stuff on yet before Spring. If a guy comes to us wanting to do it, I’m not worried about those systems.
Ag Leader supply has been great. I think this time a year ago, I probably had like 40 or 50 orders sitting out there waiting to ship from Ag Leader. I think I have five right now and two of ’em have already shipped.
Brett: I think the oldest order is three weeks old. Yeah. That actually happens to be the down force for my planter, that’s the oldest order.
Russ: Excellent, excellent. So Andrew, question for you… and, Brett, I’ll probably ask you this after this, I’ll be thinking about it, I guess.
What can farmers be doing now to prepare for the upcoming planting season? What kind of things do they need to be doing? I mean, there’s the obvious, make sure your displays up to date, but what else, Andrew, are you telling guys?
Andrew: There’s a lot you could be doing, especially here in the off season. They can make that spring a lot less stressful. You know, like Russ mentioned the obvious display updates: you know, making sure your field names, if you’ve got your varieties already planned out, purchased, you know, get those put in your display now, you don’t have to wait till you’re out in the field planting to get those entered in.
Just all those things that saves two or three minutes here and there. That also just makes that data piece so much easier, so much more organized when you do some of that groundwork ahead of time. Physically on the planter itself, start doing some visual checks now; make sure mice didn’t get into the storage shed, things like that.
What? Mice eat wiring?!
Just those things. Just some of the basic visual inspection and then work with dealers like Brett and see about getting just planter maintenance done. We have a lot of things that pop up in the field that, especially when they put a new piece of technology on and hit the field and something’s not working, it’s usually automatic blame: it’s the technology… and, you know, as we talked about, some of those things maybe alert you to a problem you didn’t realize you had. So we’ve had a lot of situations, field visits, phone calls, that, ah, this piece technology isn’t working, let’s get it fixed.
And really doing some further investigation, it comes down to something’s not shimmed properly, something’s just wore out.
Like Brett had that
Russ: guy with the hex shaft.
Andrew: just all those different things. Maybe chains are to the point they need replaced. All sorts of different things that we can be doing in the shop, outside of the technology piece that can really just make spring go a lot smoother.
Russ: Excellent. Excellent. Brett, what are you guys doing to make sure guys are ready to be successful this spring?
Brett: As a dealer right now, you know, we’re definitely out doing installs. If you have a problem that we had last year bring it to us, we’re gonna address it. We’re asking guys bring in their seed meters right now we’ve got a meters calibration stand. So we run through a lot of seed meters, clean ’em up, get ’em tuned up, ready to go for spring. It’s time of year to do that. The other thing that we’re having a lot of conversations with guys about right now is cleaning up guidance lines. So it’s either go in the display and do it one at a time, or bring me your data, sit at my computer with me, let’s read your data into SMS. Or if you’ve got your own SMS, read it in. Let’s look at all your guidance lines. Let’s delete the ones you don’t want. Let’s clean ’em all out of the screen and send ’em back to the screen, the ones we do want.
Now, while we’re doing that, we’re gonna make sure that if you have multiple screens, that the fields are named the same name in both screens. That the growers have the same name and we got the new seasons created. That’s another one that’s fun: is Hey, it’s time to start season 2023, did you do that in your monitor yet?
Brett: That’s just a fun one you run into every year. Somebody forgets. So we do that, , bring your screens in, get ’em updated. We’re updating them when we’re out there. Pretty soon Ag Leader will release their spring update and then we’ll get a little more aggressive on updating displays. Yep. Yeah.
And then like, , Andrew was saying is, Hey, check the planter out. Check that gauge wheel. Let’s see what the wear’s like on your gauge wheel. I know I’ve got brand new ones sitting in the shop to go on my planter. Disk openers – hey, get out the tape measure, measure some disk openers. Check bearings. It’s time to go through that and make sure it’s ready to go.
It’s a bit early to be doing much on sprayers, but you know the things you want to think about is, did I do a good job winterizing it? May want to check that stuff before you load it with spray.
Russ: Yeah, that’s a fact. That’s a fact. All right. Yeah. Very good. Very good.
Guys, we’ll wind down here, but I, I do wanna say thank you. Brett, if guys are wanting to get ahold of you, it’s 5th Gen Ag; what’s the best way to get ahold of you guys and where are you at again?
Brett: So we’re located in Primghar Iowa. That’d be the county seat for O’Brien County. We’re up in Northwest. O’Brien County’s easy to find: we’re the second county over, second county down from the corner. So yeah, you can get ahold of us. Our website is just www.5thgenag.com. Spell fifth with a five- t -h.
My email, is bpeelen. My last name’s p e e l e n, and it’s @5thgenag.com.
Or you can always get ahold of us as well. Usually call my number 712-348-0518 and we will work with guys. We cover a big territory.
Russ: Excellent, man. All right.
Andrew, I know you’re gonna be coming with me to a few of the bigger trade shows and the different events we’re gonna be doing. So between now and spring, if guys are wanting to shake your hand and say hi, where could they see you at?
Andrew: Yeah, next kind of big outing, we’ll be at Louisville in February. National Farm Machinery Show.
Yep, and then probably be out and about visiting some fields, growers, throughout the planting season. That’s kind of my main travel plans at this point in time anyway, but I’m sure there’ll be more and different trade shows and things out about, different dealer events and so forth.
Russ: Very good, very good. Well, gentlemen, I really appreciate you joining me here in season two of the Ag Leader podcast. I had a pretty darn good time today. It was kind of fun, reminiscing and talking about stuff and I appreciate you guys being here today.
With that, we’ll, we’ll shut her down for this podcast. Thank you guys a lot.
Brett: Thank you, Russ.
Andrew: Thank you.