We do a lot of agtech episodes on this podcast, but I don’t think we’ve had one quite like this. Today’s episode is primarily focused on the area of agtech that includes site-specific agronomic tools that you’d hear referred to as variable-rate or under the umbrella of precision agriculture.
“The agtech industry in general looks pretty glamorous, but it’s a tough, tough business.”
My guest is Cory Willness, the President of CropPro Consulting, which is an agronomy consulting services firm in Western Canada, based in Naicam, Saskatchewan. Started in 2003, the company has grown to 30 employees. Along the way, Cory and his team started to develop digital tools to help them be more successful in their agronomy work. Eventually they started a separate business to offer these tools to others. That business is called Croptomistic Technology.
“The field never changes. The field is always the same. So when we go out to soil test, there is no crop on the field. What we’re sticking the probe into is soil. So where is the map of soil? A satellite image or yield map does not give you a map of soil. It just gives you a map of variability and you don’t know what that’s due to.”
Cory and I talk about the rise of the tech-enabled independent agronomist, how he decided to develop these tools and ultimately market them as a separate business, and some of his frustrations with agtech, which I think many of you will find both unconventional and enlightening.
Before we dive in though, it might help to define a couple of these technologies for context:
- SWAT stands for Soil, Water, and Topography, and a SWAT map combines multiple layers of field data into a single map for zone management and variable-rate fertilizer and seed applications.
- Cory created a SWAT Box, which is a box that is mounted to an ATV, truck, or piece of ag equipment and driven over the field to collect electrical conductivity and elevation data, which are necessary layers for SWAT Maps.
- Lastly Cory is one of the founding partners of CropRecords, which is a crop consulting system for crop scouting, record keeping, making recommendations and jobs, and synchronizing all of the information between agronomy staff and farm staff. It is an essential part of implementing the SWAT Maps system.
“Farmers are smart people. They know their fields. They know what their problems are in any given season. They see them all the time because they’re out there all the time. If you go out there to the farm and say ‘I’ve got a specific solution that’s going to solve this problem on your farm’. They’ll try it.”
Cory represents to me, someone who has spent his career working directly with agronomists and farmers, who knows their needs and pain points, and who has strong opinions rooted in firsthand experience. You’ll hear some opinions and perspectives on this episode that may challenge your own when it comes to agtech, especially as it relates to precision agronomy.
You can find out more about CropPro and his various offerings at www.CropPro.ca. Also, he’s a great follow on Twitter @CropProCory.
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