Revolutionizing agriculture through information and technology


LARRY EEKHOFF, ag consultant

The name "Eekhoff" is well known in precision agriculture services. Larry Eekhoff has been helping develop, test and use various software platforms since the 1990’s. Recently, Larry left New Coop to start Agronomy Rx, to consult with farmers, implement dealers and ag retailers on precision ag services and hardware.

Eekhoff is aligning his consulting business with the E4 Crop Intelligence software platform for several reasons. "I like what E4 is doing conceptually with its integrated modules and cloud-based database. There are a lot of different software programs that do some things well. But the E4 platform is pulling it all into one.

"Bottom line, the software is built to support agronomic decisions and actions. You can do as much or as little as you need based on customer interests. I really like how it helps me generate crop plans and prescriptions."

KIM SPANGLER, ag consultant

Kim Spangler is a veteran crop consultant in north central Iowa. While he provides a range of services to his clientele, he has specific expertise in soil fertility and crop nutrient management. He recently started using the E4 Agronomic Testing module with selected clients.

Spangler hesitated to enter the precision ag software realm due to concerns that software and data maintenance would divert him from field and client activities. "I have known the E4 folks for decades and I like how they do business. That’s the only reason I sat down with them to review their platform," Spangler explains. He quickly saw how the Agronomic Testing module could help him with his clients.

"My time is best spent in my client’s fields and solving problems, not entering and managing data," he explains. After learning about the E4 module approach where he could start with basic soil sampling services where the resulting data was automatically uploaded and aligned with field boundaries, Spangler took the jump.

"I figured this was a great way to offer my clients soil sampling service at competitive prices, define field parameters and generate maps. Those clients who want additional services and module support—like tissue sampling or seed recommendations—can add them."

Instead of diverting time away from fields and clients, Spangler says the E4 approach is enabling him to have more time with clients and communicate more efficiently.

JEFF CARR, retail supplier

Jeff Carr of United Suppliers in Ames, Iowa sees the E4 Crop Intelligence platform as a tool his members can use to build relationships with farm customers. Carr successfully piloted an effort to use the E4 Fertility Rx module with 8 client coops and 40,000 acres. Discussions to expand the program are underway.

"The E4 Fertility Rx module was a way for our members to differentiate themselves by putting some facts behind their fertilizer recommendations," explains Carr. "If a client wants to offer precise recommendations, they have to be involved with precision agriculture support." Carr adds that the ability to generate fertility recommendations and maintain records is becoming more important.

One of the general challenges in working with precision ag software is the wide range of technical skills involved. The complexity discourages a lot of growers from exploring the technologies, which means opportunity for US members.

The E4 Fertility Rx module makes collecting and analyzing data much easier, explains Carr. The module can generate variable rate application instructions and then save all the records, saving the retailers time.

SEAN SCHROEDER, student agronomist

Sean Schroeder will graduate next May from Iowa State University with a degree in Agronomy and minor in Agricultural Systems Technologies. The Arcadia, Iowa, native has worked with several precision ag software platforms in school and during interships. He has been very pleased with the E4 Field Notes module in his work this summer with AgriGold Hybrids.

Schroeder says the E4 Field Notes module saves him time and makes communication with growers faster and more precise. It’s simply a matter of pulling up a specific field and noting those areas where there are issues, he says. "I can collect notes and then use the E4 platform to generate a report. I can save it as a pdf, attach photographs and email it within a couple hours," he explains.

"It’s one thing to send an email to a grower that you saw an insect or fertility problem in his field. But to send a map showing the precise location, along with photographs is more valuable. Plus, you have a record so it’s easier to review how an issue affected yields," he adds.

"A lot of farmers can download data and create maps. But the problem is the data often doesn’t align. E4 can help clean the data, when necessary. Plus, the E4 platform can add layers of information—like tissue sampling data—to provide even better management insights."