- Written by: Tom Faunce
- Produced by: Dana Merk-Wynn
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
As the nation’s largest crop consulting firm and agricultural laboratory, Servi-Tech Inc. has been focused on its vision of “Making the Planet More Productive” since 1975. Located in Dodge City, Kansas, Servi-Tech relies on the most current technologies, research and science to make productive and profitable recommendations for thousands of growers on millions of acres.
Three Servi-Tech laboratory facilities complement agronomic services to measure soil fertility, tailor field inputs and increase yields. Since its inception, steady growth in volume has enabled Servi-Tech to expand its reach into Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, Minnesota, Iowa, Texas and Oklahoma.
With the ever-evolving world of technology, entire industries rise and fall on the whim of technological trends. Agriculture is no exception. Included in the trials of technological development is the question of whether the latest advances will make tangible differences affecting a farmer’s ability to feed 10 billion people by 2050. This is where Servi-Tech comes into play.
Servi-Tech was founded by three farmer-owned cooperatives in southwestern Kansas with the purpose of combining knowledge, service and technology to help farmers across the Midwest maximize their productivity. “At that time, crop scouting and agronomic services were a relatively new field,” says Greg Ruehle, president and CEO of Servi-Tech. “Our founders understood that collectively they could establish a stronger entity than on their own.”
The co-op began with 100,000 acres under contract in 1976 and now, with just under 1 million acres, Servi-Tech provides crop consulting and laboratory service to the High Plains area that annually produces millions of acres of wheat, corn and soybeans, as well as a mix of milo, alfalfa, cotton, sugar beets, dry beans, barley, oats, potatoes, millet, sunflowers, grass and vegetable crops.
The future of precision agriculture
With the rapid advancement of technology in the field, testing new products can be a real struggle for many companies. As a result, Servi-Tech created Servi-Tech Expanded Premium Services LLC (STEPS) to develop and validate new technologies. ”Essentially, STEPS is our fourth laboratory,” says Jeff Kugler, CEO of STEPS. “The first three labs test agricultural samples while STEPS tests new agricultural technology against time-tested agronomic knowledge.” While STEPS views Servi-Tech agronomists as its first customers, the organization also targets products to other retailers and crop consultants.
As a leader in the field of precision agronomy, STEPS is developing new technology tools that are based on science and independently validated to measure local weather and other field health conditions to help growers more efficiently and sustainably feed a growing global population. True sustainability requires a local, scientifically valid solution to increase grower productivity, efficiency and profitability. STEPS offers a unique platform that combines tried and true “boots-on-the-ground” agronomy with cutting-edge technology in a seamless, state-of-the-art agronomic solution.
The first step is to develop an effective and affordable weather station that also serves as a hub to gather data in the field and transmit the information to the cloud for evaluation. The hub includes telemetry to move data to the cloud, plus Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and radio connections to communicate with a variety of other sensors and devices locally. Data is gathered and transferred regularly in 30- to 60-minute intervals to maintain a real-time evaluation of local field conditions.
Eventually, the communication device could control center pivot irrigation systems (on and off), evaluate and predict machine failures, monitor fuel levels and establish the location of the pivot remotely. While several of these products are offered individually today, STEPS is designing a unique, single solution to gain efficiencies for farmers and their trusted advisors. “There are a lot of folks out there working with different technologies, but I don’t know of anyone who shares our aspirations to create efficient solutions,” says Kugler. “This project is a primary focus for us this year.”
Servi-Tech’s fully integrated approach of combining field-level information with science-based agronomic knowledge to create actionable recommendations puts the business at the leading edge of a new era of agriculture. “Disruptive technology is having a massive impact on agriculture,” says Ruehle. “But you still need human validation — someone to ensure that the information coming out of the field is both accurate and actionable.”
Estimates suggest that the global population will exceed 10 billion people by 2050. Among the challenges created by a larger population is the availability of resources to provide adequate food, feed, fiber and fuel in an efficient and affordable manner. “There are significant changes on the horizon,” says Ruehle. “We are here to do as much as we can to help farmers prepare for the future.”
After more than 40 years in business, Ruehle says that the future of Servi-Tech will be focused on massive in-field connectivity combined with hands-on validation. “Boots-on-the-ground complemented by new technology – that’s where we need to be for our customers,” he shares. “We are a conservative company, but we can’t afford to miss out on other opportunities that may benefit our customers. It comes down to finding that balance.”
While advancements continue to be made in categories such as plant performance, soil fertility and weed/pest control, Servi-Tech Inc. remains at the forefront of making the planet more productive and efficient.
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