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Q & A: Gregg Sauder
After Monsanto purchased Precision Planting and Gregg Sauder left the business, some thought he would retire or slow down. Sauder wasn’t interested. He’s back at it again with a new business: 360 Yield Center.
“360 Yield Center is a revolutionary approach for you to capture yield potential,” says Sauder. “The system allows you to listen to the crop. It provides tools to interpret the message so you can take action.”
360 Yield Center’s home base is in Morton, Illinois, but the company also has offices in Iowa City, Iowa, and Lafayette, Indiana.
SF: What will 360 Yield Center focus on?
GS: The two things I think about the most are water management and fertility. Understanding how they work together, then taking good genetics and eliminating stressors are top of mind. We believe there are some really good things we can do to inform farmers, because a farmer who has correct information can make the right decision.
SF: How are the products going to help farmers make the right decisions?
GS: When we think about 360 Yield Center, we think about three actions: sense, decide, and apply.
First, you need to understand what the soil is saying and what the plant is saying today.
Second, you need to put that information into a model or software so you can make a decision. For us, this is Commander, which can help you come out with the right answer. The system knows exactly where that crop is, what soil it’s grown in, and what the weather has been for the past two months. It can help you make the correct decision on something like nitrogen.
Third, you need to apply. The 360 Y-Drop is going to allow a grower in a dryland situation to go in at whatever height that corn is and apply the right amount of nitrogen.
SF: What differentiates 360 Yield Center’s approach from other companies?
GS: Commander is going to take close data and far data. Our model will use satellites and a lot of modeling on weather. The real strength will be having on-farm agronomists available for our dealer network and for you, so it becomes what is relevant for that field. It’s really important to us that we add some art to the science.
SF: Who will be in the dealer network?
GS: We’re going to use different channels: seed organizations, plant health retailers, and equipment dealerships. Right now, we have 100 dealers who are actively selling.
SF: How do you see 360 Yield Center evolving in the next few years?
GS: We are looking at UAV-sensing technology; specifically, development on the camera side. I’m interested in how we decipher the data once we fly over a cornfield. We are also looking at the ground and sensory equipment and feeding that information right into the Commander. Commander will get a complete overhaul. We want to bring it up on your iPhone so it becomes autonomous. You would get a text in the morning saying that a field needs ½ inch of water and 30 pounds of nitrogen. You would simply press yes or no to complete the task.
Right now, the Commander has the ability for variable-rate irrigation. It knows what happened in the past week and where the soil moisture is today. It even has the ability to look ahead and see that there is ½ inch of rain in the forecast. We are also developing subsurface drip irrigation (SDI).
SF: What’s your strategy for developing innovative products?
GS: All the credit goes to a great team. When Cindy and I started Precision Planting back in 1993, we built a team from the ground up. We had a tremendous team of innovative people.
After Monsanto bought Precision Planting, we had a unique opportunity and were blessed to start a new business from the top down. We went out and found the most talented people.
Today, we have 50 employees. I couldn’t be more excited and happy with the kind of talent we’ve been able to bring on.
SF: What will you be able to do at 360 Yield Center that you couldn’t do at Precision Planting?
GS: To lead the industry, we thought about planters each and every day. I’m really proud to say we’ve got planters to a really good spot – where the planter can be the least problem when it comes to yield drain. When I stepped outside of Precision Planting, I was excited about being able to focus on other areas.
SF: What advice would you give to an ag entrepreneur?
GS: If you want to start your own business, understand the value of having the right team. You can have really great products and really good methodology in business, but without the right team, you aren’t going far.
Name: Gregg Sauder, owner of 360 Yield Center
Background: Prior to 1993, Sauder and his wife, Cindy, were hardworking corn, soybean, and dairy farmers in Tremont, Illinois. In 1993, the family started Precision Planting. The business expanded rapidly during the next 20 years to include fertilizer attachments, seed meters, and yield and planter monitors. In 2012, Precision Planting was sold to Monsanto. Two years later, Sauder announced he was starting 360 Yield Center. Despite the demands and time commitments that come with starting two businesses, the Sauders are still dedicated farmers who implement the technologies they sell on their own farm.
Family: The Sauders have seven children: Tim, Nic, Jeni, Ben, Andy, Blessing, and Grace. They are all involved in some part of the family business. At Precision Planting, family members were an important part of the business. Sauder hopes to bring family in again at 360 Yield Center.
What is 360 Yield Center?
The toolbox includes 360 Commander, 360 SoilScan, 360 Y-Drop, and 360 UnderCover, all products Gregg Sauder acquired.
360 Commander gives customized information based on variables such as soil content, seed selected, and daily weather. Integrated with 360 Commander is YieldSolver, which monitors local environmental and field changes hourly and runs possible combinations of environment, seed, nitrogen, and irrigation rates for field-specific yield. Commander then provides decision-making guidance, such as variable-rate (VR) seed and nitrogen prescriptions and VR plans for subdrip and pivot irrigation. The Commander is available for $7.50 an acre.
360 SoilScan is a mobile soil test that provides a detailed analysis of nutrients in the soil in under five minutes.
360 Y-Drop can be used to take action on this information. It is an attachment that can be installed on sprayers to position nitrogen against the brace root of corn, in the sweet spot, in plants as tall as 6 feet and higher for late-season application.
360 UnderCover is a multidirectional spray applicator that can deliver fungicides, insecticides, and nutrition products for inner canopy coverage for a higher impact of crop applications.