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Fertilizer tech startup triples business

Willie Vogt Field of young corn
POWER N AVAILABILITY: Corn and soybeans are key crops that can use Source from Sound Agriculture to boost nitrogen availability and cut fertilizer bills. The company is seeing major growth for 2022.
Sound Agriculture sees growth in 2022 as farmers look at ways to cut fertilizer bills.

The world of ag tech innovation has been busy the last few years, and 2022 is a year where more of those products are coming to market. One firm, Sound Agriculture, has been marking its Source product for corn and soybeans for two seasons, but how’s it going this year?

Jeff Divan, a northern Iowa farmer, is director of agronomy for the startup. “We’ve seen tremendous growth, and we’re about three times what we were last year on the number of acres and customers using the product,” he says. “We are increasing our presence in the Corn Belt, but seeing progress in the Midsouth and even out East.”

Sound Agriculture has built its own field sales force from scratch in the last three years, and the company markets the product through dealers as well. Divan says by the end of this year, the company will have agronomists in each state, a regional sales manager in each region, and even account representatives and customer service.

“Over half the company is in the field at this point, putting this product in play and working with our dealers and customers,” he notes.

Divan says rising fertilizer prices can crimp the returns from rising crop prices, but using Source can help balance that. The foliar-applied product works to free up nitrogen in the soil by firing up microbes that provide available nitrogen to plant roots more efficiently. This is not a biological product; it is a chemical that induces a biological process.

A little like insurance

Interest in products that boost available nitrogen has grown over the past few years, as new tools have come to market. Regarding farmers’ use of nitrogen, Divan notes, “It’s always been like that one input that feels a little bit like insurance — and you know I want to do enough and then do a little bit more, just in case. You don’t see many other inputs that get treated like that.”

What he’s seeing is that farmers are now putting on the right amount of nitrogen for the crop and then using Source to fill in a potential gap or shortfall. “It’s baby steps in the right direction but has the opportunity longer term, I think, to really just be part of the equation. Then people just start baking in that 25 to 50 pounds in their annual plan,” he says.

Sound Ag claims that Source can provide up to 50 pounds of available nitrogen per acre for a crop.

Building the business

For many farmers who were early adopters of Source, most are returning — and with orders to cover more acres. “It’s typically double what they bought the prior year,” Divan says. “We see the tendency of folks to go from ‘Hey, I tried a gallon last year’ to ‘I’m going to do four or five or even a case this year.’”

A gallon of Source will cover 200 acres, with only a small amount needed for the field microbes to work on nitrogen availability.

Being a new product for the market, the company still handles questions from customers. “Customers are still gaining comfort with the technology,” Divan says. “So I think that’s still the main question I get asked is ‘How do we know this works?’ Why does this work?’ It’s very cutting edge in terms of the connections between plants and microbes, and how they signal each other,” he says.

Divan says third-party data showing efficacy is helping. The company works with universities and third-party testing groups to demonstrate the technology. For 2022, more than 15 universities are performing Source trials. Learn more at sound.ag.

TAGS: Fertilizer
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