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Serving: KS
wheat field
WHEAT FIELD: Indigo Ag says its proprietary microbial seed treatment leads to better yields, especially in areas where drought is a problem.

Indigo Ag promotes sustainable farms with integrated wheat program

Integrated seed treatment, agronomic practices, storage and marketing give Indigo Ag wheat growers a shot at 40-cent premium.

Kansas wheat growers have an opportunity to lock in a 20-cent premium above market price for their 2018-2019 wheat crop by participating in the Indigo Ag wheat program. Some farmers can potentially gain a premium of up to 40 cents per bushel depending on quality benchmarks and on-farm storage capacity.

Indigo Ag Inc., a 4-year-old start-up, worked with Kansas growers on about 50,000 acres of wheat in the 2018 harvest and reported that their proprietary system demonstrated its ability to increase yields and plant health, especially in areas affected by drought.

The Indigo program is focused on sustainable agriculture practices and includes working with producers to grow varieties that end users prefer with the company’s proprietary microbial seed treatment and agronomic practices that conserve natural resources.

"Our goal is to connect growers directly with end users and improve their profitability through technology that provides them with wheat that is more drought-tolerant and high-yielding, while also providing a premium for wheat that meets the quality benchmarks," says Rachel Raymond, Indigo COO, North America.

HEALTHIER PLANTS: An Indigo Ag representatives shows off ripening heads of wheat from plants grown with seed treated with the company’s proprietary seed treatment. Indigo is offering wheat producers in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas a premium of 20 cents per bushel with potential for up to 40 cents.

Raymond says farmers who are interested in participating in the program can visit the company website and enter their contact information, and they will be contacted by an Indigo team member. She says the company is based in Boston and has commercial headquarters in Memphis, Tenn. Account managers and agronomists live and work in Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and beyond.

"We have multiple offers, particularly in wheat, that may be interesting for farmers in Kansas," Raymond says. "We want all interested growers to have access to our technology."

Indigo offers a full production model. The company works with growers to select varieties based on its research of what end-users are looking for, and it provides certified seed that has been treated with proprietary Indigo microbial seed treatment. The company also assists producers with advice during the growing season. Finally, Indigo markets the crop directly to end-users.

"Our microbes are endophytes that live inside the plant. They are not limited to just the soil or the root system," Raymond says. "The treatment helps growers reduce variability in yield and helps the plant survive stress, particularly water stress."

To fully utilize the program, growers need to have on-farm storage, and Indigo also offers help with setting up or expanding on-farm storage, especially bag storage.

Indigo offers financing on seed and microbial treatment, and the farmer does not pay for those inputs until harvest. Indigo also offers a premium of 20 cents per bushel over the cash price, and farmers can lock in their price at any time during the growing season.

Raymond says Indigo does have agreements with some end users and is working toward setting up agreements with more, primarily mills, which have long complained that the commercial growing and marketing process gives them little control over the quality traits they want.

"We are also working with universities and breeders to help broaden the number of varieties of seed that we offer," Raymond says. "We have been very pleased with results so far. Indigo growers this year saw an across the board yield increase of 13% and a yield increase of 19% in areas that had water stress."

She says Indigo has a full pipeline of microbial products in development.

DEMO PLOTS: Researchers work to gather data in demonstration plots of Indigo wheat. The company offers certified seed from varieties favored by millers that has been treated with proprietary Indigo seed treatment. The integrated program also offers agronomic advice during the growing seasons, options for on-farm storage and marketing services with a premium to the farmer.

In a press release touting this 2018 yield increases, Indigo quoted Texas farmer Jason Streit.

"From the time I planted, the Indigo root mass was twice as much as the non-treated seed. Even though we had so little water this year, the Indigo Wheat was able to utilize every bit," Streit said. "Our yield goal is 40-45 bushels. If you’re getting 40 bushels with non-Indigo wheat, you will be making 60-plus with Indigo, all else being equal. You’re making more with the premium, plus you get 20 bushels more per acre. You’re hurting yourself by not working with Indigo."

Indigo’s increased premiums are based on growers' on-farm storage capacity and grain quality. Indigo’s on-farm storage program simplifies logistics, increases cost-savings, and facilitates the identity preservation of grain, which allows the company to connect farmers directly with specialized buyers.

In terms of quality, Indigo offers growers a protein scale that starts at 10.5%, with premiums increasing by one cent for each .2% above that threshold. For example, wheat that meets a protein content of 11.5% receives five cents per bushel, with further premiums for protein percentages above 11.5%.

Elisabeth Leistikow, a wheat grower based in Kansas, was also quoted in the Indigo release. She said she saw significant benefits with Indigo this past season. "The premium matters, the storage matters, the agronomist’s very specific knowledge matters, and then the seed coating fits in with our worldview of farming," she said. "We need to improve what goes on in the dirt and get our yield bump."

For non-contracted growers, Indigo provides access to its microbial technology through the purchase of treated seed. The company has assembled a variety of high-quality, certified seeds for growers to choose from. Hard red winter wheat seeds coated with Indigo’s microbial technology are being sold for $22.75 per 60-pound unit.

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