Dave King, who worked as the marketing manager at Ag Leader Technology for 13 years, has moved to the iron side as the new director of sales and marketing for Salford Group. We caught up with King on his way to the airport after a company-wide meeting with BBI and Valmar, two companies Salford recent acquired (see our exclusive coverage on the event on page xx). We asked King about these acquisitions and how his background in precision farming will play into his new role at Salford.
Q. What will the purchase of BBI and Valmar mean for buyers?
These companies will help us round out our granular fertilizer product line. Now we are the only OEM manufacturer to offer a complete line of granular application products, and we continue to bring out new features with the Salford tillage line as well. We can do broadcast application with the spreaders and air boom applicators, we have air carts for direct injection, and we can mount fertilizer applicators on our tillage equipment and incorporate fertilizer in the same pass. We also can use the products to do cover crop seeding. Valmar’s cover crop units can be mounted on our vertical tillage machines, and you can apply granular products with our vertical tillage machines as well. So BBI and Valmar’s products were a natural extension for us. We are positioning ourselves not only in the tillage market but the fertilizer and cover crop industry as well by using their equipment in conjunction with our tillage line.
Q. What percent of the market would you say are planting cover crops?
It is small, less than 5% I’d say. But there is a rapid uptake. A lot of the interest has come from the Great Lakes Watershed, where they are looking for solutions to protect the watershed from fertilizer runoff. But farmers also are seeing the value of cover crops in soil health, especially if you plant crops like radishes that can go 2 to 3 feet down and break the compaction layer. And they also are putting more nutrients back in the soil, which helps cut down on fertilizer use.
Q. Where are you seeing the biggest interest?
Planting cover corps is weather dependent a bit. Further south it is easier to do cover crops because you have a wider window for the cover crops to come up after you take the row-crops off. But even in Midwest, we are starting to see Valmar units and even our Salford air tanks used. We built them to fit on high-clearance sprayers so while the corn or soybean crop is still in field, you can go through and plant cover crops in between the rows before the crop is harvested.
Q. What will we see from Salford on the precision farming front? Will you be integrating more electronics?
It is something we will be working on. We have electronics incorporated already in our air carts and BBI spreaders. BBI spreaders can automatically control multiple product applications at varying rates with electronics. Same thing with our air carts. They can do multiple-product, variable-rate control. So we offer electronics on that equipment today. We just need to sync all that between the companies. So we will be re-evaluating our electronics offerings and we hope to have solutions starting next year across the board. This fall we will have new iron products as well. Going forward, we will be adding electronics to not only fertilizer and seeding applicators but also our tillage tools.
Q. So, we might see tillage products that can vary rates of tillage across a field?
We offer that today. Two years ago we came out with hydraulically adjustable shanks on our vertical tillage equipment that you can raise and lower from the cab according to what is needed in areas of a field. This year we are adding hydraulically adjustable harrows and rolling baskets, as well, that can be controlled from the cab. They are not hooked up to electronics today, but looking forward, they are set up so that you can add electronics to them.
Looking ahead, if you have a certain spot in a field that is low lying and always has weed or compaction issues, we can map that, and when the tillage unit hits that spot on the map, it will just automatically drop the shanks, baskets or harrows. We don’t do that today, but moving forward, that’s what we’re looking at.
Q. Will you have your own propriety line of precision farming products?
From a product offering and support standpoint, we want to have a product we can put out there from the factory. But at same time, we want to make sure we can support whatever electronics the customer uses on his or her farm. So we may ship a spreader out the door that has one of our monitors on it or no monitor at all to control it. But because we have Isobus modules, you can plug into a John Deere, Case IH, Ag Leader, Trimble or whoever’s monitor and start controlling the unit right away. So we will offer a complete product out the factory and also offer a module-only package that farmers can use on equipment they already have.
Q. Are your dealers getting g a lot of requests for cover crop equipment?
They report seeing more and more interest from farmers in cover crops, and there are more articles being written about the benefits all the time. Gary Fennig, owner of Fennig Equipment in Coldwater, OH, has been working with the Valmar line of cover crop seeders, which are being mounted on vertical tillage tools. He says the market has exploded for them. The dealership is getting phone call after phone call from farmers wanting a vertical tillage tool for that purpose.
Q. You touched on the topic of nitrogen runoff in the Great Lakes and how it is driving the use of cover crops. From an equipment standpoint, what other options are available to address the problem of runoff?
It is certainly becoming a bigger issue. There are watersheds from Des Moines to the Delmarva Peninsula in the news and waterway buffer strips and nutrient management plans are becoming regulated in certain areas. It is likely we will see more of that across the Midwest. We have tools to help solve these problems, from vertical tillage to planting cover crops to direct injection of fertilizer. We can run a spreader across a field and come back with vertical tillage pass to incorporate it. Or we can hook an air cart to a vertical tillage machine and do two functions in one pass or use an air boom system. So there are a lot of options to meet the need.
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