Welcome to the culture of agriculture brought to you by Sputnik equipment. Go and introduce yourself I’ll follow up.
Yes, so my name is Layne Richins I work for Stotz Equipment. I’m the Precision Ag Manager,
Are you the manager for the local or all of Stotz?
So I run all of the technology stuff so I’m the precision manager for all of Stotz Equipment on area did that cover so Stotz Equipment is family owned dealership we have 25 locations in eight states. So we cover from Arizona, all the way up here to the Snake River Plain. So we have locations in in Burley, Twin Falls, Preston, that’s an American Falls. Those are our main Idaho locations. And then we also have some stores over in Wyoming and Utah.
What do you guys do out of Wyoming there’s not a whole lot of Ag in that state in there.
Um, there is actually in Riverton, there’s a lot of sugarbeets, okay, and some row crops there in Riverton. There’s some real crops out in Casper. That’s our two locations in Wyoming. But a lot of a lot of that is is renting.
It might alienate quite a few people. But I never really cared much for oil. Every time I’ve had to drive through it, it’s just been kind of kind of miserable. Well, they put those roads in a strategic location, like the worst place that they could find. There’s some really cool stuff, like my job here. It’s fun, like I’m the shipping manager. So it’s my job to get any of our equipment anywhere that it needs to go throughout, like the continental US, Canada, any of that stuff and I I’m in charge for getting the stuff that we go the sins overseas actually loaded in the container to get out. So like, anytime it’s got to go on a I 80 on that Eastern part or at in Wyoming, it’s always miserable. So like, anytime I load a truck with a big even flow that has to go out there, I just I kind of feel bad every time because it’s like pulling a giant parachutes. And they’re supposed to pull it 60 miles an hour at least through that stretch in the winds always blowing like 90 miles an hour through there. So it’s a rough patch. So you’ve got stories in Wyoming too. And then
and then we go down through four corners. So we have a store in in Colorado and then in Farmington, New Mexico. Then down through Arizona, we have five locations in Arizona. Okay. And then we also have Las Vegas. And then we also have several stores in California that are primarily golf and turf. Okay, so Stotz Equipment we have, you know, we cover we do a little bit of everything. You know, we got the green equipment, and then the compact construction. And we also have our golf line.
You mentioned like construction stuff or not really.
So we just barely picked up this CCE is what Deere people call compact construction equipment. Oh, we pick that up within the last year or so.
So he’s starting to push on that too. Yeah, so the precision part of precision ag is gonna blend over into that pretty well as well.
Yep. And just recently we rebranded so we used to be Stotz Equipment Precision Ag and now we’re Stotz Precision because we have, we have a lot of technology that we’re that we’re dealing with on a daily basis from the construction side as well on the on the construction side, we have leveling systems, for they have a smart grade, compact track loader that will do full GPS leveling, and earthmoving. And then on our golf side, we have a lot of technology there too. So we’re we’ve been moving a lot of GPS sprayers in the golf world and taking the cool part about that is we’ve been doing that in agriculture for a long time, right. So so we’re using the same exact technologies that we’ve been proven through agriculture for and 15 years forever. And now we’re just moving it over into the golf world. So that’s been a challenge the times trying to figure out how to get that and just get it on that smaller scale, like the boom on that sprayer is 18 feet, you know, so it’s like a section on a big one
I can see how that’d be rough. So like I said, my background is now I’m working at Spudnik. I’ve been here a little over a year now before that I grew up farming. So I I grew up I was born and raised in the Eastern Idaho area. I grew up on a farm up north to here about an hour and started working there when I was seven. And then from there, it’s just history of farming for the last forever. A couple years ago I moved back out into the Midwest and did some farming out there and a couple other things. So don’t Tito’s wheat, barley, corn, soybeans, a lot of different stuff and really good farm manager for me out in the Midwest, so I didn’t have to be like the poor guy that was up at you know, the crack of dawn are staying up all night long harvest and he did a great job but still out there a little bit but yeah, tons of precision. history. So like, like I said, I started doing the light bar thing when I can’t remember how long ago now like light bars became a thing. And then from there, the next one I really remember really remember was like the Beeline guidance systems. We use that and then after Beeline, we switched to Trimble. And then I think we were one of the first farms on the at least on the west side of the Mississippi, if not even just the nation to set Trimble up to do implement guidance to and that was actually on a Spudnik planter, we took one of their eight row pole type planners and had him put another axle on it because the standard configuration is two axles on the back. So four wheels. But where I grew up, farming was really hilly. So we needed an extra axle on there to help hold those hills. And when we switched from a six row, hang on type potato planter to the eighth row pole type planter. Our rows actually got a lot straighter, really with a lot less fuel consumption because the hang on planner was a was a Lockwood Aircup planter, which takes at the time anyway, I’m around one in a number of years now but at the time took a ton of power to get that fan around. So when we made that switch to doing the implement steering, that was a huge bonus. And then I think a year or two after that we switched into using Trimble’s chemical application stuff for controlling our Fertilizer and Chemical. And I remember our projection was it would pay back in two years at most. And it actually paid back first year. And then I worked on that for a couple years. And then we switched to John Deere after that.
and that was the best thing you ever did. Right?
Sure. I they all work right? Like Trimble was in business. And they got their first is I remember. I can’t remember how long ago it was now. And I don’t know that I want to because like I said, every time I tell these stories, it gets longer and longer and longer ago and I tell the story and what used to be five years ago is now 10 Or what used to be 20 is now 30. And it kind of makes you feel a little sick to your stomach because time goes so fast. Right, right. But I remember we ran Trimble for a couple years and then we actually ran that prototype John Deere tractor when they were doing the eight RT demo stuff when they were switching to using the CVT transmission in them. So we demoed that that spring, and we ran the Trimble guidance on that tractor pulling one of our planners. And I think it was that same year, which was probably had to be 10 years ago. Now. Somewhere in there, the guys from the John Deere GreenStar program basically showed up and said, Hey, what do we need to do make sure that this John Deere guidance works. And I think within a year or two, we’d switched over to having John Deere have all their steering setup immediately from the factory to where you just throw that dome on and go, that’s huge. And so much cheaper than what Trimble had at the time where you had to buy the controller mounted inside the cab. And then if you wanted to move it, you had to move, all of that just made it so much more. So more simple.
And I think now there are even like, the new tractors if you could get them because of the supply chain issues, right. But if you get them like those tractors just come in with a receiver already in it, the display is already in it. So you don’t even have to it’s already just part of the tractor anymore.
You compare it what it is now where precision ag is now versus where it was 10 years ago or even like in its infancy 20 years ago, and it’s it’s massive. So
what think anymore like the technology must be working, or they’re not the tractors broke down.
I don’t know, i your i i remember. Right about the time we were making that switch from beeline to Trimble was kind of that. And this was probably almost 14 or 15 years ago now. That was when it was the switchover from the guidance is really really nice to have to if the guidance is not there. We are not going to we’re gonna we’re gonna sit here Yeah. And I remember remarking at the time that probably anybody who had listened like I remember when if you know it was just staring was just nice to have and if you had a great and if not, you’d go now everybody if they can’t steered can’t even move. Because I mean and I remember on our farm, it made huge difference because you went from being able to, like you would need an operator that was a really good operator to you put somebody in here that doesn’t necessarily know how to run the tractor very well as long as they can run whatever you’re running. So like if you’re just running something simple, like a disc or a chisel plow, you know, if you had somebody that could put on a new tongue or make sure that they were Diskin like they were grease in your your gangs or whatever. That was good enough. Whereas before he had to have somebody that can actually drive relatively straight to not waste days by the time you were done going over your entire farm right So
I think it’s changed so much though. Now like, yeah, guidance, but guidance is the like, that’s just the easy stuff. Now, I think we’re moved into the digital age and and the amount of data that we’re collecting all the time. It’s what’s what’s valuable now? Obviously, if it’s not steering, yeah, that’s drags broke down.
Yeah, for sure. And like, what would you say? It’s like, hit some of these points here that were outlined for us. So the first thing is what’s Precision Ag right, which I think we’ve probably covered because it goes anywhere from guidance to fertilizer, chemical control, right? to actual data capturing, right, because anybody can capture, then I think, then it’s about what you do with this data. Right, right.
Like, let’s not forget, that’s the most important and the most valuable piece, like having a bunch of data is useless. We got to figure out what to do with that data. And how are we going to use that to get better and improve what we’re, what our operation is? How can we turn that into dollars,
that was one of my things I like to remark on will say, when I was farming, because like we had some data that we had that was 20 years old or more 30 years old, in some cases, and we just had it never really did anything with it. But we had, we could say we had it. But now especially, you know, you look into row crops, stuff like corn and soybeans, where they’re gathering all that data, and they’re actually able to take and really use it. So what are you seeing, as far as that on that? Like the crops that are more relevant to what’s been extended? You’ve seen anything push in that way with with potatoes yet?
Oh, yeah, for sure. I think. I mean, there’s been yield monitors out there for several years. But I think one of the barriers has been price and complexity, which is what I feel like that the take rate on that kind of a product was, was, I would say, pretty low overall. So we kind of a little bit more about storage equipment. We because we’re we have a big footprint. But we also really believe that this technology is what the future of agriculture is. And it’s that it’s that’s how our customers, like the owner of that company, he really thinks that the customers that are most ingrained with the technology, and what we’re doing, are going to be the most profitable farmers. And that’s what our goal is, and that’s what we’re striving to do is try to help them become the most profitable. And I think some of the cool parts is we are geographically spread out. You know, in Arizona, we have a different crop mix, and we do up in Idaho, but we also have some of the same stuff. You know, we have potatoes in Arizona, we have obviously, in Arizona, we have a lot of cotton, which you don’t have in Idaho and in that country. But the cool part of that is because we’re really invested in the technology, we have a big team. So I have a team of 25 guys that are just specialized in the technology, though they’re obviously spread out across that footprint. But we have a lot of guys, so what that creates is it creates a lot of know how a lot of relationships, a lot of understanding what’s going on. And then we get them together all the time. So then we truly, really try to help each other understand what what’s going on in Arizona, and how’s that going to relate to Idaho? What’s going on in Idaho? And how’s that gonna relate to Arizona, and then it’s all gonna go through the middle through Utah. And
one of the advantages to that might be like, one of the things that I always liked about farming, but it’s also a big downside is you only get to plant once a year, you only get to harvest once a year. So there’s only a chance for, you know, if your planting season takes two or three weeks, you can only learn anything better in those two or three weeks. Right? Same goes for harvest. But in Arizona, you start planning when you say first part of December. Yeah. So you start planting in December, and when do you finish?
They’re done, Probably February.
So you’re planting for three months. Yeah, that’s three months that you can try something, see how it works. If it works, try and improve it if it doesn’t work, figure out what didn’t work, and then re implement it. You compare that to what Yeah, and then up here, I’m gonna, yeah, come on what you’ve learned down there, bring it up here and implement it, so that you can actually work it and then the seasons bleed over to where you can keep trying stuff. So that’s huge, especially when you’re planting seeds and takes so long and then it can bleed over through different areas. You can learn a lot. So like on your on your yield monitors for potatoes, how does that work?
So what we did was there’s several different yield monitors out there. But what what we did is we came up with our own yield solution. So it’s a Stotz Equipment, we’ve developed it, we came up with it. And so what we did with it is I actually took the technology from cotton, and took some of that knowledge and know how, and combine that with putting cotton, John Deere cotton picker parts on a Spudnik potato digger, and then we’re weighing and tracking trucks. And we can create that yield map so that we have a scorecard, right, because that’s what a yield map is, is that’s our that’s our scorecard or our grade, at the end of the season. Right? So we can then start learning and improving.
How do you account for tare on the harvester, that’s the hard part. It’s always been Yeah, I remember, like, a long time ago, now, there was a guy who was trying to get us to buy some yield monitors. And we tried it out for a little while, but it was so variable because of the tariffs that it didn’t work. So that’s the hard part. So you better that way,
it’s not necessarily any better.
It is the harvest equipment gets better at eliminate red or that’ll get better. And this was long enough ago, I can’t remember if this was, before we bought into Sputnik equipment or not like this was a long time ago. But it was really rough, because he was using in us use an ultrasound sensor, I think, to try and measure the flow of the potatoes on oxygen on top of the belt, the chain, right. So like, the higher was, the better your yield was, but if you’re going through a wet spot where you can’t get rid of your dirt, or if it’s a spot where there’s a lot of quads or something like that are really rocky, like any of its gonna throw it off.
And I think that’s, I think it’s going to get better. And we’ll have more solutions to that as time goes on. I know there’s a lot of companies out there trying to figure it out. But as of right now, we’re just weighing. So we’re we’ve got load cells on the belt to chain, and we’re weighing as it goes across, we’re also measuring the temperature of the surface temperature, the potatoes, okay, as they’re going into that truck. And we’re logging all that. And then we’re taking that information. And it’s all integrated with the John Deere system. So it’s 100 fully integrated with the John Deere side. So it’s just going to send it right straight to the cloud. So there’s no additional, like telematics or anything that we have to add to the machine.
So when you take your yield map, right, so you have a harvester and a stick and however many rows, right, so it’s at least two rows, and up to 16 rows, right? So do you just take an average your yield across our wide that path ends up being then? Do you track? Have you started tracking where those potatoes come from in the field and then trying to figure out where they go into storage after that? If they go in a store?
The solution that’s the Stotz has doesn’t do that just yet. But we do that with Greentronics. We have several customers that we do that with and we’re able to see exactly where in the cellar, that potato went, where if we had a problem in the cellar, then we can trace it back to where it came from in the field, it can actually be a huge help for food safety programs.
Yes. When I was running food safety programs while it was farming, I had to account for all of that, too. So being able to track that back to the field makes a huge difference. Yeah.
So our current solution, we’re just we have a timestamp, we have a location. And then we would know that that we would know if we were to win that truck came in what number it was in that cellar. But we’re not like Greentronics has that the whole piece, the end to end traceability. And then I think the other thing that we’ve done at stoats is we just tried to figure out what what are the problems that are out there in, in ag space? And how can we use the technology to solve that problem. So we’ve even taken some of that Greentronic stuff and reversed it and then said, Okay, came from this seller, we planted it here. So taking that information and figuring that piece out, and then we’ll track it from there back to the seller.
So all the way through. So from inbound to outbound in the end, that’s awesome.
But it all takes money, right?
Corey Steidley told me 10 years ago or better now he’s like this stuff than a million dollars won’t solve. And he said it as a complete smartass, because he was my salesman at the time. And he was always trying to get everybody spend money, and he did a pretty good job at it. But just the way he nonchalantly said that that one day I don’t think I’ll ever forget because it was also the middle of harvest and I really needed something. Then he just said, Oh, we feel like all right, yeah, bring it up. Fine.
Yeah, I’ve always said we can we can solve a lot of problems. It’s just a matter of money.
And it always is. So have you got anybody taken, the data that they’re getting from their yield monitoring and using that to make He prescriptions or whatever for the next year that that goes in via so like if it’s going from potatoes. Has anybody had any success yet going into their next rotation crop yet? wheat or barley or cotton down south? I don’t know what you plant?
Yeah. So it’s, I think it’s growing like we’re, we have a lot of data on the traditional right, because we’re not growing a potato there every year. So we have a lot of that data, you know, that came from wheat or barley
or and that’s just whatever’s here to grab already. Right? Because so much demand across these the States and Europe and everywhere for it. It’s not
a specialty crop, right? Yeah. And so John Deere is always, you know, really good at the corn and soybeans in the weeds, traditional crops. That’s their bread and butter. Yeah. And I think that’s what we have to try to do here in the West is we have to try to take the solution that John Deere has that’s for corn and soybeans, and try to figure out, how do I apply that to my growers that are not in the traditional grower space?
Yeah, it makes sense. And
that’s kind of what this yield monitor thing is like, they come out with a product. And then we have to try to figure out how do we bend and twist that and actually make it work for this situation?
Have you taken your yield, monitor data, and then compare it to what’s actually in the storage to see I hear it is back and forth.
So yes, but the nice part is, that number is editable. So if we know that we got 315 sacks, an acre and a total of whatever that total was, we can put that in the system. And then what’s really important is understanding the variability within that field. Right. So like I always say, the best practices, calibrate it, get it ready, but don’t calibrate it within a field. Yeah, you know, you want to leave that the same. So that we can still understand where the where the variability was, if I do a calibration, then it’s going to change yield one side to the other, before and after that calibration. And really, if we get it close, that’s good. But we can always adjust that later. Because we’re never going to get it exact, even even with all the traditional yield monitors, they’re doing so much now with like active yield on those on the new columbines. But still, there’s always, it’s nonlinear.
So it always has to be interpreted, right, because they use, they use a weight system. And so if you’re going through a low spot in your wheat, or your corn or whatever, it is a little higher and moisture, it’ll throw it off a little bit. Yeah. But so you have to take all of the information that you gather and then apply some actual just knowledge of your farm to that to be able to, to go right in because like, if you get a really heavy spot in your field, or the yield monitor things, your yield is great. And really what it is, is just a low spot, and you’re carrying a lot of dirt on your machine, or it’s just a low spot and your weeds a little bit wet. You know, or your your chaff is coming out real wet and just says that your yields Great. Yeah, that’s not necessarily true. And you don’t want to fertilize to that.
But the best part is, the farmer generally knows. Yeah, you know. So it’s really, like, you can’t just use the data, you have to you have to take all that data, and then really go back to the farmer. Because at the end of the day, those guys have been doing this for a long time. They know what works and what’s causing that. Nine times out of 10.
So how are you getting that? You’re capturing the data? And then you’re going back to the farmer? How are you getting him to use that to do some variable rate stuff on your following crops?
Well, I think it’s just a matter of like, okay, bringing their understanding, like they understand, you know, what has worked in the past? And what, what’s maybe causing that, then you bring in some of these extra layers like, Okay, here’s our yield, is it shedding waters? Is it retaining water? You know, what kind of profile is it? You know, is the water running off of this part of the field? Or is it puddling in this part of the field, and we can manage based off of that difference as well. So then you take his information, combine it with all the data that we may or may not have and figure out like, Okay, what is our best option?
So what are you seeing? Maybe not what, how much success? Are you seeing so far? Was variable rate technology, helping your field and water management for farmers?
I would say it’s still in the process. I think that in the traditional crops, it’s, there’s people been doing it for a long time. Yeah. And everybody understands that and that the logic is all there. But we also have to take into account like the soil tests, right, you know, we’ve been doing soil tests for a long time and that we still have to try to figure that piece out combined with all the data combined with the know how the farmer it’s a complicated piece. But ultimately, that’s it is what we want. Yeah,
It’s just funny because anytime I I can’t help but struggle. And I think anybody who’s ever farmed understands, like when you say something complicated with farming, it’s, it’s one of those things is really easy to say. But it’s so hard to actually understate because, like, you can tell a farmer, but you can’t tell him much because everybody’s really stubborn. Right? And not very many people are willing to be on the very cutting edge of this. Because one, it’s expensive to it’s not proven exactly yet, right? And then by the time it actually gets to be completely proven, or to where it’s not expensive. So many other people have been doing it for a long time, but you’re on the backfoot. So certainly, like, have you had any luck convincing somebody that they need to be on the cutting edge of this, to be able to really gain some benefits off of it,
I would say that we don’t, we don’t necessarily have to try to convince people, we’re pretty lucky to be honest with you. Like, I feel like we have some of the best customers that are really engaged and they really, they’re hungry and want to try to be better and try to figure out how can we make more money, right, it’s, that’s what we’re trying to do, is trying to make farming more profitable. And we’ve had great customers that we’ve been working with for a long time that are willing to invest in the technology, and try something new, and try to figure out and then also work with us, so that we can understand it and try to get better, and try to figure out how to share that and to improve the overall.
So how are you taking some like, because all of this data can be pretty flexible, right? Because like, it all needs to be interpretable. Because like, you know, we went over the heavy spots in the field are going to show great yield. But that’s not necessarily true, right? There really light spots in the field might show a poor yield. But that’s not always true, either. It just depends, right? Because it’s not a one interest rate about here. Right? So how do you take this data and then apply it going forward in a flexible enough manner to make it actually work for everybody? Does that make sense? I gots a tough question. Because it’s so it’s so open ended. Like what works one year doesn’t always work the next year, like I remember when I was you don’t have the same weather, the best yield I ever had farm and potatoes. We finished later planning that year than we ever had ever before. By I think a couple of weeks, harvest went really well. But like you end up with the shortest growing season we’ve ever had. Because where I was farming, we had to kill our potatoes to be able to harvest them in time. Because if we waited for the vines to just die down, it was too late. It’d be October before we could be in the field. And any day in October was almost just like a blessing being able to actually use it. So, you know, how do you how do you take this data that you’ve got and then convince how not convinced they take the data that you’ve gotten them work with farmers on presenting an actionable plan,
I think I really think at the end of the day, most of it has to do with like presenting the data, like, hey, let’s look at this, and let’s figure out what’s gonna work for next year. Right, and then make a best decision based off of the information that we have. So I think it has to be personalized. The other thing that I think we really focus on, because we are an equipment dealer, like we want to focus on equipment, and managing that input or managing that process. And we’ve we’ve really focused heavily on like trying to figure out, okay, how can if we can get this crop in the ground sooner, that’s going to give it more time to grow. Or maybe we’re able to get it in before the storm, like those things are big contributors to profitability. Same thing on the harvest stand, right? If I can, if I know my harvest window, and I can get it out before it gets muddied, or whether that’s, you know, in the wheat side, before the protein drops, or, you know, whatever that situation may be, like, understanding and knowing that when the when the situation is right, I know exactly how to set my machine. I know that what speed we need to run for the best quality. And then, like what we’ve done with a lot of our customers is really tried to focus in on that. How can we make sure that this really expensive tractor is performing like it really like a really expensive tractor. Not this really expensive tractor is performing like the 4020 Yeah, you know, let’s make sure that we’re utilizing
the 4020 rule. Plenty of people will come and get us if we say anything bad about that beloved tractor, but yeah, you’re absolutely right. So the program that John Deere has for that as JD link is that right? Management Tools,
it’s the Operation center is like, that’s, that’s the main hub that includes the JD link. JD link is the telematics portion of the Operation Center. So that’s what’s feeding all the information into the operation center. And then there’s also the JD link is really all about the machine data. So we’re fuel utilization or horsepower utilization, all the speeds. Idle time, are we running the machine? Or is it sitting there idling?
Here’s a question. Does the yield map? Can you have that tie in to how fast the tractor was moving? Yeah, on the yield as well. So you can see how quickly it was being planted for whatever crop for whatever yield. That’s actually kind of cool.
And we’ve had, we’ve had customers that wanted to tie back the planter, what planter planted and what was the yield of this planter versus the next planter.
So you can track the speed on the machine, the hours on the machine, the maintenance records on the machine, which is a big one, for anybody looking to actually be able to sell the tractor when they’re using it. You can track the planter that was used. I’m guessing that’s just an implement track or something like that. It’s just all about the machine serial number. Yeah. And so you would track that, no matter whether it was a like a John Deere corn planter or a Sputnik, potato planter, you just put it in by serial number and then track it through that way. And then that’ll tell you, if you use it right and all the time, how many acres that particular refinery has done, right? Yep. Is there a tool to be able to manage or track might be the same thing, really, the maintenance that’s done on those binders through the operation center?
Probably not on those planters. But on the machines there is for sure.
Okay. It would be kind of cool to be able to tie in, like, the maintenance costs on the machine. I suppose there’s some programs out there that can do that. But to be able to have it all in one place would be pretty handy.
We’ve been doing like, so. I mean, when we started doing this, you know, several years back, the operation center was at a at a decent spot. But where we’re at now like the operation center, and what John Deere has been able to do with the operation center, and bringing all that data into one place like it’s come so far,
if I remember the operation center started longer ago than I’d care to admit, but it was I think it was really in its infancy when people were trying to get me to bite off on it. 10 ish years ago, the technology comes so far so quick. That I mean, you look at what tractors were 30 years ago, versus what they are now. It’s quick, you look at what the technology was five years ago or 10 years ago, it’s even faster. What would you say the biggest advantages to using the operation center are versus maybe a competitors. Thank you for tuning in to the culture of agriculture podcast part one of precision ag.