However the drought plays out this year, it likely won't stop a good flow of new products and services that are headed to the marketplace. At least that was the impression I took away from the tradeshow of the Agricultural Media Summit in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last week.
Booth space at the InfoExpo, as the show is called, was sold out. There were a number of new companies on hand, a few of which seemed to be entirely new to ag . Many were handing out flash drives full of new product information and gave off a glow of business being good.
The precision ag suppliers are going great guns. Lori Costello, marketing communications manager for Ag Leader, had a hard time singling out only one new product to talk about--as I insisted. She settled on the company's new hydraulic down force system for the planter, which she thinks will be one of the most popular new products with farmers this spring.
Seed companies were out in full force, too. There were a lot of questions of them about drought-tolerant corn, as you might expect. Syngenta was touting its "innovative R&D pipeline" of new traits. A company called Alta Seeds enthused about its new brachytic forage, a forage sorghum the company expects will compete with corn silage for acres next season.
Jerry Harrington, a Pioneer representative, said he expects the company to expand the number of its drought-tolerant Optimum AQUAmax products. "At this point, it’s too early to anticipate how many products we’ll be introducing across the Corn Belt or in which regions we’ll be introducing them," he said. "Those decisions will be made after we’ve evaluated products in our 2012 product advancement test plots."
On another technology front, The Climate Corporation continues to impress with a new suite of insurance and information products for farmers. They pulled back the curtain a little to show me some cool new tools they'll be unveiling to farmers in the year ahead. The San Francisco-based company is bringing a big wow factor to agriculture that's on par with other Silicon Valley developers.
The crop chemical sector seems to be teeming with new ideas, too. Cheminova, for example, has had good success recently with a pesticide called Topguard, which is used to control cotton rot, a highly troublesome soil-borne fungal disease. The Danish company is planning to rise from its low-profile presence in the U.S. this year and begin offering a full mix of herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides.
Jerry Ecklund from Unverferth lured in the media with a little quiz about his company's new equipment offerings. Unverferth is bringing out a new wagon and seed tender this fall, and have more innovation in the works.
From Novoenzymes I heard an enthusiastic presentation about a whole host of new biological products for improving plant and livestock health.
The enthusiasm was contagious. Then on the plane home I read an article in The Atlantic Monthly, which talked about the "triumph of family farming." In the piece, a leading hedge fund investor was quoted as saying he believes farming is “one of the most exciting professions” in the world—and that the recent boom is likely to continue for a long time."
That's the kind of vibe I found in Albuquerque. I hope it rings true this fall here in Iowa and everywhere else in farm country.