By TIM ALEXANDER
PEORIA, Ill. — Headquartered in the central Illinois village of Tremont since being founded by Greg and Cindy Sauder in 1993, Precision Planting has evolved to become an international company specializing in precision farming equipment, mostly for the retrofitting market. Beginning in 2017, the company has been owned by AGCO. However, Precision Planting retains its core employees and management and strives to retain its small-town, Midwestern roots and core values.
With the opening of a new, 500,000 square-foot factory and warehouse just up the road from Tremont near the intersection of Interstates 55 and 74 in Morton, the company now employs over 455 workers, with 248 in Tremont and another 209 (and counting) in Morton. This is according to Caleb Schleder, Precision Planting senior manager and a central Illinois farmer, who offered an update on the company’s progress during a recent AgTech Connect meeting in Peoria.
“By and large, the Morton facility is operational. There are some things that we are going to continue to work on, but we have moved out of our previous assembly center and into this new building. We’re shipping out, and we’ve got some really cool technology and automation in there,” said Schleder, speaking to around three dozen members and guests of AgTech Connect, a local innovation network composed of regional agricultural and business leaders, educators and entrepreneurs.
Schleder said Precision Planting anticipates plenty of growth in the ag tech software retrofitting market, and is actively developing and testing several new products within their production pipeline.
“Speaking as a farmer, when we bring on-farm economics into the game it makes it a heck of a lot easier to buy your product when I know I am actually investing. It’s not a cost line item, it’s an investment line item, and I’m going to earn that money back by investing that technology on my farm operation. This is how we consider what products we want to launch and bring to market — by thinking about the ROI (return on investment),” said Schleder.
To that end, Precision Planting recently decided to begin developing retrofit software and products for agricultural sprayers. “Sprayers represent the next journey for us. There is a lot of opportunity for farmers to get better in that space, especially as we start talking about individual nozzle control and vision technologies,” Schleder said.
A recently developed technology product from Precision Planting is their Radicle Agronomics Soil Sampling System, a suite of tools that debuted in August after six years in product pipeline development. Radicle Lab, the “cornerstone” of the suite, is the world’s first fully automated soil laboratory, according to the company. According to Precision Planting, the Radicle Lab removes all human touches which occur during the traditional laboratory process, giving farmers the confidence to produce a precision soil analysis in minutes.
“It’s awesome to see our engineers rethink how our industry has done soil sampling for over 100 years. It’s a game-changer for farmers to be able to get more accurate soil samples and a better recommendation for how they can improve their farm,” Schleder said.
“We have an amazing team of engineers, field staff, product support and marketing team who really invest in that belief that we can make each individual farm better,” he added. “I look forward to walking into work every day because I know that the people around me are for the farmer and they are for each other.”
Earlier this year, Morton Mayor Jeff Kaufman said he was excited to hear about Precision Planting’s expansion plans, and welcomed the increased tax revenue and employment opportunities the new facility will provide.
“It’s been a privilege to work with Precision Planting during the planning process for the development of this new facility,” said Kaufman. “This new operations facility will help sustain the quality of life in Morton with new and retained jobs and new property taxes that are vital for our community. A lot of work has been done so that the infrastructure is in place to support both Precision Planting and future development in this area of Morton.”
Some of the workers employed at Precision Planting, such as UI/UX designers Sarah Irwin and Regan Ayers, who attended the meeting with Schleder, are graduates of Bradley University’s Interactive Media Program. Also attending the presentation were Heather Ford, BU UI/UX interactive media assistant professor, Christina Tucker, executive director of the University of Illinois Center for Digital Agriculture.