The 50th annual World Ag Expo kicked off this week in Tulare, California. Here are some of the top six moments heard and seen at booths and sessions throughout the show on February 16, 2017.

1. Continuous Improvement

If there’s a plan for efficiency, there’s usually an engineer behind it. That was the case on Day 3 of the World Ag Expo when engineers Khaled Mabrouk and Katy Griffin of Sustainable Productivity Solutions spoke about applying continuous process improvement in produce farming.

The duo explained in their session how productivity exercises such as the “Lean (zero waste)” method and Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) can be effectively used in farming:

Improving Farming Productivity:

  • Engaging front-line workforce
  • Keeping workers comfortable
  • Providing encouragement
  • Becoming process-driven
  • Focusing on problems within the process, not people
  • Enhancing problems solving skills throughout organization
  • Following a problem-solving methodology
  • Solving problems at the root cause
  • Introducing appropriate engineering tools at the right time
  • Using visual management tools: photographs, activity boards, floor tapes/signage for storage

2. Left Brain/Right Brain Type of Thinking

In his session “How Extraordinary Farm Managers Make Decisions Differently,” John Kempf, founder of Advancing Eco Agriculture, described the decision-making traits of successful farmers he’s met through his work with growers around the world. He categorized the qualities through a left (business-minded)/right (emotional-based) brain prism:

Left brain qualities of successful farmers:

  • Prioritize – They spend 80 percent of their time on ways to increase revenue and 20 percent on reducing costs. They know how to delegate and how to increase quality. They often delegate the task of reducing costs to experts like accountants.
  • Use manageable data, particularly economic data, to make management decisions
  • Spend 5 to 10 percent of their time learning by attending shows, watching videos, learning what other growers are doing
  • Early adopters: NOT open to progress – resistant to change
  • Think big, start small, scale fast

Right brain qualities of successful farmers:

  • Have exceptional employee relationships; their workers been there a long time and others want to work there.
  • Have a heartfelt, energetic connection to farm, crops, livestock: A gut instinct when something is wrong.
  • Resolve the internal dissonance: create a balance between profession and personal fulfillment.

4. Toro’s drip irrigation recycling service

Need a recycling service? Toro partnered with Recycle Revolution to bring farmers the Ag Plastic Pickup App, a “ridesharing for plastic” app.

The service area for the recycling program is the California coast and San Joaquin Valley for a quick turnaround, Inge Bisconer said at the World Ag Expo. The north and southland is on a more scheduled basis and will be expanded as fast as the company can.

Ag plastic pickup app: “ridesharing for plastic” available for android app store and apple app store.

  1. Download – grower
  2. Submit – grower. Add or select an existing pickup location
  3. Route – revolution plastics
  4. Pickup – revolution plastics

Allows growers to order the pickup instead of calling.

On-farm collection uses (cost reducing collection methods):

  • state of the art grapple trucks
  • Free bins – no more piles of plastic
  • Rollers for rent to consolidate plastic
  • Other custom solutions for large growing operations

Advantages of this service:

  • Faster pickup – focused team with company-owned fleet dedicated to providing farmers the best service
  • Less selective – ability to service smaller quantity pickups and accept a variety of plastics
  • Big farms, no big deal – able to offer tailored solutions for bigger farms by covering larger geographies
  • Superior business model – plastic collected becomes USDA made ECOLOGO trash bags rather than recycled resins
  • Sustainability

For more information, visit Toro’s DripTips.

5. Smart Meters Simplified

Reading an electric Smart Meter doesn’t have to be difficult, says Bill Green from the Center for Irrigation Technology at Fresno State. Green says the equation is the cost to move ag water using electric-powered pumps: kWh/acre foot = 1.0241 X TDH/OPE

kWh – kilowatt hours
tdh – total dynamic
OPE – overall pump efficiency

We can calculate wire to water pump efficiency using flow rate, TDH and kW from the Smart Meter, according to Green.

Watch the smart meter scroll through the readings:

  1. First reading isn’t used
  2. Second reading is kwH. This is the total kWx X hours accumulated
  3. Third reading is kW or real time power consumption
  4. kW/.746 = HPin or HPin X . 746 = kW

Thirty percent of pumps have flow meters, almost like 30 percent of cars have speedometers, Green noted.

Visit the Pacific Gas & Electric website to make sure you have the best rate for your pump.

6. Improve Human Resources to Get Engaged Employees 

Only three out of ten people are engaged at their job, according World Ag Expo speaker Kristine Ranger. That means the other seven people are disengaged, or think of it as “just a job.” During her session, “Riding for the Brand,” Ranger offered ways to better engage workers. 

Three ways to engage workers:

  1. Employees need to be know and appreciated.
  2. Employees need to know that their job matters.
  3. Employees need to be able to gage progress and see their level of contribution.

Improving human resources from a systems perspective is key. Ranger says that it’s the leadership team that is ultimately responsible for creating and implementing human resources systems and it needs to be a part of the business plan. Ninety-five percent of an organization’s problems derive from the systems, not from the people.

Use these six questions to improve your business’s branding and identity:

  1. Why do we exist
  2. What do we do
  3. How do we behave
  4. How will we succeed
  5. What is important right now
  6. Who must do what

7. Minimize Loss on the Farm

Don Cameron the general manager of Terranova Ranch says change is constant. The best ways to handle change on the farm is to embrace change and technology while also being able to admit a failure but move on. Terranova Ranch recently changed and installed subsurface drip irrigation throughout the farm within one year after finding great success with a crop on a test plot. Cameron suggested minimizing any potential losses to your farm business with crop insurance and preventative measures put into practice. Knowing the crop and keeping up with weather trends can help with better timing and farming smart, Cameron said during his session “How to Increase Profits While Mitigating Risk.”

Follow these six tips when trying to increase profits and mitigate risk:

  • Contracted crops
  • Spread risk
  • Follow trends in food
  • Listen to buyers
  • Deliver high quality
  • Maximize yields

Read more: Live from World Ag Expo Day 2 Recap