From the plains of Kansas came an innovation that took home the biggest prize at the 2018 Farm Journal AgTech Expo. On the expo stage during the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 4, four agtech startups participated in the Innova $100,000 Row Crop Challenge powered by AgLaunch.
The startups were vying for a $100,000 venture capital investment from Innova Ag Innovation Fund IV, a USDA certified Rural Business Investment Company whose investors are eight Farm Credit banks.
A judge panel of four farmers listened to each pitch, scored and then named the winner—Kopper Kutter and its Arro row crop head modification for harvesting sorghum, sunflowers and other specialty crops.
Alan VanNahmen, head of product development and marketing manager explains that the Arro conversion kit aims to make harvesting these crops fun again. He drew on experience from harvesting thousands of acres of sorghum every year, and he saw the potential in converting corn heads to a specialty head for additional reliability.
“Instead of pulling the crop down, we cut it off and take it in,” he explains. “After some trial and error with designs, we settled on dual disk cutters with smooth disks.”
Arro stands for Alternate Rotary Rowcrop Option, and the kits are available for all major OEMs: John Deere, Case IH, New Holland, AGCO and Claas.
Alan VanNahmen says the awarded investment will go toward more product development, including expanded focus on additional crops.
The other three participating startups were:
- Rogo (formerly AgNext): The SmartCore by Rogo (formerly AgNext) uses a fully-autonomous robot that collects and packages soil samples with complete depth-, pattern- and location-consistency to give farmers more accurate soil data so they can make more profitable fertilizer decisions.
- SioTeX: SioTeX is an eco-friendly specialty chemical manufacturer that makes a pure biogenic amorphous silica from rice hulls. Agricultural customers use the silica as a high-quality soil amendment to protect plants from mites, fungus, and stress and to increase crop yields.
- Smart Farm Systems: Smart Farm Systems provides farmers with a precision irrigation monitoring and control system that allows them to apply just the right amount of water at just the right time on a field-by-field basis, conserving resources, improving crop yields and profitability.