Stopping by the WIBW Ag Issues radio program this week, Daniel, shared with host Slade Wiley, the importance of balanced biology within agricultural soils and Concept AgriTek’s mission to help farmers achieve that balance.
Hensley shared that being a nationwide company, Concept AgriTek sees the gamut of weather conditions and farming challenges, helping the team of over 40 sales professionals, agronomists, chemists and support staff hone in on the needs of the farmers they work with. And while the team has grown, the goals have been the same since the beginning when Daniel, owner and founder, Trey Curtis, an intern and one part-time office support professional manned the company.
“I was doing agronomy work for a large corporate farm and they were kind of stuck in their ways on the fertilizers that they were using, so I was doing a lot of research on different ways of doing things. Through that research, I met Trey, the owner of the company, and my guy told me, “This is a really good company and it has a lot of potential.” Two months later, I was working for Trey as an agronomist,” Hensley shares.
As a company, Concept AgriTek has come a long way since planting its roots in 2010, and while the company is growing leaps and bounds year-over-year, outsourcing manufacturing has never been a conversation.
“We’re located in Charleston, Missouri, and we manufacture liquid and biological products in our facility. We don’t white label anything, we fully make about 95% of our products,” Hensley says of the company’s ability and continued expansion of the production facilities to meet customer needs…needs that he says he, his team and the agriculture industry is learning more about each and every day.
“I can tell you that we are just scratching the surface of what we are learning as an industry. Technologies have come a long way and our knowledge has come a long way, as well. But, man, every year we are finding ourselves saying, “We didn’t know that.” I want to be really clear- we (the agriculture industry) is still learning and what we all want farmers to know is that what we are learning is really exciting,” he says.
Hensley says that the newfound knowledge is helping the Concept AgriTek team approach solutions a little bit differently than many other companies in the space. Their approach considers and develops on the idea that there isn’t just one biological that does all things. Progress through stress mitigation, soil health and yield increases takes agronomy, biology and chemistry all working together.
“Our flagship product, Buncha Bugs, is applied to the soil and it helps to free up nutrients. And that’s really the starting point, with fertilizer prices being where they are today, we are able to use less fertilizer,” he says, but adds the clarification, “I’m not saying we cut fertilizers out. We’re able to use less, which helps the farmer in the long run and in their pocketbook, but it also starts to get that soil in a much more productive state.”
Healthy soils are the first step in creating healthy crops, helping them to achieve and maintain the resilience required to fight off disease and insect pressure while outcompeting weeds for important nutrients.
“It’s just cool,” Hensley says of what he and his team have found to be the “kickstart” to higher yield and reduced inputs.
“Then we started to shift gears and look at biology in the soil and how we could use it to fight nematode pressure. There are huge pockets of the U.S. that are loaded with nematodes and our goal was to help those acres using biology. We didn’t want to use a lot of the harsh fumigants and synthetic chemicals, so we went down the path of looking at different consortiums of bacteria to battle nematodes,” he says.
“And then as we were going through third-party testing on peanuts with the University of Georgia about five or six years ago, the University’s research team asked if they could use one of our products in a fungicide trial. It performed really well, and so from that experience, we started working on a fungicide. Today, we have an EPQ labeled biological fungicide—which is really cool!
We just took this biological idea and now we have products that are for soil and plant health, fungicide, and pest control—It’s been a fun ride and we’re still going.”
The road to developing products that have truly made a difference for farmers hasn’t been an easy, paved path, nor has it been fast to travel. Since 2010, the Concept AgriTek team has continued to look for opportunities for improvement both in terms of product development and product improvement. And as Daniel shares, the team doesn’t claim to have all of the answers and isn’t working toward being the only solution to production agriculture. What they are working toward is building the foundation for production agriculture.
Wiley asks Hensley, “There are companies trying to find a way to eliminate the need for fertilizers and other synthetic chemicals. What are your thoughts on trying to eliminate the need for all of the chemicals that we use in farming?”
Hensley’s quick to address the crux of the question as a moving target, “What I can tell you is that the more healthy and balanced you can make the soils, the less need you have for a lot of the other things we spend money on. We also know that soil that has an acceptable pH and is balanced both nutritionally and biologically, we see our broadleaf weed problem start to go away. What we see is pressures start to go down on these soils,” he says, wrapping the conversation with advice to farmers.
“If you haven’t tried any biology, pick up living, breathing biology – not a catalyst, not a humic acid, not a fulvic acid – pick up a living, breathing biological product and try it on your farm. Because what we’ve learned is that biology is a huge, huge piece of the puzzle in increasing yields and decreasing inputs.”