Agronomist of the Year
Award sponsored by J.R. Simplot Agribusiness
When it comes to crop diagnostics, Troy LaForge is willing to dig deep.
The senior agronomist for Rack Petroleum never overlooks an opportunity to get specific with a customer’s needs, drawing from his company’s resources and his own years of experience.
It’s his history in the industry that LaForge believes garnered him the nomination for this year’s Agronomist of the Year. “I guess my peers thought of me because I’ve been at it for so many years,” he says. “There are so many great agronomists in Western Canada.”
“At the Rack we work one-on-one with growers to understand their operation, before we recommend anything for them,” says LaForge. “My number one priority is in understanding where the greatest deficiencies in their business are, from an agronomic perspective. It all comes down to diagnostics, and making sure we’re implementing enough of the right diagnostics so the grower can make the best decisions.”
LaForge also avoids falling into a broad-brush trap when making recommendations. He favours diligent research and testing over quick conclusions, in an effort to make sure Rack’s customers are getting the best advice possible on the first go.
“We have way too much going on in the industry where agronomists are trying to give solutions without doing diagnostics first,” he says. “One of the things I wanted to focus on with our group is to always make sure we have the diagnostics in place, so we know we’re doing the very best thing for the growers.”
Providing the best service means working with the best resources the industry has to offer. Rack Petroleum goes the extra step in making sure the newest and most effective techniques are being used – but not before they’ve been thoroughly tested.
“We started our own research division four years ago, within the Ultimate Yield Management Institute (or UYMI, Rack’s proprietary crop diagnostic and yield management program),” says LaForge. “Best practices often are part of a good systemology, so our research is actually testing one systemology versus another. This helps our agronomists, retailers and applicators know what the best things are to be doing.”
“We are quick to adopt new technologies, and we always want to implement those technologies and get the most value out of them for the grower,” he says. “Things like daily satellite imagery, understanding the health of the crop on a daily basis, understanding how systems are functioning comparatively, all of this adds more to how we run our business.”
Best practices and high standards for service are only as good as the results they yield. Fortunately, LaForge hears consistently positive feedback from Rack’s producer customers.
“A lot of our clients are finding that their yields are more consistently at the top than they used to be,” he says. “They have confidence going into every year, knowing that they have the practices in place.”
Of course, in agriculture there’s no such thing as a sure-fire plan. LaForge understands this and sees the positives in a steady, realistic path to improvement. “I’m not saying that we’re 100 per cent right all the time, but we’re focusing on being more right, more of the time.”
With CAAR as a trusted ally in the agri-retail sector, LaForge takes advantage of the opportunities provided to him to connect with, and learn from, his peers.
“I’ve been coming to the CAAR conference since about 2000,” he says. “It shows how connected this industry actually is – that we need suppliers, we need retailers, we need agronomy and extension providers and we need the grower. Coming here helps you to build new connections, find new technologies, further your business and keep advancing.”
Troy LaForge’s research-driven, fact-based, deeply diagnostic, measure-twice-and-cut-once approach to agronomy has certainly proven successful – both in yield successes, and in building a solid reputation for his organization. And that fits perfectly into the company philosophy, he says: “Our whole mission statement focuses around improving the efficiency by which growers produce food.”
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