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Best of NAMA 2020

Editor's note: This year we had several notable entries that weren't named Product of the Year but deserve to be recognized as a strong second place.

We had one entry that took the award in a different direction -- from crop and livestock production input products to products with value-added output traits. Its story follows.

by Asoyia LLC

"Faith, luck and timing." That's what inspired Iowan Jim Sladek and a group of other soybean farmers to start their new company. Rather than sticking with the traditional model of harvesting, delivering crops for processing and walking away until the next growing season, these growers saw an opportunity to integrate farming with production, marketing and sales. They would call the shots and capture a larger portion of the value added to their crops.

With that, Asoyia LLC was born. Just one year later, the company is engaged in full-on competition with some of the biggest names in food service. Its product, Asoyia Ultra Low Lin Soybean Oil, has the taste and performance of hydrogenated soybean oil but without any trans fats. Beginning in 2006, the Food and Drug Administration will require food manufacturers to list the amount of trans fatty acids on food labels. As a result, pressure is on restaurants and food manufacturers to use oils that eliminate trans fatty acids.

"Asoyia addresses everyone's needs today," says Vivan Jennings, Asoyia CEO. "Zero trans fats, reduced saturated fat, little transferable taste, long fryer life and non-GMO. Plus, food cooked in Asoyia tastes great."

Asoyia entered the market after years of scientific development and testing. Its 1 percent linolenic acid content -- the lowest available -- eliminates the need for hydrogenation, which conventional soybean oils need to maintain freshness and stability. Hydrogenation creates trans fatty acids, so eliminating this process also eliminates the trans fats. Oil producers have developed other methods to avoid hydrogenation, but doing so often compromises other traits. In contrast, Asoyia eliminates trans fatty acids without increasing saturated fat or adversely affecting taste.

"With Asoyia, our customers notice no taste difference," says Jason Wheelock, manager of Hickory Park Restaurant, Ames, Iowa. "And the oil lasts twice as long as what we used before."

The company has already gained dozens of customers since the product launched last October. While Asoyia originally planned to focus on the fry oil market, tests have uncovered other applications, including salad dressings, baking, sautéing and spraying.

Restaurants, food manufacturers, and hospital and university food service operations like the product's combination of health and performance benefits. Melissa Clark, Iowa Health Des Moines, says, "Our customers are excited we're eliminating trans fats and providing healthier versions of their favorite foods."

Food distributors are also now carrying the oil to appeal to their customer's customers.

Asoyia oil is produced from 1 percent linolenic soybeans, the result of more than 30 years of research and crossbreeding by agronomists and food scientists at Iowa State University. The beans were field tested for several years throughout the Midwest, and the oil was evaluated by food scientists, nutritionists and restaurants.

In its inaugural sales year, the company marketed 4 million pounds of oil. Next year, 14 million pounds will be available after harvest of this summer's 25,000 acres. Beans are provided by 125 growers, and each receives per-bushel premiums, transportation benefits and revenue sharing.

While these quantities seem large to the small Asoyia operation, they are -- pardon the pun -- a drop in the bucket. The frying oil market alone is 18 billion pounds strong. Given Asoyia's David stature in an industry of Goliaths, the company chose a highly targeted marketing approach, positioning the product as a premium oil. Marketing strategy focuses on highly targeted efforts to find pockets of the food service and food processing markets where the oil's unique characteristics can make a significant bottom-line difference.

The Asoyia Test Program has proven an efficient pipeline for sales. The company and its partners provide samples and technical support to help prospects with the R&D process in their own test kitchens. Customers praise Asoyia's personal service and quick response to specialized needs, such as providing new container sizes for easier handling.

Asoyia VP of Sales and Marketing Rich Lineback knows competing against the country's agribusiness giants is an uphill battle, but he would not trade his job with anyone. "Ours is a 100 percent positive message -- we've got the highest quality product, at a good price, with a unique array of features. And all profits go back to the growers. I couldn't represent a better product."

by AGCO Corporation

The mid- to high-horsepower row crop tractors are the most widely used type of tractor among North American commercial farmers. The competition is tough in the ag equipment industry, and innovation and improvements, sometimes seemingly small and incremental, can be a key to market success.

The PowerMaxx CVT (continuously variable transmission) generation of AGCO tractors has proven successful in making the very highest levels of tractor technology widely available, well supported by a large number of dealers and affordable for North American customers. As a result, operators report fuel savings of up to 30 percent, improved accuracy of planting and other applications and increases in output per hour worked.

CVT technology provides infinite speed selection from 60 feet per hour up to 32 miles per hour. Therefore, the perfect speed to plant accurately, save the most fuel or do the most work in every hour is always available.

In 2000/2001 AGCO had a very successful campaign, "You've Gotta Drive One," to encourage trial usage of the new AGCO tractor brand. It made sense to evolve from that theme, which speaks directly to the need to encourage trial of this new breed of tractors with PowerMaxx CVT. It gives the operator a very different experience -- one that needed to be experienced firsthand.

The necessity to get the dealer force excited inspired the Speed Trials sales promotion program, now in its third generation of operation, where different sales contests allowed dealers to earn contest points not only by selling tractors, but also by doing demonstrations -- preferably head-to-head comparisons with competitors' tractors in a prospect's own farming operation. This, coupled with major dealer launch and introduction meetings, giving dealers "stick time" to experience the technology firsthand, created a situation where dealers ordered more tractors (to do demonstrations) and were able to sell the benefits with conviction. Dealers placed orders at these events that consumed all then-scheduled 2005 production of RT and DT tractors.

These integrated efforts paid off with dealer excitement and commitment, producer benefits and a resulting increase in market share and profits for AGCO.

by Bayer CropScience
(and formerly Gustafson LLC)

The seed industry's mantra for many years has been "it all begins with the seed." Gustafson LLC (now owned by Bayer CropScience) took this perspective to heart when it created the seed-applied insecticide (SAI) product class in 1995 with the Gaucho® brand seed-applied insecticides for cotton and grain sorghum. In 2000 Gaucho was also approved for use on corn and was then replaced by the Poncho® products in 2003.

Before the introduction of the Gustafson SAI technology, corn growers wanting to control early-season, secondary corn insect pests and corn rootworms were forced to use one of three options. The first option was the use of soil-applied insecticide at planting time, which required the separate purchase, storage and handling of the granular or liquid products. Another option was the use of planter-box-mixed insecticide treatments. Although this option does not require additional investment in planting or handling equipment, it requires significant time and labor for hand-mixing the product, along with some quality control issues. The last option was the use of foliar spray products used as a rescue treatment once damage and loss were already identified in the crop.

The development and introduction of SAI technology, and Poncho 250 and 1250, specifically, allowed growers to eliminate all additional time required to protect against the targeted insect pests and required no additional costs for the equipment or for the storage and application of a separate product at planting time.

Market research, plus feedback from close relationships with seed companies, revealed that growers would respond to the convenience and handling safety of a seed-applied insecticide, and that seed company partners could leverage and profit from the added value that the product could bring to them.

Working with hybrid seed corn company partners required several innovations in order for it to be a win-win situation for all involved. New programs were developed to ensure adequate product availability in the marketplace, provide consistent product application for consistency in plantability and efficacy, share risks of inventory control and management, and provide a new model of pricing and selling products to partners based on units of seed sold or treated.

Few technologies or products come along that have the ability to truly revolutionize an aspect of crop production. It's rare to create a whole new product category such as the SAI product class. As a result, Bayer CropScience/Gustafson has achieved tremendous growth with an estimated 50 percent of all U.S. seed corn treated and roughly 80 percent share of the SAI market segment.

by Lallemand Animal Nutrition

One of the challenges that have faced producers using silage in their feed rations is spoilage. On average, commercial feed accounts for roughly 43 percent of the ration. The balance of the ration comes from the silage produced on the farm. This scenario led Lallemand to develop forage inoculants that would help the producer improve this situation.

The goal of silage production is to maximize the amount of nutrients preserved and to achieve optimum palatability. Spoiled silage is low in nutritional value and can severely depress dry-matter intake and cause health and fertility issues. A key to preserving nutrients is to not only improve fermentation but also improve aerobic stability of silages. Buchneri 500 containing Lactobacillus buchneri 40788 reduces the growth of yeasts and molds in haylages, as well as cereal and corn silage, and makes the silage more resistant to spoilage in bunk, pile or pit silos and less prone to heating at feed out. Traditional inoculants improve fermentation but do not consistently improve the aerobic stability of silages.

In launching this product, Lallemand utilized controlled messages to gain the trust and understanding of nutritional and research communities. This platform created with the nutritional research community allowed the next phase to kick in -- communication with retailers and distributors. Launch meetings created an opportunity to promote, educate about and differentiate Buchneri 500 from other silage inoculants.

In summary, by isolating the fastest growing and acid-producing lactic acid bacteria and combining this with enzymes to fuel the fermentation and with the revolutionary Lactobacillus buchneri 40788 in Buchneri 500, Lallemand has been able to deliver to producers a product to control both ends of the ensiling process, maximizing nutrient and dry matter recovery, virtually eliminating the specter of stinky and spoiled silages and helping the producer to truly make the most their forage production. AM

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