When WinField, Land O’Lakes, Inc.’s crop inputs and insights business and United Suppliers made the decision to bring their businesses together, it centered around building a future of agronomic leadership.
The merger was just the first step. At the end of September, we hosted the grand opening of the WinField® United Innovation Center, a state-of-the-art product and technology testing and development facility, as an epicenter of agronomy research and development.
The recent grand opening of the facility in River Falls, Wisconsin, brought together partners in innovation and research from government, higher education and private enterprise.
The event celebrated the opening of a nearly tenfold increase in space to give researchers exactly what they need: the space and equipment to develop tools that will help farmers sustainably grow more food using fewer resources. The 55,000 square-foot facility replaces the 6,000 square foot WinField Product Development Center and Spray Analysis center.
“The WinField United Innovation Center further strengthens our research and development capabilities and our reputation as a leader in 21st-century agribusiness and innovation,” said Chris Policinski, president and CEO of Land O’Lakes, Inc. “The research and testing performed here will enable more targeted applications of crop protection products, which benefits both applicators and farmers. It also helps move the industry forward to achieve greater sustainability in land, water and air quality.”
Each year, WinField United commits $50 million to research; of that, $10 million will be dedicated to research at the WinField United Innovation Center.
The new facility features a custom-designed greenhouse and growth chambers, meeting space, chemistry, seed care and PNP labs and our Infinity Group, which is a group of spray application laboratories with some of the most advanced capabilities in the world and top-ranked researchers. The Infinity Group uses state-of-the-art technology, including a wind tunnel, one of the few in the United States, to evaluate the entire application process, including crop protection and adjuvant formulations, tank mixes, nozzle performance, spray characterization, drift and droplet deposition and plant uptake. Spray application variables are tested to precisely measure drop size and how quickly the droplets move and connect with the plants.
The center has a significant history in River Falls, enjoying a 27-year partnership with the University of Wisconsin–River Falls. It has hired interns and full-time employees from the university over the years and conducted a variety of research and field trials on university land. The new facility will continue to partner with the university on research and innovation.
“Before we bring products to a farmer’s fields, we make sure they work in our fields first,” said Mike Vande Logt, executive vice president and chief operating officer of WinField United. “All of our products are developed with farmers top-of-mind. Our product development process is a stamp of approval that represents the comprehensive, rigorous, proven method we use to bring products and technologies to market.”
When you combine this with more than 200 Answer Plot® locations and extensive data validation processes, the WinField United team is uniquely positioned to develop data-backed product and technology recommendations farmers and the retailers can trust.
“As the rest of the industry is just getting started on their own merger activities, we are two-years further along in the process,” said Vande Logt. “We have boots on the ground and are ready to deliver our total agronomy solution to our owners and customers. It is another example of how we have the size and scale to compete and have earned the right to win.”