ISU Student Creates Planter Attachment To Relieve Soil Compaction

ISU Student Creates Planter Attachment To Relieve Soil Compaction

Ag Entrepreneurship Initiative at Iowa State helps students develop new products, launch businesses.

Another unique product has been developed by a student in the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative at Iowa State University's College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. The program and the product he invented have helped him start his own business.

RELIEVE SOIL COMPACTION: Creating the ideal soil environment is an essential part of increasing crop yields. TrackTill works to restore and replenish the root zone in the center rows where wheel tracks cause compaction when planting. Colin Hurd, an Iowa State University 2013 graduate, developed the idea for this product and founded a new business called Agriculture Concepts.

Colin Hurd, an Iowa State University 2013 graduate in agricultural education and studies, got the idea for the product in 2011. He was taking an ag entrepreneurship course at ISU which challenges students to come up with new products or ideas that could be marketed or developed into a business. He formed a company, Agricultural Concepts, and launched the product, called TrackTill, in 2013 with the help of the Ag Entrepreneurship Initiative. TrackTill is an attachment mounted on the center rows of a planter to relieve soil compaction caused by the tractor's wheel tracks.

"The Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative was started in 2005 and encourages students to broaden their understanding of entrepreneurship and business development," says Stacey Noe, program coordinator. "Agricultural Concepts is the second student business launched through the program. ScoutPro was the first business, and it started in 2011." 

His idea to start this business came from ag entrepreneurship course at ISU

MORE PROFIT PER ACRE: TrackTill is designed to eliminate soil compaction caused by weight of the planter and tractor during planting. TrackTill increased corn yield in the compacted rows by an average of 8.12 bushels per acre in ISU tests. Patent is pending.

Like the founders of ScoutPro, Hurd's business concept grew out of his participation in the ag entrepreneurship course offered at Iowa State. The course asks students to pull from past experiences to recognize potential business opportunities. Hurd immediately thought of his internship experience with a large-scale farming operation in central Iowa. While working for the business, Hurd observed the effect of large-scale planters on soil compaction.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~

"I could see the tracks from the planter and tractor, which had created notable in-row compaction of soil," Hurd says. "The compaction led to yellowing of the corn plants and it stunted their growth as the growing season progressed." As farm sizes have increased so has equipment, which in turn increases soil compaction problems, he notes. Soil compaction causes changes in the soil's bulk density, porosity and hydraulic properties, which contribute negatively to field production levels.

TrackTill is designed to eliminate soil compaction caused by large row planters

TrackTill is designed to eliminate soil compaction caused by large row planters. The units consist of vertical rolling tines, which slice and fracture soil to relieve compaction up to 12-inches deep. The tines pass through the soil subsurface without disturbing the seedbed. TrackTill attaches directly behind the wheels of a planter and is easily raised or lowered as needed. One of the unique features is TrackTill's ability to use the planter's weight to relieve compaction with adjustable down force.

TrackTill preformed remarkably well in yield studies conducted by ISU Extension last summer, says Hurd. "The research showed more than an 8-bushel center row yield increase, meaning an investment in TrackTill will pay for itself in less than two years for most farming operations. I'm excited about bringing this level of value to growers."

ISU field tests last summer showed the product can pay for itself in less than two years in most farming operations

Taking his concept from the classroom to real life was an easy decision for Hurd. "As I considered my future I recognized there was a real need for a product like TrackTill," he says. "I knew it wouldn't be fair to the industry or to myself if I did not see the business through."

Kyle Meyer, an ISU ag systems technology graduate, is a member of Hurd's business team. Meyer oversees all product development and production activities for Agricultural Concepts. Agricultural Concepts has also formed a partnership with the Van Wall Group in Perry, Iowa to sell the product.  

To learn more about Agricultural Concepts and TrackTill, visit the website or contact Colin Hurd at [email protected] or 515-520-1665. More about the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative at ISU is available here.

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