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Crop Quest Inc.: Ensuring Room to Grow for Farmers across the Midwest
Crop Quest Inc. (Crop Quest) is the largest employee-owned crop consulting company in the world, offering precision agriculture services and consulting. The Kansas-based company services more than 1.4 million acres of farmland in eight states across the U.S.
Crop Quest’s extensive reach is due to the company’s skilled agronomists who develop custom-fit solutions for each individual client, including soil sampling, fertilizer and chemical recommendations, field checks, irrigation scheduling, nutrient management, equipment calibration and a wide array of other valuable services.
The company was founded in 1992 by the late Rollie Stukenholtz, former CEO of Crop Quest, and Ron O’Hanlon, current CEO of Crop Quest. Stukenholtz envisioned a company that would provide producers with unbiased recommendations to help maximize the efficiency of their operations; and he was not alone. Stukenholtz and O’Hanlon were quickly joined by 65 agronomists from a former consulting company to begin the success now known as Crop Quest.
Today Crop Quest reaches a wide area throughout the U.S., from Nebraska to Texas, Wyoming to New Mexico and even into Wisconsin. Crop Quest’s agronomists consult on a variety of crops, including traditional row grain crops such as corn, wheat and sorghum. There is also a growing interest in specialty crops within Crop Quest’s clients, such as fruits and vegetables that are grown in some of the warmer climates.
Employee-owned and Customer-driven
Crop Quest has remained 100-percent employee-owned and -operated for more than 21 years. “Each individual qualifies to participate in the employee stock ownership plan [ESOP] after their first six months of employment,” details Matt Tuxhorn, accountant and ESOP administrator at Crop Quest. “Financial statements are open and explained to all employee-owners as part of the Crop Quest open communication initiative.”
According to Tuxhorn, the company has 91 full-time employee-owners that benefit from 100-percent coverage of health insurance premiums, annual company trips, competitive wages, flexible work schedules, company vehicles and excellent retirement plans. “In addition to the ESOP we also have a profit-sharing plan,” details Tuxhorn. “Each year, Crop Quest contributes between 14 and 16 percent of one’s total compensation between the ESOP and the profit-sharing plan. We also have a 401(k) plan that the employee-owners can contribute to.”
That is not all that Crop Quest does to show its appreciation. “Every year Crop Quest takes us on a company trip to make up for all of the time the agronomists spend away from their spouses during the busy crop growing seasons,” shares Tuxhorn. “Last year, we went to Jamaica and in 2014 we’re going to Mexico. This past January, we went skiing for five days, with a group of nearly 70 people. It’s a way of saying thank you to the employee-owners who’ve put in many long hours over the year.”
With Crop Quest’s benefits, it is no surprise the average employee retention rate averages 10 years or longer. “We still have 21 of the original employee-owners on staff,” remarks Tuxhorn. Tuxhorn is proud to note that Crop Quest recruits potential employee-owners by offering a summer internship program, attending career fairs and supporting local 4-H, National FFA Organization, Little League teams and other youth leadership programs. “In our promotional practices we really try to market the Crop Quest motto of being employee-owned and customer-driven.”
Supporting Agricultural Producers into the Future
Crop Quest understands owning and operating a farm is not the easiest way to make a living; however, the team’s niche is providing agricultural producers with the right recommendations to help produce a crop through whatever conditions Mother Nature may present. However, the team does not stop there. Crop Quest also tries to maximize the performance of whatever products the farmers are using. The company covers nearly every aspect of a farmer’s needs, from seed varieties to disease scouting, detailed field reports to crop rotation planning, computerized crop budgets to precision ag services.
Additionally, Crop Quest has recently invested in new cutting-edge equipment and technology. The team has an implement called the Veris EC, which is pulled behind a tractor. “As the Veris EC is pulled through the field, it records the electro-conductivity as it moves through the soil giving an indication of soil texture and potential crop productivity,” Tuxhorn explains. “They are able to generate accurate soil texture maps that can be used in multiple ways by our agronomists and their producers.”
Crop Quest is also experimenting with small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) or drones, which will be used to fly over a producer’s field to help identify problem areas caused by pest, fertilizer or irrigation issues. Crop Quest hopes to have its sUAS program fully operational once the Federal Aviation Administration (FFA) finishes developing its commercial sUAS regulations. The team at Crop Quest is currently obtaining training and education in the sUAS technology and gaining the licensing needed to operate the drones in U.S. airspace.
Tuxhorn projects continual growth for the 21-year-old company. “The past 10 years, financially, have been record years for us,” he admits. “But, we still have to be concerned with the drought and economic downturn affecting our clients. It’s about managing the resources we have and helping producers profit, because when they grow we grow.” Crop Quest Inc. continues to provide expert agronomic assistance to agricultural producers throughout the Midwest with a wealth of knowledge and invested employees.
For more information about Crop Quest Inc., please visit: www.cropquest.com.