Joe Airheart, Precision Ag Specialist
Joe Airheart joined our co-op over 11 years ago as a truck driver. Proving he had an impressive work ethic, Joe quickly moved through the ranks and spent 7 of those years as an operator, handling everyday maintenance on the equipment. From the hands-on equipment experience, Joe not only developed an interest in Precision Agriculture, but found he had a talent for improving machinery.
“About 4 years ago I saw an opportunity to do something different by working in the Precision Agriculture department at the Innovation Center,” Joe explains, “I used my extensive knowledge on how the equipment works to make it better and make machinery more user-friendly. I’ve been doing that ever since, upgrading customers’ equipment to better match their needs.”
While Joe is a vital part of the Precision Ag team, he explains how the team works together, “If a grower comes to me with a problem that I can’t solve, I review it with the team of experts at the Innovation Center. Just because I might not know the answer doesn’t mean somebody else on the team doesn’t know it. All of us work together.”
Joe works on building relationships with his growers to better understand their individual needs. When customers approach the Precision Agriculture team thinking they need the ‘latest and greatest’ equipment – that’s not always the case. Joe says, “I like to know if the new equipment is actually going to help their operation or if it’s just a popular item that makes them stand out against their neighbors. I like to understand exactly what they’re trying to do. Then we can determine if that option will work for them or if there’s something completely different out there that’s better for what they’re trying to accomplish.”
One quality that always sets Joe apart is his determination to consistently enhance machinery for growers to have better results.
Joe says, “I like doing improvements to make things better, instead of just being happy with how it is. I’m always thinking, ‘How can we make it better? How can we do it differently to help the operator or the end-user and help everybody in between?’” That’s exactly the attitude you can expect from the team of expert Precision Ag Specialists at the Innovation Center.
Joe rarely comes across a problem he can’t solve. However, in one particular case with a longstanding customer, he got stuck. Joe explains, “We went through all the steps to fix and run a grower’s planter. We thought everything was working perfectly and we were ready to hit the field…but as soon as we got started, we saw issues. We spent many days fighting the problems on this planter. We even had engineers with the company come out to help, but they weren’t able to fix the problems, either,” says Joe. But he didn’t give up until the problem was fixed.
“Finally, we started changing some of the power components. Once we realized this was the issue, we were immediately able to make the planter function like it was designed to do.”
Once Joe was able to help get the planter up and running, the grower saw some of the best corn and soybean crops he’s had since he began farming many years ago. Like many Innovation Center customers, this grower now trusts Joe to resolve any of his machinery problems and to improve the equipment on his operation to make it run more efficiently and provide better results on his farm.