Strip-Till Farmer caught up with AGuru Machinery founder, president and strip-till specialist Bill Preller for a conversation about the future of strip-till and how his company fits into the equation. 

What’s the origin story behind the name AGuru? 

Bill Preller: The name started as a joke from a customer of mine during my crop consulting days. I’m originally an agronomist by training, not an equipment guy. He tagged me as the “corn guru.” The guru part stuck — we want to be the gurus of strip-till and help farmers be successful with strip-till. 

What’s the future of strip-till in your mind?

There have been some very established players with very good products that are 20 years old. People are looking for what’s new — they want to know what’s different and innovative.

In the last year, we sold three high-end products to three customers who all fit a very specific profile. They farmed 6,000 acres. They were multi-generational, professional farmers. They had two 4-wheel drives and two field cultivators. They bought our strip-till rig and went “cold turkey."

These aren’t your fringe type operations. They’re mainstream all the way. They received some environmental incentives, but a great deal of their motivation came from the labor savings of strip-till compared to conventional tillage. And then there’s the agronomy aspect of strip-till — it’s a better agronomic system, and these folks are figuring that out. The future of strip-till is the future of row crop agriculture. I believe that strip-till will eventually be a mainstream practice. 

WATCH: Bill Preller unveils AGuru's new strip-till unit at the Farm Progress Show and
explains what differentiates it from other products on the market.

The 3 benefits of strip-till you’re mentioning — agronomic, economic, environmental — which of the 3 do you think is most important?

In the past, there’s been a mindset that environment and agronomy were actually adversaries of each other. “You need to no-till because of this (soil health benefit).” In response, someone might say, “Yeah, but it’s going to cost me 20 bushels per acre of corn.” Strip-till checks both boxes.

There is an environmental soil health benefit because strip-till introduces oxygen into soils in a sustainable, responsible way. The economic impact comes from the more efficient use of nutrients, labor, etc. There’s the agronomic impact of gaining 10-20 bushels per acre. Strip-till is a win-win-win for all three. Which one is going to have the biggest impact in the end? It has to succeed economically, right? Sorry, that’s the way the world works. This system works economically, but also helps environmentally and helps the farmer with labor issues.

How do you feel about dealership development? Are you branching out, and who is your ideal dealer?

In a world with Amazon, what is the value of the dealer? The value of a dealer is not distribution. It’s actually expertise. Dealers will tell you over and over again that they can’t charge for expertise — somebody else undercut. I believe in a niche specialty market like strip-till, that expertise is actually the value. 

The “guru” name came from somebody teasing me that I was the guru of corn. But the positive side of that is when somebody had a corn problem they would come to me. When somebody has a strip-till problem, they’ll come to us or to part of our network. In fact, we don’t even call dealers “dealer.” Because that’s a wholesale dealer. We have a different model and we call them “market partners.” Our primary expectation of the dealer is to have the strip-till expertise to help the strip-till farmer, whether they are pros and have done it for 20 years or they are brand new to the practice. We want people who represent us in the market to be knowledge experts on strip-till. 

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