Big companies with small teams in Champaign-Urbana are often at the heart of industry innovation.
In January of 2019, AGCO opened their Acceleration Center in University of Illinois Research Park. Site Director Lena Head (below, cutting the grand opening ribbon) promised that the team would “explore new ways to help farmers build smarter, stronger farms” while the center provided its student interns with “valuable growth opportunity to work on real-life projects with a global agriculture company.” AGCO, a Fortune 500 agriculture company developing farming tools, processes and storage systems, is well positioned to offer just that.
Also speaking to the cutting-edge role of the Acceleration Center, Adam Weiss, a GSI director at the time, stressed that the center was designed to focus on both web development innovation and “big swing” projects. He described the latter as “research on things that in a public company you traditionally wouldn’t spend the time or resources to focus on. Long-term strategic things that may not even pan out.” Thus, the Champaign-based team was built to “take big swings and explore things that we typically wouldn’t.”
Perhaps the best “big swing” of the office yet is in the realm of mixed-reality technology which may afford industry-insiders a new way to see agriculture. In a February interview to Illinois Farmer Today, then- AGCO Acceleration Center intern Rahul Surti expressed excitement about his work in augmented reality. “We are bringing 3D models of agricultural equipment to life in mixed reality,” he explained. As a Chicago-land native, Surti does not have a farming background but he found the 3D modeling agtech project impressive.
While not ripe yet, the fruit of AGCO’s Acceleration Center has people buzzing. Adam Abels is from Iowa-based Ag Advantage Systems and he sells and installs GSI grain systems. Recently, he demonstrated GSI’s mixed-reality technology for an Iowan farmer, Jeff Divan, who was excited about the possibilities. Through goggles, Divan explored a 3D grain facility augmented over his real surroundings and expressed excitement. If that sounds hard to imagine, think about how Pokémon Go suggests a virtual reality over true surroundings but in 3D. Divan explained that the technology “really allows me to see how our farm’s storage system can expand. And this approach gives me confidence in the design.”
AGCO’s Champaign-based team helped develop the technology in this demo. GSI Director of Global Learning and Development, Lance Brown, pinpoints the utility of such technology for GSI clients: “The customer can actually see the facility and get a sense of the scale, determine if a change is needed, and make that change before any work is done.” AGCO’s team has grown since January. Thanks to many of the factors which make Champaign-Urbana a strong tech and research area, Director Lena Head continues to coordinate her team’s “big swings.”
To learn more about the AGCO Acceleration Center, watch the grand opening video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHTDk6O9BjU&feature=youtu.be
For more on the GSI’s use of the technology: https://www.deltafarmpress.com/technology/new-tech-puts-farmer-inside-future-storage-system