The Apex Experience sorts through crop production complexities to help deliver success

February 12, 2024

The Apex Experience sorts through crop production complexities to help deliver success

If today’s ever-evolving agricultural technologies, innovations, processes and environmental considerations leave you scratching your head and confused, Wilbur-Ellis can help. Successful operations have found tapping into the insights and expertise of a variety of sources delivers the support they need to achieve growth and profitability.

To bring our grower customers and their businesses comprehensive solutions to nearly any crop production challenge, Wilbur-Ellis adopted The Apex Experience in 2016 to address increasing industry complexity and uncertainty.

“Our ‘Apex Experience’ centers on the relationship between our grower customers and our field consultants. It provides teams of specialists in nearly any area the grower might need support to solve a problem, improve productivity and/or enhance their return on investment,” said Brian Hendricks, Wilbur-Ellis district manager.

“The Apex approach allows us to resource experts in critical areas like agronomy and horticulture, crop protection, field technology, soil health, water management, organics, and food safety and compliance—to deliver expertise, experience and resources for a variety of production issues,” Hendricks added.

The Apex Experience delivers specialized expertise

At the center of The Apex Experience is the Wilbur-Ellis field consultant, often recognized as a “jack-of-all-trades” who invests in understanding an operation’s strengths and challenges. The field consultant’s expertise lies in the areas of crop protection, crop load management, pests and disease—and Apex provides them with access to a variety of experts who specialize in other areas.

“Growers are getting larger and facing more complex issues,” said Hendricks. “With this team approach, one person doesn’t have to be an expert in everything. We provide highly trained team members to support very specific, critical needs.”

The Apex Experience implements water-saving practices

Wilbur-Ellis is constantly innovating and partnering to bring new tools and ways of thinking to help growers. The Wilbur-Ellis irrigation water management team put the Apex approach to work helping growers maximize their water usage and ensure their soil moisture is ideal for nutrient uptake.

“Working side-by-side with growers and their field consultants, we help growers integrate water management practices and technology like Probe Schedule soil moisture probes,” said Ben Sullivan, Wilbur-Ellis agronomist.

“Probe Schedule delivers the precise amount of water needed at optimal times to avoid over- or under-watering,” Sullivan added. “In fact, many growers have actually changed their watering behaviors and nutrition inputs as a result of using Probe Schedule. And the technology provides benefits to both the local environment and the grower’s bottom line.”

Sharing insights with growers across the country

The Apex Experience enables the sharing of knowledge and resources across the organization, which is especially valuable when it comes to field technology and crop research and development.

“We’re evolving many technologies for specialty crops here in the Pacific Northwest, for example, and we’re simultaneously sharing those with our apple-growing teams in Michigan to help maximize healthy fruit production across the country,” Hendricks said.

“For example, CropSights is one of the data management tools we launched in the Cascades that we recently rolled out in Michigan,” Hendricks explained. CropSights helps growers access real-time and historical information so they can maximize the value of their fields and orchards.

In Michigan, the team uses CropSights to track in-season applications and input costs along with field-specific data to help apple growers improve fruit health and maximize profitability.

“We know farmers are inundated with data—and drowning in it,” said Dennis Devitt, Wilbur-Ellis specialty crop manager and statewide viticulturist based in Michigan.

“CropSights monitors real-time crop health including soil moisture, pests and disease, plus nutrition sampling data for soil and plants. It also tracks in-season applications and input costs along with field-specific data to help growers save time and effort when working with their advisor team,” Devitt added.

The platform enables the team to set pest thresholds by orchard block to show up as green, yellow or red. And as they see blocks go red, they can assess each situation and prescribe solutions.

“Wilbur-Ellis is committed to being the best solution provider to growers out there, so they can in turn get the best return on their investment,” summarized Hendricks. “Apex gives us the framework and resources to be successful in this mission.” 

Apex brings proven Team of Teams approach from military leader  

Hendricks and Wilbur-Ellis first adopted The Apex Experience business approach in 2016 from New York Times best-selling author and retired United States Army General Stanley McChrystal, who is best known for his command of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) Task Force which defeated Al-Qaeda in Iraq in the mid-to-late 2000s.

In McChrystal’s book, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, he outlines how and why he organized the JSOC task force into a “team of teams” when conventional military tactics were failing against the world’s most fearsome terrorist organization.

His then-new, ground-up leadership style was devised to empower small units by supporting cross-communication between teams. This allowed them to respond in real-time with more agility, unity and efficiency—to make important decisions better and faster.

“We, too, need people at the ground level—our consultants in the field—to have the authority to make decisions and take action, with everybody on the same page knowing and understanding the right approach or direction,” said Hendricks.

“The Apex Experience, or ‘team of teams’ approach, has proven successful in making teams flatter, more adaptable, responsive and integrated. It has strengthened our teams and customer relationships, and we’ve even gained more customers because of its success,” he added.

The Apex Experience follows the Wilbur-Ellis purpose of providing essentials for the world to thrive and captures how the organization builds relationships and conducts business.