For nearly 30 years, Phil Needham has worked in the United States promoting European-style intensive wheat management to growers. Needham grew up on a family farm in Lincolnshire, England. His family primarily raised wheat and barley, rotating into crops such as peas or canola.
He recalls as a boy working alongside his grandfather. “I was really inspired by my grandfather,” says the fifth-generation farmer. “He was a good observer of things. I got some of that, but our son, Benjamin, who works with us in the business has an extraordinary sense of observation. Lots of people look, but they don’t see. Having him in the field is great because he sees things that most people don’t.”
In 2005, he and his wife, Holly, launched Needham Ag Technologies from the family’s tiny home garage in Calhoun, Kentucky. That modest beginning has become arguably the leading company offering products and solutions in 30 countries to improve the performance of no-till seed drills and air-seeders, leading to higher yields and increased return on investment for producers.
“Lots of companies will sell you parts, but they have little to no agronomy background or insight behind their products,” Needham says. “We do a lot of research and testing based on agronomy principles. We don’t sell replacement parts. We sell parts that are improvements to the manufacturers’ originals, whether that’s through greater durability or performance.”
Being an agronomist allows Needham to see and understand what transpires in the field, which gives him insight into seeding system weaknesses that an engineer designing equipment at a computer will never see. “I consider myself an expert in doing stand counts,” Needham says. “When you start seeing differences, you start looking for reasons why, and can find those weaknesses. Once you do, you start looking for ways to solve them.”
“We’re just a small family-owned business trying to make a difference,” Needham says. “We want to help farmers. That’s the bottom line.”