Choir teacher strikes high note with innovative planter
Jayson Ryner was frustrated while attempting to plant corn in 2018 and 2019 amidst record rainfall that created not only wet soil conditions but compaction issues that made planting the traditional way difficult.
As a no-till and strip-till farmer using cover crops in northeast Iowa on his 250-acre farm near Rudd, Ryner became keenly aware that even when utilizing pattern tile for drainage, his soil just wouldn’t dry out.
“I watched my neighbors swing in with a field cultivator and dry out their soil to plant,” said Ryner, a Floyd County Farm Bureau member. “I could drive on the field, the cover crop would hold up the tractor, but I couldn’t plant because the disc openers would make sidewall compaction.”
Ryner thought there had to be a better way, but answers other than “everyone does it this way” were absent. “So I started dreaming of a better way,” he said.
And that’s how ReEnvision Ag was born. Ryner designed a planter that essentially pokes a hole in the ground, puts in the seed and covers it up.
“At ReEnvision Ag we are interested in solving problems in commercial agriculture in an effort to create a traceable, reliable and sustainable food source with a reduced impact on the environment in a way that is commercially sustainable for family farms,” Ryner explained. “Our mission is groundbreaking agricultural innovation.”
Ryner, founder and chief executive officer, has been named one of 10 semifinalists in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) Ag Innovation Challenge, a contest that showcases ideas and business innovations in agriculture.
ReEnvision earned a $10,000 prize for making the semifinals and is in the running for a $35,000 grand prize to be awarded at the AFBF annual convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Jan. 6-11, 2023. He’ll present his business model at the convention in a “Shark Tank”-style pitch competition.
“It is unbelievable to be a semifinalist,” Ryner said. “We have built something that has captured international attention, and we get to present in front of the national convention for all of these farmers. We’re trying to do something great for the world.”
Ryner grew up on a 1,200-acre farm, where his parents raised pigs while also growing row crops.
Music has been a part of Ryner’s life since his childhood, so much so that after initially studying ag finance in college, he decided to follow his passion and make the move that would eventually lead him to one of his current jobs as choir director at North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) in Mason City.
“I could hear my dad singing to the sows when doing chores when I woke up as a child,” Ryner said. “There were plenty of professional musicians in my mom’s family. I was having a lot of fun singing in college, so I decided to take my family’s hobby and make it my profession.”
After his father retired, Ryner decided that the farming bug was just as strong as his music passion, so in 2014 he started his own farming operation from scratch with the tractor that came to the farm when he was just a kindergartner, along with a borrowed six-row planter.
Planting the seed
Ryner said the world needs farmers to produce more and more food and energy while also asking for more carbon sequestration, sustainability and improved soil health and water quality. That means eliminating as much tillage as possible and changing how much nitrogen is applied, he said.
“Society doesn’t understand how hard it is to do both those things,” Ryner said. “Farmers need new tools designed to operate in the no-till environment and still get to plant in time to maximize yield.”
Ryner designed a retrofit row unit that can be attached to a farmer’s existing planter. The unit utilizes patented SeedSpike™ technology to carry the seed from the seed meter. The spike presses into the ground, and an ejection pin presses the seed out of the spike and into the soil.
“The ejection pin makes sure there is perfect placement and wonderful seed-to-soil contact,” he said. “It also cleans the inside of the spike before it goes to collect the next seed.”
Ryner said what makes his planter unique and efficient is it leaves as much of the soil undisturbed as possible, unlike a conventional disc planter that moves soil to the sides. “In wet conditions, ... this causes sidewall compaction. Our spike is timed with ground speed, so it is stationary with the soil as the planter moves forward,” Ryner explained. “The only compaction is at the bottom of the hole. The ejection pin presses the seed into the front of the hole so the roots can go into previously undisturbed dirt below and no compaction.”
Even in dry conditions, he questioned the need to make a seed trench the length of the field. “It makes a lot more sense to poke the seed into untouched soil so it can capture all of the moisture that is there to germinate,” he said.
Testing has proven they can plant corn five to seven days before a field cultivator and planter, Ryner said, which widens the planting window. Any limiting factor for “too wet to plant” can be mitigated.
“By eliminating the field cultivator pass, we save the farmers money,” he said. “We also expect yield increases from more timely planting.”
If a farmer currently uses a ripper and field cultivator pass, they will no longer need those two implements or the horsepower to pull them with, saving as much as $45 per acre, Ryner estimates. Additionally, carbon sequestration credits may be available for regenerative farming.
The planter is in its third prototype, where tolerance and interference issues are being addressed. The current model planted 48 hours after a 3.5-inch rain with commendable seed placement and compaction elimination, Ryner reported. “Currently, our spacing is every six inches; in the future, we want to get to planting every 1.5 inches, and from there to variable rate,” Ryner said.
Ryner’s team includes investor advisors and the NIACC Pappajohn Center, as well as One3 Design in Cedar Falls for design and engineering. Kinetic Technologies in Algona specializes in rapid prototyping, Anthony Riesen at the NIACC maker space handles 3D printing and rapid iteration, Wes Tremmel at WT Fabrication in Mason City, fills in with rapid part creation, and Isiah Brandt of One3 is the mechanical engineer. Travis Swehla, farmer and seed dealer, sidelines as a mechanical engineer with One3 and helps with design.
“This effort has become an obsession,” Ryner said. “We really believe the planter can benefit society with less erosion, better water quality, improved soil health and increased soil carbon while also being more profitable for farmers.”
Custom planting is planned for the 2023 season, with expansion into 2024. Limited leases and/or updateable row unit sales are expected in 2024-25.
“Swarm robot companies will begin licensing in 2023 and into 2024 to adopt the SeedSpike™ to their specific platforms,” Ryner said. Meanwhile, testing will continue. The team has applied for a National Science Foundation grant to conduct emergence testing compared side by side to a current row unit.
“We also will need to develop attachments for the different seed meters,” he said. “We want to integrate into the farmer’s current system.
“It’s our moonshot. Even if we are not as successful as we have dreamt, we have made an indelible mark on the conversation of what is possible.”
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