Monsanto Takes its Show on the Road

New Mobile Technology Unit offers a high-tech tour for farmers that can't make it to company's research facility.

Published on: Jul 18, 2007

Biotech crops have been commercial since 1996 yet there's a lot going on in this field of agricultural science; and farmers need more information everyday. Each of the major biotech research companies are doing their part to tell the story. For Monsanto, a big part of that effort involves having farmers tour the company's research facilities in Chesterfield, Mo. While those tours may continue, the company is working to bring the tour out to more farmers.

Starting this week, the new Mobile Technology Unit will hit the road and in the course of the next 12 months will visit 40 different locations. More than a glorified semi-truck with a little classroom space, the MTU offers a coordinated information program from start to finish that involves video, live demonstration and informative question and answer sessions.

Zimmer

"We wanted to bring the experience of visiting our research facilities to more farmers," says Jim Zimmer, vice president, U.S. branded business, Monsanto. Zimmer notes the company is spending $2 million a day on research, which is aimed at helping farmers increase productivity and profitability. "We wanted farmers to see what we're doing."

The resulting "facility" travels on 18 wheels and has a following truck as well that brings along added displays. The custom-built rig features a 14-seat theater using high-definition broadcast. From that theater farmers then go through a special tour.

First stop is a look at the international effort to find new germplasm. From there visitors then see a robotic system that is used to test germplasm and traits in the lab. Beyond that is a display for the magnetic resonance imaging system Monsanto uses to test seed oil content without destroying the seed sample.

All that happens within about 15 feet of entering the display area, and the entire tour can take as little as 45 minutes. All along the way ag education specialists tell the story of germplasm and biotech research, talk about the pipeline and show new technology that's on the way from the company.

This composite image shows the maine tour area for Monsanto's MTU. From left to right the visitor is taken around the display and shown everything from information about the global germplasm search to a discussion of new products in the biotech pipeline.

Once the main tour is over, visiting farmers step outside where kiosks with special displays about ethanol and other products - such as Vistive soybeans - await. The flexibility of the setup allows the ability to create a "special day" event with a meal, and even local exhibitors that might be part of the post-tour display. "There's a lot of flexibility with the MTU," says Linda Arnold, customer outreach lead. Arnold, who headed up the development effort for the MTU adds that the cost of the rig is economical. "When compared to the cost of bringing farmers to our Chesterfield facility, this is more economical."

Look for the Monsanto MTU coming to a town year you in the next year to 18 months.