Tour puts group up-close with American farming

BALATON – A group of international visitors toured southwest Minnesota on Monday, but they weren’t just sightseeing.

Stops on their itinerary included Titan Machinery in Marshall, area farms and agricultural test plots, and the Ralco technology campus in Balaton. The idea isn’t so unusual, Ralco Nutrition representatives said. What better area to go to see American farming technology in action?

“You think of people coming to the U.S. and visiting places like New York City. This is like the New York City of agriculture,” said Jon Knochenmus, president of Ralco.

A total of 36 people, hailing from Thailand, Taiwan, Ecuador and Chile, met with area farmers and agricultural businesspeople around southwest Minnesota. Their trip will culminate in a visit to the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa.

Knochenmus said Ralco often hosts groups of its international customers and distributors visiting the World Pork Expo. It’s a good opportunity for both business and sharing farming knowledge, he said.

“People are hungry for U.S. technology,” Knochenmus said.

Rod Huisman, general manager of Ralco in Asia, said members of the tour group were most interested in seeing farming technology they don’t have in their home countries. There are a lot of ways agriculture in Thailand is different from the U.S., right down to the scale of farming, he said. Individual farms may be only a couple of acres in size, and may even be planted by hand.

For the visiting farmers, Huisman said, “Getting to see the big machines at Titan was mind-blowing,” as was seeing hundreds of acres planted just in corn.

Though the landscape and the scale of agribusiness may be different in Asia and South America, the visitors were united in wanting to improve their farms’ quality and efficiency.

Carlos Marchan, technical director of Ralco in Latin America, said that’s one area where Ralco Nutrition is helping internationally. For example, he said, products made by Ralco are giving swine farmers in South America more options to improve their animals’ nutrition.

“It’s not only a chemical company, it’s a nutrition company,” which makes a difference, Marchan said.

Improved farming technology and efficiency will be the keys to fighting hunger around the world, Knochenmus said. It will be equally important to share the knowledge, he said.