The genesis of YLD “Beyond Nitrogen”
Every day in the State of Florida, Agriculture professionals face a multitude of tough choices. Even before the warped post-covid market we are experiencing, successful farming in the sunshine state was a delicate balance of input cost, timing, forecasting (demand and the weather), and sometimes, just luck. One of the primary variables in growing successful crops in this state is an iron-clad fertilization strategy. However, slim profit margins and unpredictable mother nature have a habit of conspiring to make that strategy difficult to execute. One of the easiest solutions to this dilemma is to use a controlled-release fertilizer. However, outside of high-value crops such as Citrus, CRF is usually far too costly to implement on a wide scale in agriculture in Florida. The numbers bear this out, in a state that produces a large percentage of the ornamental crops for the USA, CRF has penetrated nearly 85% of that market statewide, whereas, CRF has only reached approximately 2% of the agricultural market in Florida1.
In 2016, Florikan’s research and development team knew that the answer was simple; as a company a new process and product needed to be developed. They also knew where the right place to start was; Sugarcane. The research had already been done long ago, quoting researchers from the Florida Department of Agriculture:
“Nutrient use efficiency (NUE) of sugarcane can be improved with the use of controlled-release fertilizers…potential to reduce fertilizer N application, grower application costs, and water contamination.”2. Sugarcane is one of those commodity products that is an ultimate proof of concept, if you can succeed here, you can do it anywhere. It’s also impossible to ignore the fraught relationship the Sugarcane industry has had with the State of Florida and its residents. On one hand, it is a massive economic driver for the state and the Everglades Agricultural Area. However, it has drawn scrutiny for ecological concerns over-fertilization and cultivation practices in the past. That being understood, anything our industry can do to improve its sustainability is a net benefit and worth pursuing. As the research into this new process, equipment and product came into focus, Florikan’s team began to see what expectations future customers would need out of this product. First, a high nitrogen content; second, cost-neutral to current fertilization programs; third, durability and fourth, highly blendable and customizable.
Our team approached a custom machine builder and a unique multimillion-dollar piece of equipment that was born over 8 months of painstaking meetings, visits, and conference calls. This was part one of the equation. The second step was chemistry. We worked with an in-state laboratory simultaneously to develop a Florida-centric coating that was lightweight, durable, and inexpensive. This coating was synthesized from the ground up to use more coarse raw materials that were of a larger SGN (Ag-Grade) therefore bringing the base costs of products down.
The day we received our custom equipment was like the day a child is born, full of wonder, and anxiety! The Florikan team was launching into a new direction, and the apprehension was strong. This equipment was highly automated. Our current equipment requires 5-6 employees to operate, this requires 1-2. However, those 1-2 must be better trained, much more technically skilled, and alert. This reduction in manpower once again was a cost-saving move allowing us to bring the cost of this product more in line with traditional agricultural fertilizer products. Once the machine was installed and our first few employees trained, we could begin producing our product. But what to call this? After much back and forth, and internal debate, the team settled on YLD, short for well… Yield, and its slogan “Beyond Nitrogen”.
From that point, we began trialing the product with some of the largest agricultural producers in the state. We learned a lot in late 2017 and early 2018, perfecting the blending, and getting the chemistry just right. We developed a strong distribution relationship with the biggest bulk agricultural blender in our state, and the product was officially on the map. Then, the sugar industry came calling, and we responded. Working with our blending partners we designed custom blends to finally do what we set out do, bring Florida’s commodity crop into the future. It was a great feeling knowing we were helping such a massive industry take such a big leap.
Nearly 3 years after launch, what can we say about YLD and it’s effects on Florida agriculture? First there have been millions of acres of crops in this state fertilized with blends containing YLD. If you have eaten a “Fresh From Florida” crop, YLD probably had a hand in growing it. Due to the sandy nature of Florida soil, and YLD being a CRF, YLD has prevented the needless release of excess N into the environment from weather events.
Also, YLD has most certainly increased the agricultural output of Florida farmers while at the same time increasing their profit margins.
Can we put an exact figure on this? Not without further study, but we can guarantee that it has had a significant impact. To classify YLD as a “Game Changer” is truly putting it mildly. The machinery, chemistry, and processes developed here are continuing to inspire the Florikan team to develop new and innovative products and services every single day.
1World fertilizer trends and outlook to 2018 Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) January 2015 http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4324e.pdf
2 Improved Fertilizer use Efficiency with Controlled Release Sources on Sandy Soils in South Florida - Kelly T. Morgan - January 7, 2009 - https://www.fdacs.gov/content/download/76277/file/13960_FinalReport.pdf