GREENFIELD — A Greenfield company is transforming the way farmers assess and treat their fields, drastically cutting the amount of time and money needed to create the best possible yields.
John Mascoe and his family are the faces behind Leaftech Ag, which has enhanced a handheld leaf scanner that can quickly assess the nutritional content of plants in multiple areas of a field, and generate a map showing farmers exactly how to treat and fertilize individual sections.
The technology, Integrated Handheld Digital Lab Solutions, is designed to enhance crop management and performance.
“We will never replace a lab, but we are within 80 to 95 percent of the values that we get from the lab. We’re very accurate,” said Mascoe, from his offices within the NineStar Connect’s Idea Co-op north of Greenfield.
The scanners are being marketed to crop advisors who help farmers determine the best way treat, fertilize and irrigate their crops.
“We’re enhancing the crop consultants’ ability and efficiency in the field, so they can deliver solutions more quickly. Then the producer is able to apply and implement the recommendations immediately,” Mascoe said.
“In doing that, we are able to reduce the amount of pesticides being applied and reduce and target the timing of irrigation events. We’re helping (farmers) become better stewards as they manage the nutrition of their crops.”
Mascoe first learned of the crop assessment technology while working with Purdue Polytechnic, an ongoing partner of his, and has since enhanced it to the point where his scanners can deliver results within minutes.
In May 2020, Leaftech Ag received a Purdue Ventures grant which Mascoe used to start commercializing the handheld scanner.
Mascoe said crop advisors typically send multiple leaf samples to a lab, which takes three to five days to generate one composite reading. Leaftech Ag’s digital scanners drastically reduce the wait time and pinpoint the crop assessment like never before.
“In three to five days you can have weather events which will alter the plan,” said Mascoe.
“What we’ve been able to do is speed up the time to execute that plan, from three to five days to three to five minutes, at three percent of the cost of the composite sample.”
Leaftech Ag’s scanners can also compile 30 times more data points compared to traditional readers, he said. The scanning software generates an application map which the farmer can program into a tractor to automatically alter the rates of pesticides, irrigation or fertilizer being applied section-by-section throughout the field.
“We also have the ability to (treat the fields) below the surface with subsurface irrigation systems, where you can turn a valve on and off automatically in different areas as the farmer irrigates the field,” said Mascoe.
The end result is faster results and quicker reactionary time for farmers.
“The targeted application of nutrients help achieve a crop’s production potential,” said Mascoe, adding that the technology has helped farmers both nationally and internationally double yields and reduce input cost by about 60 percent.
Mascoe feels the technology has the ability to change the face of agriculture by allowing a more efficient delivery of treatment to target areas of crops.
“Overall, we’re going to have a more sustainable production practice at a very low introductory cost,” he said.
Mascoe is passionate about the work he does and thankful to be doing it alongside his family.
He and his wife, Shirley, both attended Purdue University, where Mascoe studied animal science and agronomy.
The couple raised their four children in a fifth-generation farm in Greenfield, just down the road from where they now work at the Idea Co-op.
Mascoe serves as CEO while Shirley serves as COO. Their son, Gage Mascoe, is field technician; their daughter, Shelby Mascoe, is an agronomy assistant.
John Mascoe said his children have grown up around agricultural technology since the family traveled with him as he did agricultural tech work around the world.
“I was extremely fortunate to be able to have them travel with me to different parts of the world and to interact (with ag-technology) from a very young age, so they have an appreciation and an understanding of how a lot of things work,” he said.
“Today (Leaftech Ag is) fortunate to have both national and international relationships, because agriculture is about relationships,” said Mascoe, who works with partners in Israel, Europe and Australia.
“We have an international footprint and have been working culturally across those lines,” he said.
Mascoe said it’s those worldwide partnerships that helped him gain the knowledge to create the digital scanners he feels will change the future of agriculture.
Mascoe is thrilled to be doing a job he loves alongside his wife and kids.
“I’d say we have a high mutual respect for our capabilities. We know what our strengths and weaknesses are, and we work together to leverage those strengths,” he said.
“It comes down to mutual respect and understanding. They are growing into the business and have come up with fresh ideas, which is a great benefit of generational businesses. You anticipate and hope that the younger generation will give a fresh eye to what you’re doing, which I think is crucial with any successful business.”
Mascoe is as passionate about the family business as he is about working in Hancock County, which he believes can be an ideal hub for agriculture technology.
NineStar Connect Idea Co-op is a perfect palace for companies that don’t need a lot of operating space, but who have the need to collaborate and test their products in an ag-centric part of the United States, he said.
“Hancock County is a gem in terms of doing low-cost training and research in this area. That’s what our goal is, to be that catalyst to help bring more ag-technology companies into the area,” he said.
“I know there’s a need for an I-9 (State Road 9) ag-tech corridor, and we’re going to try to support and push that as much as we can.”
Leaftech Ag is partnering with Purdue Polytechnic and NineStar Connect to eventually create an IoT Smart Farm, which is used to demonstrate technology enhanced production and regenerative practices. The farm will be located on the west side of the Idea Co-op, at 2331 East 600 North in Greenfield.
“The smart farm will also be used as a community outreach tool to educate the public about agriculture,” said Mascoe, “because we need to get people more in touch with where our food comes from.”