Growing with Technology: Carolina Eastern - Dillon’s Innovative Path Forward - Taranis

Growing with Technology: Carolina Eastern – Dillon’s Innovative Path Forward

July 09, 2024

Ronny and Will Rice’s Vision for the Future of Farming

Agriculture is changing. The industry is advancing at lightning speed; many would say you’re either going with it or getting left behind. That’s the sentiment of Carolina Eastern – Dillon’s founder and co-owner Ronny Rice. When Ronny and his son, Will, opened the doors of Carolina Eastern – Dillon in 2009, both had a vision for what type of service the Dillon location could provide, and with the help of the parent company, Carolina Eastern’s Crop Excellence program and Taranis, the father-son team are excited to share the story of how they are pushing the boundaries of ag retail customer service and insights. 

The Carolina Eastern – Dillon Story

Ronny explains that Carolina Eastern’s roots run deep: “The company itself started in 1973. Mr. Aston Phillips started with one location, and through the 1970s, he was able to purchase several locations. The company has continued to grow.”

Ronny Rice

This growth and acquisition strategy laid the foundation for what would become a robust network of ag retail locations across multiple states. Today, Carolina Eastern boasts around 75 locations, with about 40% of them jointly owned by individuals like Ronny and Will.

Will Rice’s journey into the family business started early. 

Will Rice

“I guess probably dating back to before I was even able to drive, I would get my mom to take me to whatever location dad was working at and I would help unload grain trucks until they quit,” he says, sharing that his love of the business has never waned. 

Over the decades, Carolina Eastern has weathered the changes of the agriculture industry, surviving the tough times and growing in the good times, a fact that Ronny attributes to the company’s willingness to try new things and continually improve what they were doing. 

“When we began to soil sample, there wasn’t a lot of it being done in our area,” he says. “I saw the opportunity to help the growers, and we took it. That’s how we’ve always done business. 

Ronny’s focus on soil sampling was just the beginning. The company continued to innovate, introducing precision agriculture practices and constantly seeking ways to provide more value to their grower customers.

Embracing Taranis Technology

In 2024, Carolina Eastern – Dillon is taking their service to the next level by incorporating Taranis’ leaf-level imagery and insights into their operations. An addition that Will shares will emphasize the other technologies the company has in place. 

“We have seen where we have had some variable rate seed scripts written, and we have seen Taranis pick up on that from the stand count images that we’ve gotten,” he says. “It’s crazy to see the zones that we have created on the images.”  

Will is also excited about the library of over 500-million proprietary images Taranis uses to assess the acres enrolled. The photos, taken from real fields of real crops with the same issues as other growers across the U.S. delivers an unprecedented level of accuracy and detail in crop monitoring.

The Crop Excellence Program

The integration of Taranis into Carolina Eastern – Dillon’s operations is part of a broader initiative called the Crop Excellence program. 

The comprehensive program encompasses everything from soil sampling to crop scouting and nutritional recommendations, ensuring that farmers have access to a full suite of services to optimize their crop production. The addition of Taranis technology takes this program to a new level, offering farmers a never-before-seen look at their crops and fields from the comfort of their desks or on their smartphones or tablets.

A Win-Win with Taranis 

Enhanced Scouting Efficiency

One of the most immediate benefits of implementing Taranis technology, the Rice’s note, is the drastic improvement in scouting efficiency and time management. The AI-powered system allows Carolina Eastern – Dillon’s small team to quickly identify problem areas and prioritize their scouting efforts.

Validation of Precision Agriculture Practices

Will shares that Taranis also provides valuable validation for their precision agriculture practices, especially in variable rate seeding: ” It’s incredible how validating those images are. We can clearly see the differences.”

Data-Driven Decision Making

Taranis provides more than data. The AI-powered insights deliver information that the Rice’s can use to make management recommendations that save crop and budget. The transformation of raw data into actionable, precise insights is the foundation of communication opportunities that didn’t exist for the location a year ago. Both owners share that when they pick up the phone, they are armed with the information they need to have an informed discussion with a grower – conversations that build trust and credibility. 

Looking to the Future

As Carolina Eastern – Dillon continues to integrate Taranis technology into their operations throughout 2024, they are elevating the standard for ag retail services in their area and for the customers they serve. By combining their decades of experience with cutting-edge AI-powered crop intelligence, they are not just keeping pace with the evolving needs of farmers – they’re anticipating and exceeding them.

Ronny sums up their excitement about this new technology.

“This is another step in the right direction to help growers eliminate guesswork. We can scout every acre; we’ve already got a tremendous amount of interest in the area.”

For Carolina Eastern – Dillon, the future of agriculture is not just something to be observed – it’s something to be shaped and driven forward. 

“Chills come all over me when I think about what we are able to offer with Taranis,” Ronny smiles. “It is so exciting.” 


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