Agronomix launched its Learning Center in 2010 and has been leading innovation in the plant breeding software industry since 1990. The Learning Center was an Experience Innovation and our latest software, Genovix®, is a Radical Innovation which is already transforming the plant breeding industry.
Although this interview took place over 4 years ago the information I present is still relevant today. Agronomix Software has changed considerably since 2016 with new premises, more staff, a new president, and a new software product. In 2019 we launched Genovix® to replace AGROBASE Generation II®. Genovix has much of the same functionality as AGROBASE but with a new interface, new tools and a new databases structure making searches MUCH faster. Furthermore, Genovix has an additional module: Bioinformatics.
Before the launch of Genovix, while our development team were adding the final per-launch touches, Agronomix Founder and CEO, Dr. Dieter Mulitze, was hard at work creating tutorial videos for Genovix. And as the designer of the Learning Centre I needed to make some modifications to handle the additional set of tutorials. At time of writing there are 109 AGROBASE tutorials, and 117 Genovix tutorials with many more planned. The latest tutorials were added last week: Index Query and Advanced Field Plans.
ASTA CSS Interview
This interview was filmed at ASTA CSS and Seed Expo 2016. Agronomix has changed a lot in that time with the addition of a new product (Genovix®), many more staff and we had to relocate because we had out-grown our home of nearly 20 years.
Plant breeding software by Plant Breeders
SHAWN BROOK: Chris, thanks for sitting down with me today. First off, can we kick off by you just giving me a little bit of an overview of your organization, your software and you.
CHRIS LEONARD: Agronomix is first and foremost a plant breeder-led company. It was formed by a plant breeder and we have other plant breeders in the company as well. Agronomix has been around for 26 years and over that time we have created this fantastic package called AGROBASE currently Generation II version 38. But when it was launched in 1990 it was revolutionary in this industry, only one of the package existed and…it wasn’t very good. 26 years later we’re looking at cloud; we’re looking at tablets; we’re using modern technology and we’re looking to the future as well to see what else is out there that can help the current crop of plant breeders have the best tool at their disposal.
SHAWN: And correct me if I’m wrong: they’re plant breeders first (CHRIS: they are yes) plant breeders first so they understand the breeding side of it and then they bring knowledge on the computer and software to the breeding.
CHRIS: Right. Yes, that’s absolutely true. So what we aim to do with the return the return on investment, or in particular, training is we offer the traditional tutor-led courses and we have two types well three types if you include the learning center so we have regional courses in the USA, Canada, Europe, South Africa, South America, India and Australia … we span the globe in that way.
We’ve got clients in 40 countries so it is important that we have those. And then there’s a tutor-led courses that our clients ask us to provide on-site at or at their location. And then, as I said, the Learning Center is there too, that complements both of those, beforehand and after. It’s a refresher. And I think that’s key because…one thing that we’ve done recently is: we’ve gone through the training manual that the attendees get at the training course and where we’ve got a video that we’ve created, we’ve put it in the training manual. So after the course, if they get stuck, they refer to the training manual and go “oh yeah oh I can refresh on that video”. And so they go back to the video and it helps them it helps no end.
We’ve got 2500 registered users in the Learning Center, a thousand of those are active clients with approximately 125 tutorials and demonstrations available. That’s the Agronomix difference.
The Learning Center/Centre
SHAWN: How does Agronomix tackle e-learning when we’re talking about a subject: Plant Breeding, that is not a simple topic? How do we tackle it from that perspective?
CHRIS: What we have done is created what we call the Learning Center. And on our website there are 120+ tutorials, demonstrations of AGROBASE Generation II®, AGROBASE Tablet® and all the modules that we offer. We found that we needed something that complemented the the training, the tutor-led training that we have, and so we use the Learning Center to bring the people on the course up to a certain level. So that everybody is starting from the same sort of basic level. And then after the course it’s used as a refresher for aspects of the course.
E-learning and ROI
SHAWN: And so why is e-learning so important to the implementation and the adoption of a software package?
CHRIS: The key thing would be Return on Investment. Everybody’s always looking for that key aspect of how I can…”I’m spending this money but I need something seriously tangible in return” and i think that e-learning brings that on a level that nothing else would. I find that it is so vital to our clients that we’ve spent hours hundreds of hours developing this. Dieter [Mulitze, Founder and CEO] sits at his computer recording the tutorials and then I add it to the Learning Center. I’ve developed the Learning Center and I’m currently working on my fourth iteration of what the Learning Center will look like on the website. And that will go live in 2017.
SHAWN: At a 10 000 foot level, Chris, what makes for a successful, or what have you guys identified, that makes for a successful training program?
CHRIS: It all goes back to return on investment. Everybody is looking for that Return on Investment. And our clients are no different. They spend a lot of money on software; they spend a lot of money on their employees and training. And so they have to see something and that thing is typically the next royalty paying hybrid or variety.
Invest in Training, The Value is Not Just Financial
SHAWN: Your team has invested a lot of money in this training program. Plant breeding software is not a simple concept, although the execution of it is reasonably straightforward, making it part of their daily lives is critical. Of this these investments that you’ve put into the Learning Center, how has it paid off for your customers?
CHRIS: That’s a good question. We have a testimonial on our website of one guy that was stressed out. He spent two weeks, at least, going through his data, going through his spreadsheets at home; impact on family life. And it was hard work, he was he was stressed out, or close to burnout. His company implemented AGROBASE and he now does his selection in two hours. He has less stress. He has a better family life. It’s seriously a big step forward in terms of his personal and professional development.
SHAWN: And that’s really what this is all about. (CHRIS: it is absolutely) Developing, improving life in general and making them more productive with work. Right, yes. That makes a lot of sense. So one of the concerns that I hear brought up is about “automated training”. Why is the AGROBASE Learning Center different than the traditional automated training component and…let me change that…why is it better?
CHRIS: Well…it isn’t automated for a start. Yes, it’s there and you can you help yourself. One of the things that we developed last year was a keyword search. So it’s personal. You [have to] go looking for what you want and there it is it’s it gives you a list of tutorials or demonstrations that are relevant to you. I’m sure you’ve seen reports that the millennials have been the driving force in customization and personalization of everything. But right now every generation is benefiting from that desire. And that is a key to everything that we do, we want to see that personal touch and that’s something that, I think, sets Agronomix apart as well.