Kevin Coey started the FIRST program in 1997. Running the initial sites in Illinois and Indiana, he steadily added areas and partnered with more farmers and businesses to expand to 16 states, testing thousands of commercial corn grain, soybean, and corn silage products today. Coey got his start with McCurdy Seed Co. in Fremont, IA and left Asgrow in 1996 to found FIRST.
"My experience as a corn breeder, followed by work with farmers as an agronomist, led me to the idea of supplying seed customers with the same kind of information research departments need every year to select commercial products from all the experimental hybrids we were testing. This explains why our programs are regional, each with a uniform set of entries and replicated multiple times per test. The difference is that FIRST is testing commercially available hybrids, but from a number of seed companies, not experimentals developed by a number of research stations. The audience now is the farmer and his need to invest in seed genetics that can maximize economic return in a grain production business."
While still having a hand in plot work, expanding to new regions and covering established ones when needed, Coey's got new ideas for FIRST. He is guiding FIRST toward accurate, fast data delivery in new ways, beginning with the Product Search this year.