FOREST CITY — Larry Garlisch is the third generation of his family to farm the sandy yet productive soils in the Manito area of Mason County, with the fourth — his son, James — ready to assume the mantle of a modern farming operation.

Garlisch has witnessed the agriculture industry evolve into technology-driven big business, influenced as much by climate as by international trade conditions, with a complexity belied by an outdated stereotype of simple farming life.

For a brief moment this week, several globe spanning elements of modern ag practices intersected in a recently harvested bean field not far from Garlisch's Forest City home, where his 2018 New Holland combine hulked among rows of still-green severed stems.

That's where representatives of AgroEcoPower, a company founded in the Czech Republic that fine-tunes diesel engines for maximum power and efficiency, and BottomLine Solutions, a Morton-based ag tech supplier and installer, used a laptop computer with proprietary software to reprogram the machine's electronic engine control systems.

"I thought if we could get a little more boost, it could help us," Garlisch said. "It's been running at full power to harvest such a (healthy) crop."

AgroEcoPower and BottomLine Solutions formalized a partnership last week that they intend to be a model for AgroEcoPower as it looks to expand U.S. operations throughout the Midwest, building on already established local relationships to install foreign technology in far-flung farm fields.

The agreement also adds to the list of international ag tech companies finding a foothold in Tazewell County — AGCO Corporation acquired Tremont-based Precision Planting earlier this year with a plan to relocate some of its employees with technologically advanced skills to central Illinois, with the goal of making the area the "Silicon Valley for agriculture."

BottomLine Solutions retrofits tractors, combines and ag components with sensors and software for guidance systems, autonomous operation or better fuel efficiency. The AgroEcoPower modifications can be made to other diesel-powered machines, as well, such as semi-trucks used to haul crops.

"Instead of going out and buying a $100,000 tractor, we can retrofit one and make it like new," said Scott Burroughs of BottomLine Solutions. "The feedback we're getting from farmers is they can do 30 more acres per day on average if they're looking for more horsepower — if they're looking for more fuel efficiency, they're saving $100 per day."

AgroEcoPower's president of U.S. operations, Lukas Pavel, said the savings possible from that type of fine tuning takes on more significance as commodity prices continue a years-long trend of reduced rates and international trade conflicts inject more uncertainty into markets.

"It's tough times in farming, and we can save them a lot of money," Pavel said.

Garlisch, the Mason County farmer, hoped for a boost in power for his 450-horsepower engine — less than 10 percent, to 480 horsepower — to better handle crops that themselves are stronger due to seed modifications and modern farming practices.

"At this time of year, I'll take every little bit I can get," Garlisch said.

Matt Buedel can be reached at 686-3154 or mbuedel@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @JournoBuedel.