OVER the next four decades, there will be significantly more demands placed on growers as to how they produce crops, and ag retailers will play a key role in helping them to implement best crop management practices.
Maximizing production efficiency is a key challenge in the battle against global hunger. In order for farmers to achieve maximum yield, the fertilizer and crop protection inputs they order must be available and applied at the right rates, at the optimum time and in the best place to be fully effective.
Growers have long relied on their ag retailers to act as the logistics hub for their inputs, storing and delivering fertilizer and crop protection products whenever and wherever they are needed. And in recent years, technology advances have allowed retailers to improve efficiency by leaps and bounds.
Technology is also helping retailers to collect, store and utilize valuable data that is gathered from the soil sampling, application and scouting services that retailers provide. As the ag production cycle gets increasingly complex for farmers, the ag retailer’s role as master of logistics and generator of data becomes even more prominent.
Endless releases of hybrids and varieties, new technologies and techniques for farming, from planning to planting to harvest, and the usual challenges of soil, weather and pest pressure make farming today more complex than ever. Through deep service offerings, many retailers are helping growers to manage the risks they face each season.
Retailers are also working hard for growers on the supply side. Globalization of agriculture and the rise in fertilizer demand from developing countries has forced retailers to be more strategic about fertilizer procurement and distribution to ensure that farmers have the nutrients they need, when they need them.
Over the past decade, many retailers rebuilt and reconfigured their facility locations and capacities to improve efficiency. It started with a move toward the construction of regional hub plants strategically located to take advantage of loading and unloading from rail, river or roadway. In more recent years, attention has turned
to updating plants on the perimeter to ensure they operate efficiently and with a minimum of manpower.
Steve Anderson, national accounts manager at facility design/build company Stueve Construction, Algona IA, says that retailers looking to streamline their facilities are interested “in finding solutions, not just buildings. They need to operate with an application window that continues to shrink, especially over the past five years. It’s remarkable what they are doing in a short span of time. You have to have the product in place, then be able to get it applied.”
In addition to increased infrastructure capacity and efficiency, retailers are also taking advantage of the availability of technology that improves communication flow across offices and field equipment. Logistics technology utilizes GPS and connectivity delivered via
cellular-based signals to allow logistics managers to monitor and alter the movement of vehicles and product during the workday in real time. Better logistics means better timing and accuracy with fertilizer applications, reducing the risk of yield loss to growers.
Retailers that serve as a trusted partner to growers are intimately involved in developing cropping strategies, which puts them on the front lines for collecting and managing data for growers. New technologies that utilize wireless communication and remote storage and processing capabilities are allowing retailers to play a significant role in this area.
Manufacturer Raven Industries and its Slingshot offering is one example of several that are currently available or will roll out soon.
“We are seeing ag retailers utilizing more precision ag technology as the benefits to themselves and their customers become increasingly apparent,” says Jessica DeJong, marketing and communications coordinator at Raven. With the use of field computers, all of the data collected can be wirelessly transferred via Slingshot back to the ag retailer’s office in real time. Once the data has been received, they are able to work with the growers on important input decisions relating to planting and fertilizing applications.
Fighting global hunger will take everyone in agriculture operating at peak efficiency and using every tool available. The ag retailer will serve a key role, managing the supply channel and meeting the demands of the American farmer.