A Golden Age For Application Equipment

When discussing the state of the ag retail and agricultural markets, much of the talk usually turns to such high profile topics as outstanding commodity prices, crop nutrient applications and seed choices. One area that doesn’t come up as often — but remains just as important to overall health of the industry — is equipment.

“It’s true that many of the decisions we make as ag retailers each season start with the crop inputs, but you can’t overlook the machines we use to store, deliver and apply these,” says Doyle Pearl, co-owner/general manager for J.B. Pearl Sales & Service Inc., St. Marys, KS. “Having good, reliable equipment is just as important, if not more so. Without these, we couldn’t do our jobs as retailers to our grower-customers.”

And this market reality has kept the ag retail equipment industry humming for quite some time. Over the past few years, with corn acreage and overall commodity prices on the rise, grower-customers have spent a lot of their income on crop inputs such as fertilizer and crop protection products. In turn, this has kept ag retailers scrambling to not only supply these products to their customers, but have the machines in their fleets to deliver and apply it as well.

For evidence of this trend, you need look no further than some figures gathered from the annual CropLife 100 report. Over the past several surveys, the percentage of CropLife 100 retailers who have purchased new equipment for their operations has steadily grown. In the 2011 CropLife 100 survey, 79% of respondents said they planned to buy new equipment for their outlets during the coming year. By the end of 2012, this figure had improved to 86%. During the most recent CropLife 100 survey, conducted this past September, the number of ag retailers planning to purchase new equipment in 2014 had grown to 88%.

These kinds of numbers are borne out by some from the ag retail equipment manufacturers themselves. Over many of the past three years, the companies that supply units to retailers have consistently reported the elapsed time from an order being placed to delivery for their customers is in the six- to nine-month range. Some manufacturers say it is closer to one year.

“We are very, very busy right now filling orders,” said one manufacturer at the recent Agricultural Retailers Association meeting in early December. “If someone placed a new order with us today, it would be close to 2015 before they would receive delivery of that product.”

The Reasons For Buying

For many ag retailers, buying new equipment each season comes down to a simple numbers game. “We upgrade based on the age of our equipment,” says Scott Firlus, COO for Allied Cooperative, Adams, WI. “Five years is the typical length of time we keep an applicator, for instance.”

Other retailers have an even shorter replacement cycle in place, depending upon the equipment involved. “Our records show that application equipment needs to be traded every three years or maintenance costs raise higher than the costs of trading,” says Tom Fullenkamp, CEO for Golden Furrow Fertilizer Inc., Eldon, IA. “We continually buy anhydrous ammonia tanks, bars and meters each year to expand for higher demand.”

A few ag retailers kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, when buying new units each season. “Most of our equipment purchases are to replace equipment,” says Frank Schumacher, agronomy division manager for Mountain View Cooperative Inc., Black Eagle, MT. “However, in the last few years, we have been replacing and upgrading equipment at the same time. You have to replace equipment at some point in time and upgrades are partially standard procedure and needed to keep up with our producers.”

As for what kind of equipment upgrades most ag retailers are looking for, it boils down to a single word: Technology. “We want our equipment fully loaded,” says Karl Hensley, senior vice president of agronomy for Central Valley Ag Cooperative, O’Neill, NE. “We get all the technology available.”

And this covers a lot more ground than it used to, say ag retailers. A mere 10 years ago, high technology on a self-propelled sprayer likely consisted of a yield monitor and in-cab controller. Today, however, a cab is likely to contain GPS tracking systems, automatic steering systems and individual boom-shut off controls, to name a few.

“We need autosteer, fleet tracking and multiple bin variable-rate technology as well as float and row crop tires on our new dry machines,” says Allied Cooperative’s Firlus. “On sprayers, we need autosteer, fleet tracking and different boom sections based on the crops.”

Coupled with this trend towards more technology in ag retail equipment has been an increase in unit sizes. In recent years, sprayers that have 120-foot booms have become standard with product solution tanks often holding in excess of 1,000 gallons. Spreaders and tenders have also increased in size with multiple bins options and 24-ton capacity units becoming much more common.

However, not all ag retailers are looking for larger equipment. According to Bill Hubbell, general manager for Wilco-Winfield, LLC, Mt. Angel, OR, there are some parts of the country where larger machines can’t service often wet fields as easily as smaller units can. “The focus has moved to covering a large number of acres per day for us,” says Hubbell. “To do this effectively, we need lighter equipment that can run 12 months a year.”

Several manufacturers have apparently caught onto this trend. For 2014, many of the new self-propelled sprayers from AGCO Corp. and Case IH feature smaller product tanks (in the 700 to 800 gallon range) and are lighter weight than previous models.

The Service Question

Despite the many changes to the machines themselves, all ag retailers agree that the one area that ultimately influences their purchase decision is service.

“This is huge, huge,” says Golden Furrow’s Fullenkamp. “If there’s no reliable service available to us, then there’s no purchase being made.”

And while some retailers supplement their equipment service needs by stocking up on their replacement part inventories, the lack of access to reliable service from the equipment dealer is a major factor when it comes to buying new units for their fleets.

“Good service is critical,” says Central Valley Ag’s Hensley. “Having knowledgeable service people and timely service is part of our decision-making on all purchases.”

Leave a Reply

Special Reports Stories
An aerial shot of the new facility at Green Valley Ag in Wayland, MI. The company wanted rail access and increased storage capacity.
Retail FacilitiesA Celebration Of Facilities
July 7, 2014
Ag retailers have been building new outlets for several years — and it’s time to take a closer look at some of the industry’s new showpiece locations. Read More
Retail FacilitiesA&B Welding Develops Efficient Liquid Fertilizer Facility For Heritage Cooperative
July 8, 2014
Heritage Cooperative needed an efficient fertilizer plant. And with help from A&B Welding, that’s exactly what the company got. Read More
Retail FacilitiesNew Ag Retail Facilities: The Importance Of Pre-Planning
July 7, 2014
Recognizing the need for a new facility is only half the battle, say industry insiders. Before the first scoop of dirt comes out of the ground, there are plenty of other details that need to be worked out. Read More
Retail FacilitiesWaconia Manufacturing Builds Facility Designed For Speed, Efficiency
July 7, 2014
To make its new hub facility more efficient, Cooperative Elevator enlisted the aid of Waconia Manufacturing. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location In Indiana
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
corn field
CropLife 100The Andersons’ Humic DG Now Available In Canada
February 13, 2015
The Andersons, Inc. Turf & Specialty Group has announced its Humic DG product is now available to customers in the Canadian turf, agriculture and horticulture markets. Read More
Farmer on tablet
CropLife 100Southern States Co-op: An Inside Look At Our Aerial Imagery Program
February 8, 2015
Now is as good a time as any to explore the basics of what a retail aerial imagery program looks like today. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Inks Satellite Imagery Agreement
February 3, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Company has reached an agreement with Planet Labs to bring satellite imagery to the AgVerdict software platform. Read More
Latest News
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location I…
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
Management2,4-D Celebrates 70 Years; GROWMARK Uses Super Bowl Ad …
February 27, 2015
Jim Gray, executive director of the 2,4-D Research Task Force, lays out planned activities to mark the chemistry’s 70th anniversary. Read More
HerbicidesUniversity Of Arkansas Flag The Technology Program Adds…
February 27, 2015
Started in 2010, the Flag the Technology program provides a visual reference for applicators to distinguish between fields planted with different herbicide-tolerant trait technologies. Read More
Luckey Farmers, Inc.’s Berkey Farm Center
Industry NewsLuckey Farmers’ Berkey Branch Certified In 4R Nut…
February 26, 2015
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced Luckey Farmers Inc.’s Berkey Farm Center in northwest Ohio has been added to its growing list of nutrient service providers to achieve certified status. Read More
Crop InputsWinField Unveiling NutriVision Technology, Ascend Dry F…
February 24, 2015
New for 2015 are NutriVision Technology, a unique tool for monitoring in-season plant nutrient availability, and Ascend WSG plant growth regulator, a new dry formulation of Ascend plant growth regulator. Read More
FertilizerNew Formulation Of NutriSphere-N Protects High Volume U…
February 24, 2015
Verdesian Life Sciences is launching NutriSphere-N HVTM, a new polymer formulation of the proven NutriSphere-N Nitrogen Fertilizer Manager that protects high-volume applications of UAN. Read More
EquipmentIowa Ag Secretary Northey Names Hagie Water Quality Lea…
February 24, 2015
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has named Hagie Mfg. as a recipient of the Secretary’s Water Quality Initiative (WQI) Leader Award. Read More
FungicidesEvito Fungicide Gives Canadian Wheat Growers New Diseas…
February 24, 2015
EVITO fungicide from Arysta LifeScience North America gives Canadian wheat and barley growers a new option for disease control. Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Commodity Classic Turns 20
February 23, 2015
Two decades in, this annual gathering of all things agriculture has become a must-see event. Read More
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
ManagementCropLife Retail Week: On The Road Edition
February 20, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss their recent trips to the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville and the Read More
Crop InputsLand O’Lakes Acquires FLM+ Assets
February 19, 2015
FLM+ will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Land O'Lakes, Inc., and the company will retain its employee base after closing of the deal, which is scheduled for the second quarter of the year. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnited Suppliers, Stine Seed Form Marketing Alliance
February 19, 2015
The new alliance will greatly expand sales opportunities for Stine Seed with the United Supplier Seed Link Owners. Read More
Crop InputsVilsack To Deliver Commodity Classic Keynote Address
February 19, 2015
The secretary will deliver a keynote address to several thousand farmers and ag allies during the event's General Session, to be held Friday, February 27, in Phoenix, AZ. Read More
Crop InputsSoybean Storage Tips
February 19, 2015
On-farm storage of soybeans requires some special considerations compared to corn. Read More
Monsanto Sign
Crop InputsBioAg Alliance Delivers Promising Field Trial Results
February 19, 2015
In its first full year of field trials, the BioAg Alliance reported that the top 10 microbial strains tested in corn and soybeans showed very promising results. Read More
National Farm Machinery Show overview
EquipmentNational Farm Machinery Show Attendance Up By 16K
February 18, 2015
The 2015 event saw the second highest attendance total of all time as 310,589 attendees that included exhibitors and agribusiness professionals traveled to the Kentucky Exposition Center to participate in the nation’s largest indoor ag trade show. Read More