Not all the challenges and opportunities shared by ag retailers interviewed for this story were shared by the majority — but there were a number of interesting things retailers said that are worth sharing. Here are five more compelling thoughts that retailers shared:
- Biologicals Opportunities: Jeff Tarsi, senior director of business strategy for Crop Production Services, says that biological products are something they would like to be able to add to their arsenal of product offerings. “We want to explore ‘green’ products, and learn how and when to use them both for seed treatments and foliar application,” says Tarsi. “We will keep an eye out for anything that has the potential to improve profit per acre.
- Good People Deliver: Simplot’s Dave Dufault can see the opportunities that the increased complexity of farming brings, but the challenge to the grower is being ready for it when it comes. “Whether it’s weed resistance or rootworm issues, or any aspect of the decision making process from seed selection to harvest, we see the grower coming back and wanting help and service at all levels,” says Dufault. “And that’s only a good thing if you have qualified people out in the field to answer their questions and provide the necessary service. It separates the men from the boys.”
- Dispatch and Logistics Programs: Up to now, Karl Hensley of Central Valley Ag (CVA) had taken a wait and see approach to logistics and centralized dispatch programs rather than dive in and work through some of the early efforts software and equipment companies were taking to market. Now they are ready to start looking in earnest. “We just started looking at software companies,” he says. “We held back to see how it developed, but centralized dispatch is something that needs to happen.” The big challenge will be finding a program that ties into CVAs legacy business management programs. It will bring tremendous benefits, but it will also “really disrupt the business,” he says.
- Variable-Rate Planting: Larry Arndt, agronomy team leader at MaxYield Cooperative, says that the company’s efforts on variable-rate planting over the past few years have netted clear benefits for growers. ‘It has been amazing to see the results,” he says. “All we are doing is managing populations, not anything by seed types or rates, and it’s been fun to watch it grow.” Where only a handful of growers used variable-rate planting maps just three years ago, in 2013 Arndt expects to be in the area of 200,000 acres planted using variable-rate maps. “Farmers are buying new, bigger planters with the technology already built in, and by providing variable-rate recommendations we are helping them use that investment wisely.”
- Mobile Moving Forward: In a very short time, tablet computers have become the weapon of choice for sales agronomists and retail managers to stay in touch and maintain a connection to information via wireless Internet. Jeff Eggleston, vice president of agronomy at Hintzsche Fertilizer, says his sales force is well armed with connectivity tools. “We are using Raven’s Slingshot system, and have all of our salespeople on iPads,” says Eggleston. “Many of them have access to the accounting system for making and yield planning.” It’s not evenly distributed — the younger employees have generally been more open to embracing the technology and using it to their advantage, but he says that wider adoption and utilization is coming along quickly.