There are several reasons why interest in ecommerce among retailers continues to grow. Farmers are in general increasing their use of sites like Amazon and other online retailers, which is buoying the level of trust they feel in ecommerce overall. Economic pressure on farms in recent years is also pushing farmers to look online to save money on inputs.
And, of course, there is a growing number of players in the ecommerce pool, from third-party entities like Farmers Business Network to self-built retail sites like CommoditAg and, most recently, Nutrien’s efforts in online sales.
Retailers who decide to “hang a shingle” in the ecommerce space must decide on an approach, and the options are growing, in particular with more “off the shelf” offerings. Agrellus is one such offering, which began its life in the Southwest but significantly expanded its reach into the Midwest through 2019.
The Agrellus approach invites farmers to join its marketplace at no cost, and to submit product needs to the site. These requests are available for quoting by retail members. The farmer name and location, along with any specific information about the use of the product, is completely transparent to the retailer.
That transparency exists for the farmer as well – they can collect and compare the quotes from the various retailers and make a decision on what to purchase from the known retailer.
The transparent process really strikes a chord for both sides, says Agrellus Vice President James Ferraro. “The grower can see exactly who they are going to buy from, and from the dealer side, they know who they are going to be giving a price to, and that it’s not one of their competitors checking up on them. They see the grower and the location, and there’s a real comfort level with quoting the product.”
This past year there was massive interest in ecommerce, which pushed Agrellus farmer membership growth to four times the level of a year ago in 25 agriculture states. Nearly 100 retail organizations at more than 500 locations are utilizing the system in the West and Midwest.
Agrellus has offered crop protection, fertilizer, seed, and irrigation parts via its system since the beginning, but recently added a tool that allows farmers to quote out custom application services. Most of the retail participants in this aspect of the system also sell inputs, notes Ferraro.
Another recent addition, based on retailer demand, is the availability of a “private label” site for individual retailers. “The site features all of the functionality of the Agrellus platform but with the logo of the retailers and a list of his products and services,” says Ferraro. The site is only accessible to the customer base that the retailer approves. “It’s a quick and relatively simple way for the retailer to be in the ecommerce business.”
Finally, Agrellus has added financing to its list of offerings for both farmer members and retailers. Farmers can get an unsecured loan of up to $200,000, with a 14-month repayment term, for purchasing products from retailers who are using Agrellus. Farmers are able to expedite transactions, and retailers receive payments directly.
“We also now offer an Agrellus prepay feature to growers and retailers to book and buy in 2019 for 2020,” adds Ferraro. It can be used with any retailer on Agrellus, and retailers are guaranteed that the farmer has the money in escrow with us before quoting prepay requests.
For their part, retailers are able to create a credit line of up to $2 million, which it can use to procure product or to directly extend credit to farmer-customers.