Agricultural Biologicals: The Shoes Are Beginning to Fit

Not too many years ago, I was invited to be a speaker at the annual meeting of the Biological Products Industry Alliance (BPIA). The main reason I was asked to talk at this event was that many in the biologicals market were curious how their products were perceived by ag retailers at the time, particularly in the Midwest.


To prepare for this speech, I did a quick survey of many of our CropLife 100 retailers to get their opinions on biologicals. To say the reviews weren’t glowing would be an understatement. Here is a sampling of what was written by respondents:

  • “I need to see performance before believing in them.”
  • “They are not as effective as hard chemistry.”
  • “I need more education before considering these kinds of products.”

Somewhat reluctantly, I shared these views with BPIA attendees. And I could see by the reactions that this news was a bit discouraging. So I did something speakers are never, ever supposed to do: I told a joke.

It was the one about two shoe salesmen who were sent to scout a potential new market for selling their company’s shoes — a market where no one currently wore shoes. The first salesmen sent this note to his boss: “No market for us here. No one wears shoes.” The second, however, had a different take: “Unlimited potential for us here. No one wears shoes.”

I then made my point to the audience. “To make an impact with ag retailers, biological marketers need to think like the second shoe salesman,” I said.

Now, less than five years removed from that BPIA meeting, the biologicals market with ag retailers is making big gains. According to the numbers, the overall marketplace has grown from under $1 billion at the start of the 2010s to more than $2 billion worldwide today. And predictions are that this market value will top the $7 billion mark by 2022.

And the views among Midwestern ag retailers has changed as well. “We are using biologicals with quite a few of our customers,” says John Christian, Owner of Green Valley Agricultural in Wayland, MI. “And you are seeing more and more retailers getting involved in this market every year now.”

So it’s nice to see that the majority of biological marketers have apparently taken the second shoe salesman’s approach to getting information out about their product lines. It’s for this reason that the editors of CropLife® magazine have decided to produce a special report companion to our March edition. We, too, see the potential for biologicals for ag retailers and their grower-customers as everyone looks for new ways to boost yield and manage pests.

In other words, if the shoe fits, it’s time for the overall industry to wear it!