Precision agriculture has advanced quickly from a lightbar guidance system to auto-steering tractors that continuously stream vital information that can be used to increase farm profits. Precision ag technology has a high adoption rate, but in many cases farmers are barely tapping into the opportunities the data can have in optimizing their ROI — and extracting as much cash from their farm as possible.
“Precision ag presents one of the biggest changes in our industry and for us as a dealership,” says Boyd Hofman, general sales manager, JayDee AgTech. “In order to keep up, we need to hire dedicated staff members and provide more specialized training for our technicians and customers.”
To better support customers, the dealership is developing a precision ag services department. “This will change our business from selling a part to charging a fee for long-term services,” says Duane Smith, CEO and general manager. “We’re fine offering free product support during the warranty period, but these products require a lot of service and support after that period. We’re giving that away for free and we’re spending a lot of money on salaries, vehicles and training. As a dealer, and as an industry, we need to move to a support agreement scenario where farmers will get different levels of service for a gold package, for example.”
“We’re currently overloading our John Deere Agricultural Management Solutions (AMS) consultants,” says Hofmann. “The structure of the new department get territory managers out in the field to get the farmers running. The parts department will sell the products, and service technicians will provide support. This will change the roll of the AMS consultant, who will work on the backside to help customers take their operation to the next level as new products are introduced.”
As part of the emphasis on supporting precision ag customers, earlier this year JayDee AgTech joined six other Canadian farm equipment dealers in an alliance with The Agri-Trend Group of Companies. As part of the alliance, Agri-Trend will train and support in-house dealership personnel who will work directly with farmers and will provide a linkage between technology, equipment and agronomics.
Agri-Trend is a knowledge-based business founded in 1997 with the single purpose of helping farmers make better decisions to become more profitable. It has a network of professional consultants who work with farmers, called Geo-Coaches and Agri-Coaches.
“This alliance will make it easy for a farmer to adopt variable rate application, merge layers of yield maps with soil zones or use GPS information to drain a field,” said Robert Saik, CEO of Agri-Trend, Red Deer, Alberta, when the program was announced in March. “For example, Agri-Trend Geo Solutions, Inc. has successfully integrated satellite and aerial imagery with John Deere’s GS2 and GS3 variable rate sprayers to create prescription pesticide maps based on in-season vegetative intensity.”
Agri-Trend is a holding company with five operating firms: Agri-Trend Agrology Ltd. (production consulting), Agri-Trend Aggregation Inc. (agricultural carbon offsets credits), Agri-Trend Marketing Inc. (strategic market consultation for farmers), Agri-Trend Data Corp. (agribusiness data platform development) and Agri-Trend Geo Solutions Inc. (geo and technical support for farmers). These operating companies have subsidiary operations in Canada, U.S. and Australia.
“The relationship with Agri-Trend will move us into the agronomy side of the business,” says Smith, “providing a service that helps farmers better use the information that’s available to them. Its marketing business can also help farmers get the best prices for their products.”