Interest among farm equipment dealers in adding agronomic services to supplement precision support continues to grow. But finding the most direct, or effective entry point remains a mystery for many machinery retailers.
One of the challenges for equipment dealers seeking to be more direct in delivery of agronomic services is it can create friction with local ag service providers, in addition to confusion for customers. Agronomy retailers may also be customers of equipment dealers, perhaps purchasing sprayers for custom application, and blurring the lines between equipment expertise and agronomy service could jeopardize a business relationship.
Some dealers have found success with a collaborative approach with local ag service providers, focusing on equipment functionality to execute agronomists’ prescriptions. Says one precision dealer, “My relationship with agronomists in our area is to tell them we’re here to make the equipment do what you ask. We’re not chasing their business, but we can fill the customer need to make sure the machinery and hardware is working as it should be so they see the agronomic benefits.”
Another equipment dealer leverages his relationships with about a dozen different ag service providers to validate prescriptions, while also creating a service niche with customers.
“We’ll take all the scale tickets after harvest and make sure they are correct, so if one field read 170 bushels per acre and another was 255, we can make sure that is legitimate information by post-calibrating that yield data,” says the dealer. “We share that with the agronomist, but also with our customer so they can understand if it was a good or bad prescription.
“Working hand in hand, we’ve not butted any heads with agronomists, but I also don’t mention to agronomists which customers work with who. We have a list of ag service providers we won’t recommend, but if a customer asks for a referral, we’ll give them a list and suggest they call a couple of them.”
Dealers are also looking beyond agronomic data for service opportunities. Telematic tools allow for machine performance monitoring which can be provided to customers as an annual report card on their equipment.
“We have customers who are farming fields spread out over 20 or 60 miles and we’re able to timestamp every field so they can see maybe they went over one area twice or didn’t take a very consistent path wasted fuel,” he says. “With these tools, we can drill down to a different data set than just pure agronomics. Then we’re able to provide some logistic service as well.”
A key to developing a mutually beneficial relationship between equipment dealers and agronomists is communication. Both sides agree knowledge sharing is critical to making sure customers aren’t subjected to subpar service.
“I had one customer with a 16 row planter trying to use a 175 horsepower tractor to go up and down hills and his seeding rate was dropping off,” explains an equipment dealer. “The agronomist told the farmer to change the hybrid and the seeding rate and that actually just made the problem worse. So one of my struggles is getting ag service providers to understand the equipment.
One solution offered by a agronomy retailer is to include agronomists in equipment training at the dealership. This offers the opportunity for agronomists to gain a better understanding of equipment capabilities, and allows dealers to explain potential limitations with setups.
“We were trying to get OEMs to open that information up to us, so that we could do a better job of writing prescriptions,” says a retail agronomist. “I’d encourage OEM dealers to bring agronomists into trainings because then they can say, ‘If you are going to write recommendations for my customers’ equipment, I want to make sure you totally understand the parameters the machine is going to work in.’”