Taking the pulse of precision farming dealers during the last few months, many say they’ve seen double-digit percentage drops in their precision hardware revenue during the last year.

This certainly falls in line with the overall downward trend in the large ag equipment and commodities markets. However, some precision dealers say they are seeing encouraging upticks in service revenue and sales of complementary equipment or components to supplement sagging hardware sales.

Planter setups, accessories and attachments are often cited as areas where dealers see the most revenue growth opportunities. Our 2015 Benchmark Study reinforces this optimism, with planting and seeding control systems topping the list of areas where dealers projected the most revenue potential during the next 5 years.

Preliminary analysis of 2016 benchmark data (full report to be published in the Summer print edition of Precision Farming Dealer) indicates a similar outlook by dealers. But some are taking a more comprehensive approach to selling planter systems to customers.

One precision dealer in Michigan recently began building entire planters for customers. Though not an iron dealership, the single-store operation decided to purchase planter frames and row units from a supplier, assemble the implements in-house and then install a suite of precision technology.

“We saw a market to build planters from scratch for customers and there is a huge margin on selling a complete planter,” says the Michigan dealer. “Fully equipped, it can be $300,000 and we can make as much as $60,000 on that sale.”

The dealership delivered its first 24-row model to a customer ahead of this year’s planting season. And they have a number of other customers interested in having customized planter systems built in the coming year.

While this could be a lucrative niche for farmers seeking a more specialized planter, mass production isn’t an option so managing labor investment vs. margin is essential. The Michigan dealer admits that planter production is a “brand new venture” for the company, so it will take time to streamline the process.

But if successful and sustainable, the offering could inject consistent revenue into the company and compensate for shortcomings in other areas of precision sales.