Diversification is an en vogue term when it comes to dealers’ approach to developing a broad base of precision farming services. As more look beyond the shelves stocked with technology components to find recurring sources of revenue, agronomic and data management services are highly visible options to build around.
But one of the ongoing challenges for many dealers looking to jumpstart these areas of their precision business is selling a the practical return to farm customers. Data management can still be an abstract concept to even the most tech-savvy farmers who understand they should be collecting information, but still aren’t quite sure why.
One way dealers are beginning to bridge this gap is by tapping into a service intertwined with data collection and also one that farmers need — crop insurance.
Agents are often first in line to validate yield data collected by farmers and I’ve visited a few dealers who collaborate or even office-share with a local crop insurance agent, primarily to create a two-way street for customer referrals.
But some are taking this opportunity a step further by creating a crop insurance business as an extension of their precision farming business. Van Wall, a John Deere dealership group based in Perry, Iowa, began selling crop insurance in 2015, one year after it added agronomic services.
The dealership has 4 in-house agronomists and 10 AMS specialists spread throughout its 16 ag stores, with each of the specialists also a certified crop insurance agent.
While still a rarity among farm equipment dealerships, selling crop insurance through the precision department would seem to be a natural affirmation of data management as a valuable service. As Van Wall’s Integrated Solutions Manager, Scott Meldrum, says, “Once that grower realizes they haven’t put that data to work for them, the crop insurance is a very easy discussion to have.”
But the other advantage for dealers offering crop insurance is that they can leverage the service to strengthen customer relationships and confidence. Van Wall’s CEO Don Van Houweling suggests that 40% of the crop insurance policies sold in Iowa last year were in error because the data used to create them wasn’t accurate.
“We create accurate policies because our data is good because we create and manage it. So we’re in a much better position to do it than anybody else. And we don’t have to hand it off to anybody. We just do it,” he says.
This approach likely won’t be attractive to every dealership, but as more look for an entry point into agronomic services, it’s a trend that could certainly gain momentum.