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How Ag Retailers Can Help Farmers Build Financially Sustainable Operations

Agriculture continues to become increasingly complex, with more product offerings, technology, and data every year. Your role is to help farmers navigate this complexity to build financially sustainable operations. As a trusted advisor, here are a few ways to do that.


Know what to do with data

International Data Corporation reports that the average farmer generates 500,000 data points every day, and by 2036 that number is expected to increase by 800%. That may seem daunting, but it also provides opportunities for ag retailers. Data alone is generally not helpful to farmers. They need an agronomic expert like you to turn raw data into actionable insights they can easily apply on the farm. 

Data can make your job as a trusted advisor easier by validating your recommendations and helping you track changes over time. A digital record can help you tweak management practices so farmers can optimize their productivity. Instead of just making an educated guess on what solutions to apply in a farmer’s field, you’ll have customized data to help you understand what is working and what isn’t. 

Now is the time to lean into data analysis training to support your farmers with more profitable decision-making. As an article from North Carolina State University puts it, “Data analysis isn’t something most have the time or training to navigate. Farmers need an interpreter to translate the rendered data into confident action.” GROWERS has a team of precision ag data experts that will analyze, consolidate and create reports using farm data that can be easily translated into management decisions. Visit GROWERS Guide to learn more.


Find efficiencies

When you help your customers find smarter, more economical ways to complete a task, it shows on the bottom line. Many farmers don’t consider their production efficiency – the number of bushels they produce per dollar invested – when making decisions. More often, they are intent on maximizing yield. Help them change that mindset by focusing on optimizing production efficiency by lowering farm input costs.

You can help farmers audit their current management practices to identify untapped opportunities to increase production efficiency. For example, perhaps farmers could eliminate a postemergence herbicide application by using a different preemergence herbicide with longer residual control. Or, maybe they have been using a seed variety unsuited for their field’s conditions. Helping farmers manage field variability is also a great way to improve production efficiency. Instead of flat fertility rates across a farm, consider recommending variable rates that match fertility with production potential. 


Keep an eye on current events and markets

Your customers rely on you to help them mitigate risk and protect their profitability potential, but there are often outside forces at play beyond your or your farmer’s control. Of course, you need to know what’s happening in domestic markets, but you should also be aware of global conditions that could affect your farmers’ bottom lines.

When you have a pulse on what’s happening at a macro level, you can help farmers make more profitable decisions and anticipate future market conditions. For example, geopolitical events, such as the war in Ukraine, have significantly impacted fertilizer accessibility and prices. That affected how farmers chose to manage their fields over the past couple of years, and they probably turned to you for guidance. Being aware of situations like these can help you understand a farmer’s decision-making process and help them weigh options to maximize their profitability potential.


Anticipate trends

You must also be able to anticipate future trends to help your farmers adapt to changes in the industry. For example, today’s farms are bigger, run larger equipment and plant earlier than they did even a decade ago. Those cultural changes have impacted operational management, from finding enough labor to manage tasks to keeping up with herbicide applications in the spring.

As the industry evolves, you’ll need to be aware of trends that could impact your farmers’ businesses. How will robot adoption and autonomous vehicles change farm management? As a younger generation takes over the farm, how will business interactions evolve? Will more electric vehicles reduce the need for ethanol and impact corn production acres? Consider questions like these to help prepare your farmers for the next evolution in agriculture.


Prepare farmers for emerging markets

You want to ensure your farmers are capitalizing on opportunities to build financial stability today, but you can also help set them up to diversify their future revenue streams. Ecosystem markets, including carbon programs and water conservation credit initiatives, are emerging and may offer farmers a financial incentive to invest in more sustainable management practices.

However, according to a recent report by McKinsey, a majority of farmers aren’t participating in carbon markets for three primary reasons: the ROI is not high enough (50% of surveyed farmers), a carbon program hasn’t been offered (49% of surveyed farmers), and farmers don’t understand carbon programs (39% of surveyed farmers). Based on this data, lack of program awareness and overcomplexity are two significant barriers to carbon program adoption. As you look to the future, consider ways your ag retail location can help educate and prepare farmers for emerging market opportunities.


Build your network

As an ag retail business, expanding your professional network indirectly helps farmers build more financially sustainable operations. Seek manufacturing partners who offer boots-on-the-ground support to you and your customers as you troubleshoot problems or brainstorm new ideas.

The right partners can also update you on the latest products, technologies, agronomic insights and research to drive farmer success. For example, many universities lead meetings about agronomic topics relevant to your geography. By attending these events, you get the latest insights to help your farmers overcome emerging challenges and build relationships with experts and colleagues in your area. The knowledge you gain from having an extensive network can help you provide more timely, relevant and actionable information to your farmers.

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  • Ag Retailer
  • Agribusiness