With companies such as Amazon and eBay dominating the online marketplace, startups aimed at farmers have been making strides in the virtual retail world.
Alexander Reichert, founder of online retail startup AgVend, said there has been a growing demand for quick, easy-to-use shopping options for seed and inputs.
“All generations, not just the younger generation, wanted to have a more digital way of transacting when it came to inputs for their field,” Reichert said. “It was more the means they could make purchases was something they wanted to see modernize and adopt a lot of the same technology that they see in their consumer world.”
AgVend offers multiple inputs, such as fungicides and herbicides from many different retailers, and plans to start offering more products — such as fuel and parts — and more agronomic services in the future.
Reichert said with the growth of online shopping through the likes of Amazon.com and other online retailers, it is easier and more acceptable for people to purchase items at home and wait two days for a delivery, as opposed to driving up to 30-45 minutes in some areas to get to their store of choice.
For farmers not making purchases online, Reichert said his pitch is looking at some of the savings it can bring them.
“Not only is there convenience, but it’s also the ability to save not only time but money,” Reichert said.
However, the goal isn’t necessarily to change the way all people approach purchasing, he said.
“We aren’t trying to convert anyone to being an online shopper. That’s a key aspect of what we do,” he said. “There’s a segment of growers out there who will never buy online. They will always go to the store.”
He said there is a very small segment of producers who do everything online. One of the tougher items to purchase completely online is equipment.
Greg Prochaska, the store manager at P&K Midwest in Sumner, Iowa, said the internet can help early on when purchasing new and used equipment.
“I think most of your footwork is going be done online first,” Prochaska said. “With used equipment, the key there is they are looking at unique equipment and treating it as a commodity. They are looking at hours and price at that point and that’s how they target in.”
However, he said that most customers will still come in to take a final look at the product before committing. He remembered one customer who drove down from Manitoba, Canada, to look at a sprayer.
“That’s a long drive to verify what you want,” Prochaska said.
Most of the benefits of online equipment shopping come down to the information learned before coming into the dealership. When customers ask questions about the implements, Prochaska said they will already have a good idea what the answer is and are simply looking for validation.
Reichert said the market for agriculture e-commerce has been relatively slow to develop, looking back to the 2000s. He said a few companies, like Rooster.com, came about during that time, but he called them “flash in the pan” efforts.
In 2019, he has seen more growth and demand as the world becomes more connected by the internet.
“If you fast forward 10 years, it’s about a 1,500% growth over time when you look at dollars transacted online,” Reichert said. “There’s a lot more comfort in e-commerce these days, and a lot more comfort in the ag community.
“It will be difficult to be a competitive retailer without having a digital portal for your growers to browse for products, ask questions and ultimately make transactions.”