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Delivering for farmers: FBN opens warehouse in Larchwood, Iowa

FBN Warehouse (21).JPG

Operations manager Brian Van Heerde guides a tour through the adjuvants and other inputs at the Farmers Business Network warehouse in Larchwood, Iowa, Aug. 25.

A company known for sidestepping the conventional supply chain will now take shipping into its own hands.

Farmers Business Network (FBN) has regional warehouses and branded semi trailers that store and deliver farm inputs around the country. The newest is in Larchwood, Iowa. It will serve farmers within a 200-mile radius in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota.

Unhappy with the lack of shipping consistency for its customers, company founder Charles Baron said the goal is two-day shipping to the farm through the FBA fulfillment centers and trucking line.

“Now it’s super important to have product close to the farm,” he said.

Last spring, farmers worried about procuring herbicides, fertilizer and other inputs. Pandemic-related issues disrupted shipping around the world and the newly launched war in Ukraine added to the uncertainty.

FBN dealt with companies canceling orders they were unable to fulfill, but they managed not to cancel any orders for their own customers, according to Jack Cox, head of logistics for FBN.

“We were able to control our own destiny in supply,” Cox said.

Cox, from the Minneapolis area, and Baron, who is based in California, were on hand at the FBN facility’s open house Aug. 25 in Larchwood. Area residents walked between stacks of pesticides, herbicides and other inputs. Next year, FBN will add seeds and livestock equipment to the inventory.

FBN Warehouse (26).JPG

FBN logistics lead Jack Cox, left, and FBN founder Charles Baron pose by a delivery truck outside the Larchwood, Iowa, warehouse.

“We’ll make it a one-stop shop for the farmer,” operations manager Brian Van Heerde said.

He led tours of the 100,000 square-foot warehouse, which finished construction in June. A total of seven employees work at the warehouse. FBN also has an office in Sioux Falls.

“This was built to deliver directly to farmers,” said Lynn Bailey, general manager of the facility.

When an order comes in online,Van Heerde said, it goes into the warehouse management system and shows up on a forklift monitor information about where the product is located and how much to retrieve. From there, it’s assigned an outbound lane at the loading dock. That’s where it meets the truck and hits the road.

Farmers Business Network is leasing the former Elanco animal vaccine lab. They’ve added docks for loading semi-trucks, and certain rooms have extra safety features for containing chemical fires.

The warehouse supports two smaller logistics centers in Minot and Fargo, North Dakota. Cox, who used to work in logistics for Amazon, said trucks will make regularly scheduled runs between the facilities, making delivery times easy to predict.

Other large fulfillment centers are scattered throughout the country. The goal is to put a quarter of FBN members within 250 miles of a shipping center, because that’s the distance for same-day delivery.

“We’re able to cover more ground and be more agile with our inventory,” Cox said.

Janelle is editor of the Tri-State Neighbor, covering South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota, northwestern Iowa and northeastern Nebraska. Reach her at jatyeo@tristateneighbor.com or follow on Twitter @JLNeighbor

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