Agricom takes pride in its long history of having a ‘farmer first’ philosophy

Proprietary pasture and forage crop seed specialist Agricom has a proud history of supporting rural retailers and the farming community throughout New Zealand and embraces a culture of research and development, along with people empowerment.

When South Island Sales Lead Ben Trotter talks about what has underpinned the company’s success, he says it has been its focus on people. “Allowing our people to have the autonomy to develop and think laterally has enabled them to solve customer problems independently when presented, build relationships and be agile enough to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.”

“The other key to our success is a ‘farmer first’ philosophy. Everything else flows from getting that right and taking an intergenerational approach. Many of the end users we work with are into their second and third generation.”

Agricom’s roots go back to the mid-80s when Mid-Canterbury farmer John McKenzie, saw an opportunity for a third proprietary forage business in New Zealand. With a limited resource base, John forged enduring relationships with AgResearch and Crop & Food (now known as Plant & Food Research) seeking opportunities around germplasm/forage lines.

While that led to opportunities, the real break came when DSIR exited plant breeding. DSIR had breeders, germplasm and agricultural research in Southland, Canterbury, Manawatu and Waikato, and overnight, the funding was turned off. With the support of investors, John was able to invest in DSIR’s channels to keep the opportunities going, and it meant people had jobs.

Agricom grew from a South Island operation with just a handful of forage products to one that had national applications and forages for a whole range of different farm types. Today, Agricom is owned by DLF Seeds and markets over 55 different forages, with no category unrepresented.

“Operating in the core space of pastoral technology, there are three primary parts to Agricom’s business operations,” explains Ben. “Our core function is the research and development, production and distribution of proprietary seeds to farmers. It’s also about grazing and management systems and systems that focus on how we can get our products to produce better returns for farmers.”

“The second part of the business is partnering and collaborating with our customers, that is the rural retail network throughout New Zealand who supply farm inputs to farmers — companies like PGG Wrighton, Farmlands, Catalyst Performance Agronomy, Farmsource, along with a range of other independent businesses. So, it’s helping to empower them with information about the technologies that can enhance their clients’ businesses.”

Ben makes the point that if a rural retailer or an end user wants more detail and support around forage systems or the type of farm system being deployed, Agricom will offer some support to the retail customer on the farm.

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“We don’t just sell the product, we also sell the farm system, how the product is used, grazed and implemented.”

The third part of Agricom’s business focuses on developing solutions to some of the challenges faced by the wider agricultural industry. “For example, we’ve worked with industry partners such as DairyNZ, AgResearch, Fonterra and Plant & Food Research to find solutions to the nitrate challenges faced by farmers, particularly around Canterbury.”

“That involves doing trials, evaluations and modelling. One of our main strategic advantages in the marketplace is our focus on endophytes. An endophyte is a naturally occurring fungus that is found in ryegrass and tall fescue pastures. Some endophytes are harmful to insects while others are harmful to animals.”

“Our focus over the last 10 – 15 years has been finding the endophytes that provide protection from insect attack and pastoral damage while removing those endophytes that are harmful to animals. We’ve finally cracked the nut with AR37, but it has taken a lot of time and energy to get these endophytes into the end products.”

Lincoln remains Agricom’s Head Office. With a team of 26, the business provides a Northland-to-Southland reach. About 40% of Agricom’s team is employed in technical agronomy, testing and trialling products on real farms daily.

“While we pride ourselves on knowing products really well, we don’t just sell the product, we also sell the farm system, how the product is used, grazed and implemented. A large component of the agronomist’s role is to develop a better picture for the end users around how they can best use those seed products on their farms, and that’s the information we share directly with the rural retailers.”

A further 30% of the team are Regional Sales Managers, primarily employed to manage the crucial relationships with rural retail customers, along with the end users. “Those staff are also quite technically orientated. The sales of the products are really a consequence of developing and maintaining those relationships. The remainder of the staff are involved in research and development, logistics, marketing and other management roles.”

© Waterford Press Ltd 2024 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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