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Agrimarketing : September 2009
September 2009 Agri Marketing 19 • 20/20 Airforce --- automatically controls the planter 's down pres- sure to eliminate compaction in the seed trench. • 20/20 RowFlow --- the newest addition, provides control of variable rate population drive systems and swath control systems. • Wave Vision --- new sensor technology that replaces optical sensors with three-dimentional UHF waves. All can be installed on the planters used by most corn produc- ers, including John Deere, Kinze, Case IH, White and Great Plains. "We try to release two new prod- ucts a year," Sauder says. "My Dad, who is 82, is a successful farmer and also had a grain bin business always said 'Find the weakest link in your system and then fix it.'" And that's just what he does. First Sauder and his team identifies the problem, determines the cost of the problem and then gives his team of 15 engineers the challenge of fixing the problem with a solution that has a one-season return on investment. The company has a unique chal- lenge, though, Sauder reports. "Even though we patent everything, we know the equipment manufacturers will be coming out with similar products soon after our release. Each of our products has about a three year life span of exclusivity before a variation of it is found factory- installed on planters." Visitors to the company's facility won't find rolls of steel, stamping machines or other evidence of basic manufacturing. "We outsource all of that to other suppliers," Sauder explains. "We concentrate on developing, designing, assembling, marketing, shipping, installing and servicing our products." THE SALES CHANNEL One of the major breakthroughs for the company was the result of a suc- cessful meeting with executives of Pioneer Hi-Bred and the Sauders in 1997 "Seed companies were chang- ing their seed grading system and were concerned that producers felt the new grades would be hard to plant. They needed a way for their dealers to demonstrate that the new grades did not hurt planter performance." Precision Planting had introduced its MeterMax Plus Cali- bration system the pre- vious year and made sure their local Pioneer representative was familiar with it and the results it was achieving in establishing more uniform seed drop, substantially reducing the number of skips and doubles. The representative passed word up through the channels and the Sauders were soon on the way to Pioneer's headquarters in Johnston, IA. "I showed them the system and they were impressed," Sauder reports. "The deal we struck ensured that Pio- neer and it's dealer were the exclusive source for the MeterMax calibration system and the company purchased stands to distribute to selected Pioneer dealers. It set into motion what has become the company's sales channel. Since Precision Planting's products are all equipment oriented, one might assume its sales channel would be through equipment deal- ers. Not true, it is primarily com- posed of seed dealers. "We found it is the seed dealer who is closest to the agronomic side of crop production," Sauder says. "The equipment guys have a lot on their plate, from horsepower to elec- tronics to a million other moving parts to keep the machines rolling. "A good seed dealer is constantly with his customers, providing hybrid selection advice, walking the fields with them and providing agro- nomic suggestions," Sauder contin- ues. "Also, since many of them are farmers themselves, their customers see them as a peer and find their advice more creditable." In the U.S., the company currently has 450 dealers and is aggressively looking for more. Although the company has dealers in all of the major corn growing states, Sauder reports its highest market penetration is in the states of Indiana, Minnesota and Michigan. "From the start, we had excellent dealers in those areas who were achieving outstanding results with our products," Sauder reports. "I refer to them as the 'Sneezers' because their enthusiasm infects others around them." In addition to marketing their products in the U.S., the company is also active in Canada, Argentina, Eastern Europe and South Africa markets. "Most of our planter improvements are designed for Deere and Kinze planters," Sauder says. "So we focus on markets where there is a high penetration of those planters." MARKETING Veteran agri-marketer John Larkin is in charge of the company's market- ing. Raised (and now operating) a farm near Bloomington, IL, following his graduation from the (more on page 21) Precision Planting founder Gregg Sauder in a "root pit" talks to attendees of the company's annual field days. The pit demonstrates plant development underground and the serious consequences of compaction.
Best of CAMA 2009