How Better Operations Deliver Better Customer Experiences



Hear how Asmus Farm Supply and River Valley Cooperative are enabling their businesses and using technology like AgVend’s Digital Enablement solutions to gain real-time visibility and make smarter, more responsive procurement decisions. As a result, they are providing a better customer experience because their customers can trust them to have the products they need, when they need them.

Panel participants include:

  • Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop
  • Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply
  • Culley Medley, Vice President of Operations at River Valley Cooperative



Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop

So, gentlemen, we are going to talk all about our operations and serving your customer. So to get kicked off. Harlan, first to you, would you tell us a little bit about Asmus Farm supply and how you serve your customers? 


Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply

We’re a family-owned, independent retailer headquartered in northern Iowa, 62-year old company. I’m second generation. The third is sitting right out there, Garrett – I wanted to point him out because it leads to the adoption of technology.

The market we serve out of five locations in Northern Iowa and Southern Minnesota, would service the self-applied grower only. We have no custom application equipment that we own, but we have numerous custom application contracts with people that are in the custom application business. Our company was founded on being the professional in a narrow spectrum of agricultural inputs and our four departments.

Today, I still have that same philosophy where we hire people to focus on an input segment. So I like to say that the best Asmus customer has four Asmus agronomists working with them as a team to build out their successful plan.


Culley Medley, Vice President of Operations at River Valley Cooperative

River Valley Co-op, we’re a hundred and some years-old co-op with four business units; feed, energy, grain and agronomy. We service our customers and we’re a full-service retailer. It’s all about tying the paycheck of the farmer to us. How do we make the farmer understand how they’re getting paid? We believe in the whole-acre approach and bringing a different approach to the market.



Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop

Harlan, first to you. You lead your company’s chemistry department, correct? What is your take on input procurement right now and the volatility that you’re seeing?


Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply

It’s unprecedented as we’ve all experienced it. This is my 35th year, so I’ve seen a lot of trends come and go. But one thing that’s disturbing about this current environment is I don’t think it’s going to go away. My staff thinks it’s going to go away. Many of our customers think it’s going to go away. But in my mind, it’s the new normal.


One thing that’s disturbing about this current environment is I don’t think it’s going to go away. It’s the new normal. [Asmus] is grasping this opportunity to use technology to keep the staff and the customer base better informed on true shortages.

I am a leader in a company that thrives with unrest. So we’re grasping, I am personally grasping this opportunity to use technology to keep the staff and the customer base better informed on true shortages of chemistry brands that are not made up. And I’m going to command a premium price for some things that we recognize are a need in their operation and deliver that message confidently and in a trusting manner.



Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop

So Culley what have you experienced since you took over operations and how would you describe the input procurement process for yourself?


Culley Medley, Vice President of Operations at River Valley Cooperative

I do our fertilizer purchasing too – it’s an interesting time because of fertilizer. Right now, the market is changing at a rapid pace. And our way to manage it through AgVend allows us to hold margin. It drives discipline in the market where ag retail had no discipline. When we have changes in prices, we can update them immediately. Our sellers know, our growers know it, and we continue to strive that way. So using the technology tools like AgVend has helped me better sell, better hold margin that we’ve never had an opportunity to do. Before you could go weeks without even knowing where we are position wise.


Right now, the market is changing at a rapid pace. And our way to manage it through using AgVend allows us to hold margin. It drives discipline in the market where ag retail had no discipline. When we have changes in prices, we can update them immediately. Our sellers know, our growers know it, and we continue to strive that way.



Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop

So you have put in place a policy regarding AgVend and how you guys are bidding out fertilizer. Could you share that with the group and what you guys have learned?


Culley Medley, Vice President of Operations at River Valley Cooperative

It’s been a journey. We’ve been with AgVend for two years now – the first year we dabbled in doing online orders. The second year we required all of our sellers to put every single order through the portal which drove that transparency. I could see every order, I could see what was going on and when it was getting put into the system – we didn’t have to deal with the troubles of it sitting on a support staff’s desk, not getting put in. I talked to a lot of the people about it and I know one single trade that cost us $200,000 because it sat on somebody’s desk.



Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop

And now, Harlan, how are you doing things differently today than you were two years ago? I know for you it’s that real time visibility and inventory management.


Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply

So I think Culley and I make a good team because our businesses are somewhat dramatically different at how we go to market. We’ve been with AgVend since the inception of the company with Marketplace, and looked at it as a prospecting tool. It didn’t take too many transactions for the grower to figure out. And we relayed this on to AgVend management. You could see how a grower would think this way. “Next year, could I just buy from you and go around again?” So we shared that experience with them, of which I’m happy to say they changed course and they are on the right course now.

We’ve utilized AgVend most recently in the last selling season through the Business Intel module, I’ll call it setting up what’s claimed or what’s titled as a goal in the system today, but it’s really an allocation for our sales staff. By storefront and by salesmen they are given a goal to sell off of. I have real time data as the chemistry department manager and the goals or allocations if you want to insert that would change over time. But it’s up to the second information from a manager’s perspective, from the salesperson’s perspective. That was very, very valuable data that we didn’t have in 2020.


I have real time data as the chemistry department manager and [insight into] the goals or allocations that would change over time. It’s up to the second information from a manager’s perspective, from the salesperson’s perspective. That was very, very valuable data that we didn’t have in 2020.



Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop

So as the year progresses, you set the allocation and were you then able to also make adjustments? How did your year proceed? And how is this technology able to help you through those changes?


Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply

The way we’ve approached launching AgVend at our customer base level is cheerleader style, rah rah do business with Asmus a new way, communicate better, buy online if you want to. But we don’t lead with that. Only 15% of our customer base is currently active. That concerns me. That means we’re going to need a change of course to implement this tool and the elevate importance of it. The exciting importance to me as a manager in 2022 was the ability to communicate within the organization better.


Culley Medley, Vice President of Operations at River Valley Cooperative

I heard Alexander talk at ARA and we’ve been chasing this unicorn. From an ag tech side, we chase shiny objects a lot. We were on the bleeding edge. We tried every single thing out there. And the crazy part is when we finally met with Alexander and what he offered, I thought here’s another one that won’t deliver on it. And they delivered on it. That’s what has set AgVend apart. We had a deliverable and they always meet their deadlines, they don’t sell us expectations that can’t be met. And now having grain, energy, and agronomy all in there from a full service side, we continue to see utilization by our customers continuing to grow.


We had a deliverable and they always meet their deadlines, they don’t sell us expectations that can’t be met. And now having grain, energy, and agronomy all in there from a full service side, we continue to see utilization by our customers continuing to grow.



Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop

That’s excellent. Harlan, if we could dive back a little bit more to today’s market, today’s conditions and manufacturer relations, how is that changing the way you’re working with customers and the service levels you’re able to provide?


Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply

On behalf of the manufacturer at the grower level, it excites me to consider the future of how AgVend might be used in redeeming grower offers that manufacturers put in the marketplace. That’s exciting. It’s going to be very complex, Eli and the team will have to figure that out. That’s an exciting move.

So I’m striving not only as an overall business manager, but as my department to make things more seamless, less labor intensive, and have discussions with manufacturers that should be centered around use of the market because we are the contact with the customer.

Ultimately, We’ve heard over the years some manufacturers may have considered going direct. I don’t think that’s going to happen because the risk is too high. It’s more than they’re willing to accept when they’ve got us in the middle. So it’s going to be up to us to build that bridge to the grower with the manufacturer’s message. And the AgVend portal tool can be an important part of that.


Ultimately, We’ve heard over the years some manufacturers may have considered going direct. I don’t think that’s going to happen because the risk is too high. It’s more than they’re willing to accept when they’ve got us in the middle. So it’s going to be up to us to build that bridge to the grower with the manufacturer’s message. And the AgVend portal tool can be an important part of that.

Culley Medley, Vice President of Operations at River Valley Cooperative

We continue to throw more at our sales staff from a financing side, rebate side, when what they’re really good at is agronomy. If we can use tools like AgVend and make that easier, then they are that much more efficient. And if we can drive efficiencies in our sales team, how much more bandwidth can they take on? Because the grower is changing. He’s continuing to get larger expectations that keep going up. How do we drive that efficiency?

If we don’t use technology tools, we’re dinosaurs and we’ve got to continue to drive to find ways to make technology more efficient, it just makes our sellers that much better.


Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply

Can I add to that? A pain point from an ordering perspective and chemistry, maybe you’ll agree with fertilizer is the inefficiencies in ordering products – too much double and triple work. And there currently isn’t any way to order that’s connected to suppliers through the portal. But it sounds like that’s a tool that’s being considered and built out.



Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop

So that feeds into my next question – what feedback have you heard from your team so far, your internal team, as you guys have rolled out the grower portal?


Culley Medley, Vice President of Operations at River Valley Cooperative

From our team, everybody’s excited about it. It drives efficiency. The one thing I’m excited about and I keep challenging Eli on this is how do we see our purchases and our sales all at the same time? It’s all in our ERP system.

How do we procure better? How do we manage our positions better? How do we manage our margins better? And if we have all that in our ERP system, but it takes me 45 reports just to figure that out, that’s not efficient.

If it’s on my phone, I can make decisions now and you guys deal with it from the fertilizer side. You make those decisions in 5 minutes, about millions and millions of dollars. If we have access to that information, we are that much better. And that’s internally. That’s where our team sees the efficiencies that are driving. Now, do they like that? I can see every order come through and I can reject them. Probably not. But it does drive accountability.


Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply

As I look at our history of a company here from over 60 years, what we are today isn’t even remotely close to what we started out as and will continue to change. That’s all good. I think I should take this moment to thank the AgVend staff because part of the negativity we’re hearing internally on this change (and it just feels uncomfortable) gets passed on to the AgVend staff because we’re building something from nothing.

They bring us wonderful new tools and options and some people are like, “oh, well, that isn’t what happens today. That isn’t how we do it.” But you know what? We’ll get through that. So thank you to the staff for listening to all the concerns, adding things or providing ideas on what to build out for the rest of our good because we’re a collective good here. So thank you for that.

I don’t want to focus on negativity. What we’ve learned on the positive side is even though there’s only 15% of our grower base actively involved, some of the people that are most actively involved, one was a 61 year old guy that you never would have figured, who pays his bill more on time. The US mail continues to get worse and worse for us if you can relate to that. So we’re learning some positive things about people that we had pegged in a certain hole that are incorrect and that’s completely positive.



Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop

If you could reflect since you started using AgVend and implementing its tools, what’s the number one thing that it has revealed about your business that perhaps you may have not seen otherwise?


Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply

People expect us to do it. They expect as a leader in the industry that we continue to challenge their thinking. So now it’s coming from a business operations communication standpoint, but I take that to also mean it’s a challenge for the sales staff to continually challenge the growers mindset in improving their operation. In this particular case, the product that we’re presenting to them is a business efficiency tool. It’s a communication tool.

So I go back to the start. We’re in northern Iowa, southern Minnesota, the start of our fungicide usage was in 2005. Before 2005 other than the seed corn growers and sweet corn, there was no fungicide being used. You know what kicked it off? The fear of Asian soybean rust. For those of you that have been around a long time, that was a big, big deal. And you take 2005, my goodness, 17 years ago, we barely had cell phones.

But I still am nervous and ask myself the question, are we completely connected with every customer? In the event that a disaster happened, we could notify them in a snap. We’re not there. 15%, it’s not going to cut it. An email’s not going to cut it. A newsletter is not going to cut it. So challenge yourself to communicate it and build a tool to communicate that will continually just add more and more features and benefits.


Culley Medley, Vice President of Operations at River Valley Cooperative

When I first started in ag retail, I didn’t realize how archaic our business is. The technology isn’t moving fast enough. That is what I’m scared about. That’s part of my worst fear right now because I think we all think we’re moving at a very, very rapid pace. But as Bret pointed out, I think our growth is moving at a faster pace than what we are. And I don’t know if we are adapting quick enough.

That is probably my number one fear we should have had five years ago. We should have been already transacting this way five years ago, ten years ago. I don’t know if we can even move any faster, but we have to. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but we’ve got to embrace this.



Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop

Thinking about the farmer of the future, how specifically can AgVend enable you to serve that farmer?


Culley Medley, Vice President of Operations at River Valley Cooperative

The one thing I keep going back to – we all think the farmer wants to buy online. I don’t think he does. I think he wants to learn more about pricing, availability, and transparency. And I think we can give that from an act of insight. And we’re going to have to be that vulnerable. We have to start talking about our positions with our growers if we want them to forecast with us. They have to start making decisions earlier. We keep getting pushed to make decisions earlier. So how do we drive that all the way down through the channel?


Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply

We’re supporting them from the agriculture inputs perspective. That’s product based right now, but as we transition to more information based, I would like to see if we could have a conversation with our customer face to face. We aren’t all burned out on virtual meetings yet, but this get together is much better than a virtual AgVend kickoff meeting. So thank you for that.

Let’s challenge our communication portal with the customer to include things that we maybe can’t even think about today, but learn from other applications that you may be using that you like. I have the Delta app on my phone. We pretty much fly exclusively Delta. You know what I love? Your bag has gotten on the plane notification. Your bag has hit the carousel notification. Delta is constantly in contact with us. I didn’t even know I liked it till we got it. Once you get it, then you wonder, “Wow, how did I ever live without it?”

I think it’s going to be a part of all of our challenges in the room to continue to challenge AgVend on our behalf again collectively, to push the ideas that it can offer to be closer to the customer and support them in a world that’s complicated.



Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop

So as we go ahead into the new year, you guys are going to be managing your allocations on certain products, I’m assuming. How are you working with farmers to increase their forecasting, increase their planning, and therefore help solidify some of the decisions that you are having to make right now?


Culley Medley, Vice President of Operations at River Valley Cooperative

Fertilizer, we’re good supply wise. There’s some issues. We’re exporting it at a record pace and we’re still domestically needing it. But from a chem allocation standpoint, getting the farmer to think through what their needs are and truly forecast is the hardest challenge that we have. Bean traits continue to change.

You know what bean herbicides we’re going to need? I hate to say it, but our forecast now is we’ll take everything you offer to us. I know that sounds bad, but that’s kind of the market we’re in right now. I’d love to say it’s going to straighten out. I’d love to go back to having God’s plentiful supply of whatever product we need, but I don’t see it straightening out and I don’t think the grower is ready to commit to that.

Maybe we have to dictate to the growers that can’t forecast this is what you’re getting. I think we try to be everything to everyone, which is wrong. We can’t be, we’re not Wal-Mart. We have to set the precedents. If guys are willing to forecast, we lock in their supply. And the people that can’t forecast, they get what we give them. And I think we have to start dictating that.


Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply

Decide what kind of company you want to be when you go to the market with a message to the grower base. We aren’t going to sell you something we don’t physically have in-house. That was a recent decision because of allocations. But over the last ten years we’ve been building infrastructure up to the point where we’re just knocking on 1 million gallons worth of pesticide storage.

Possession is king, but even in light of holding capacity, when they manufacture the limits, that’s what you can take over periods of time. And then we go to the marketplace and say, I’m only going to let you buy so much. In the example, last year, we said Mr. Grower you can only buy 60% of the Liberty you bought last year and we learned a valuable lesson from that. If they couldn’t buy 100% of the Liberty, they went elsewhere and tried. They want to buy it now and not forecast many, many times. That was unsuccessful. And they came back and said, okay, I’ll take your 60%.

I get it. But there’s some training that needs to happen. I don’t want to get back to a market that is fully supplied because you all can provide valuable service in maybe even changing people’s minds on things that they’re going to use in that chemistry space by being that trusted, reliable supplier.

I stand up in front of farm groups all winter long at meetings that I host and say, “We are going to be your trusted, reliable supplier because…”. But to learn that lesson that they want to buy everything now and not buy it in stages, that taught us something that we didn’t know.



Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop

If you could zoom out a little bit, the first one would be what is just the top solution you are looking for in your business? If you could have a magic wand and solve a problem, what problem would you solve?


Culley Medley, Vice President of Operations at River Valley Cooperative

Magic wand for me right now is people. I can’t get people, but obviously using technology and some of the resources that we have for driving efficiencies will help. It is a challenge right now of finding good, qualified people that are loyal that will come to work every day and be dedicated. I think that is probably our magic wand.

If I could have one from the technology side, I’d talk about it from a procurement standpoint. If I had that ability to see live positions, I think I can make better decisions. I think I can manage that position better. But number one is people.


Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply

Staying relevant and the customers perspective of who we are as a partner with them. That keeps me up at night. I thought I’d come back and reference Garrett as the third generation. He’s 28. So if you think of beginning farmers his age, maybe up to 35, they haven’t known a world without being connected to technology. We have to be conscious of that. We have to understand that at some point in time they may think they’re smarter than we are because of the information that’s available for their consumption and to support that. Don’t fall behind.

It’s staying relevant in the eyes of supply and shipping and billing. That’s table steaks. Staying relevant from a business support perspective would be a challenge I think we need to address.



Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop

Outside of AgVend, what is a technology or tool that’s new to your business in the last two and a half years that you would just share with the group that might be something they could also benefit from?


Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply

We recognize the future benefit of the tool called SIM Pass. When they launched that 4 to 5 years ago, we knew a bunch of the people involved in that launch. We’ve been there since the beginning. What excites us yet today is the ability to prescriptively apply products only where they’re needed. Instead of blanket application from a pesticide application perspective.

Does that mean less being sold? Potentially – we can debate that, but it opens the door for products that were maybe previously too expensive to consider using now as a real beneficial tool to be used and spread that high cost across more acres. It’s a technology tool from AMVC being sold through Trimble dealers today that we distribute products into that marketplace.

That is a challenge to get across. It’s a challenge to launch but has unending benefits from agriculture to society to point and say here we are. We’re being more sustainable. We’re being more productive because the yields are going up because of the practices we’re implementing, not at the cost of the environment.


Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop

And you guys are writing those prescriptions as well. So it is a tool that is drawing you even closer to those farmers and providing a new service level to them.


Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply

Yes. So the prescriptions that it takes to run that piece of equipment are written in-house for a fee.


Culley Medley, Vice President of Operations at River Valley Cooperative

I don’t have anything that really hits me other than that sprayer technology continues to be huge for the ability of the farmer to plant as much as he does.We have 49 applicators trying to cover all the acres that we cover in a short window. They continue to bring technology to us and we have to continue to invest in that technology. But it’s a real cost.

We’ve got to continue to drive to efficiency. I said that 40 million times up here, but it is true that if we’ve got to continue to cover the acres. The grower expectations continue to go up there. Challenges for labor. Now they lean on us, so they’re asking us to spray even more. That is probably the technology that drives us right now.



Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop

How does the AgVend experience fit into your actual work flow? Can you please describe that for me?


Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply

We both use AgVance as our ERP, so we have a commonality here. I continue to challenge AgVend and question myself.

One should not believe that AgVance won’t continue to develop a site to compete with AgVend. Garrett is a very good data analyst. We’re using both independently today with AgVance being our primary ERP system and we’re using AgVend as a communications and marketing tool and internal communications tool with some limited sales data being entered there. But of course it all ends up there because we got the ERP built or the API built. So all the data is available there for the sales staff to see. We’re using them independently.


Culley Medley, Vice President of Operations at River Valley Cooperative

From our side of it I’m pretty bad about this. For 7 years I didn’t even log into AgVance because it is archaic and I struggle with it. Once I got AgVend, I actually use that more than any tool that we have ourselves. Our use of it consists of viewing past history, purchase history, sales records – the easy to find information that the business unit side of it needs.

I joke with Alexander that they made it so easy that I could build reports so that’s the part that I feel like is progressing way faster than AgVance. I do think AgVance will try to get there. I don’t think they’ll ever get there, though. That’s a struggle I continue to see with AgVance. At some point I do think they have the ability but not right now.

We just started using AgVend’s marketing tools, and that is a huge untapped market, being able to see purchase history by product, sellers that bought it last year, and mass marketing to those individuals. There is a lot of power in that and if we don’t start utilizing tools like that, we’re going to get left behind.


Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply

We’ve built customer segmentation into our both SSI and AgVend tools so that we’re also looking at what segment is buying what product, and then asking the questions why to try and understand purchase behaviors better online.



Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop

(Asmus Farm Supply) has been with AgVend since the start. They have 15% user adoption. Why is that?


Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply

Probably our lack of push to make people get involved and that all starts with our sales staff. So if our sales staff isn’t 100% bought in on what this tool can do for the company, they’re not going to sit across from the customer and promote it. We need to start internally and do a better job, which we’ll do at our sales conference this year again, by being excited from an internal perspective so that it grows from an external perspective.


Culley Medley, Vice President of Operations at River Valley Cooperative

We have quite a few active users. We’re at about 2,500. The adoption rate for us has been easy because the one thing that our customers found is that our statement sucks. And then they go and see our invoices are a lot better through AgVend. I’ve had producers say that they’ve moved their entire energy business to us, and they’re doing grain and agronomy with us too. They said they like the portal. It’s easy for them to look at, and have access to live scale tickets. All of the information is now in one single point.


I’ve had producers say that they’ve moved their entire energy business to us, and they’re doing grain and agronomy with us too. They said they like the portal. It’s easy for them to look at, and have access to live scale tickets. All of the information is now in one single point.

That is, it’s easy to do business with us, right? I mean, Alexander talked about the Amazon app. It’s easy to do business with us if we continue to make it easier for them to do all of their business in one spot. They’re going to move all business there. That’s stickiness.


Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply

I think I’ve got something to learn from comments we’ve received on the negative side where customers say, “I don’t do business that way.”

What can we learn from that? That means to me they think it’s something that they don’t want. Most likely, they think it’s buying online. So we need to do a better job of promoting the other features and benefits. And maybe ultimately you do want to buy something online.


Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop

So we’ve done four years of research at Farm Journal and the SCOOP asking U.S. farmers how much of their crop inputs do they buy online and specifically asking about buying online. Last year we added the question, “What does it mean to you to buy online?” Because we realize how loaded that question really is. So I think it was over a third of farmers, it may have even been two thirds who said that buying online meant that they called their retailer and they placed the order online. So it was almost one step separated from now.

Over those four years, we’ve seen the percent of farmer respondents saying that they had bought any percent of crop inputs. So we’re specifically asking fertilizer, crop protection and seed that was 9% to 11% to 15% to 14% over those four years, saying they had bought some of their crop inputs online.



Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop

Real quick on the statements. You said you still send out paper statements, how do you handle that?


Culley Medley, Vice President of Operations at River Valley Cooperative

Currently we send all statements out, snail mail. They continue to go out, but we continue to see more and more growers going online and looking at their statements. They like the invoicing we embraced in the portal. They can see that. So I think we’re seeing the progression right now.


Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply

I smile and chuckle to myself because we’re going through exactly the same thing. We mail paper statements to everybody. God bless those that call us and say, “I don’t want the paper one anymore, I want to get it online.”

AgVance is a little difficult to tell who to send it to or not. So it’s that huge job before us of getting into the ERP. Who has time to do all that sorting within the ERP of who doesn’t want paper statements – that’s the reason why we haven’t.



Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop

You say we put a lot on our sales team. How did you get your sales team engaged with the app and the portal and encourage them to use it? And specifically from the framing of being a new sign on.


Culley Medley, Vice President of Operations at River Valley Cooperative

The first year we dabbled in it. That would be the nice way of putting it. We allowed the sellers that wanted to embrace it, to put in orders or look at it or do whatever they needed to on the app.

By the time we went to year two, I required all salesmen to put every single order through the portal. Then they started seeing the benefits of it. Some of our older sellers are probably less technology driven and struggled with it the most. But now they’re some of the biggest users of it.

They found out how efficient it makes them and what they are able to find for information that if you almost had to force it, they’ll start to see the benefits. If you give them the option, they’re always going to do the latter. They don’t need it right now. I’m doing it my way. So we force their hand into it, which now works really well.

We’ve had a seller that came over from Nutrien. He was on their system and he’s our most active user on ours. And he said this one blows Nutrien’s out of the water. So there is definitely value in forcing them along the lines. That’s how we did it. I don’t know if it is always the right move, but lay down the hammer.


Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply

I’ll speak on behalf of our crop protection department’s agronomists. Their world is getting more complicated because as we get fewer major manufacturers who we represent, building A to Z portfolios because they want to be the one stop portfolio shop. It takes longer to describe to the grower the portfolio from the various manufacturers. So the discussion is at least an hour.

The way that we’re striving to gain involvement with the portal through the sales staff is to put quotes in there. If you use the quote feature to describe the portfolio from Bayer or their portfolio from Syngenta and give that as a take home piece for the grower to take, that’s the way you get them in to see how it works and curiosity will lead them to other areas.


If you use the quote feature to describe the portfolio from Bayer or their portfolio from Syngenta and give that as a take home piece for the grower to take, that’s the way you get them in to see how it works and curiosity will lead them to other areas.

The business intel area is also a great piece where we’re sharing data with the sales staff like allocations, but also progression to a goal they might have.


Culley Medley, Vice President of Operations at River Valley Cooperative

I’d point out one other thing and it is having somebody, Kendra (e-Business Lead), internally that drives it and has the sales team’s support. That is what’s taking us to the next level. Without Kendra’s help, if it was on my shoulders to answer all those questions, it’d be wrong. Kendra came from the agronomy sales side and then was on our precision team. And then she’s taken the leadership role of basically implementing AgVend internally for us and it’s really driven the results that we’re looking for.



Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop

As you rolled out the portal, how did pricing transparency factor in and how have you responded to that?


Culley Medley, Vice President of Operations at River Valley Cooperative

Our sellers were very nervous. Their concern is that we’re going to have a price out there. And I said, “if that’s what you’re concerned about, you’re not talking to your growers enough.” So from a pricing side, we posted our highest price or custom applied full service price. And the reason for that is – if we have cash and carry or we have anything similar, we will customize that quote form.

I challenged most of our sales team – if you can’t walk through that conversation, first of all, don’t give a farmer a deal without letting them know you gave them a deal. Take credit for it. That’s why we always post our highest price out there. And it does work because really the growers aren’t trying to buy online, they’re doing more e-business. Next, we put all of our orders through. We send plans through and they have a customized quote for their farm.


Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply

I smile and chuckle because it’s still a part of this distribution network that raises all our blood pressure. It’s prices that are out there. So first thing I’d remind you of is if you’re going to post prices in your AgVend portal, it’s to the people that you invite to be a part of the portal. It doesn’t go to the whole world. So there’s a captive audience already.

Secondly, if you still feel uncomfortable because you’re offering this portal opportunity to prospects as well as to your customer, remember there’s a difference between them. The prospects may show you can split them, but you can also do a request to quote only as the statement for pricing with every brand that your price is requested to quote with fertilizer.

I think that my fertilizer department does things that change so volatility is like 32%. Let’s say it’s a request to quote the only price they have out there. So it’s always that way for more stable type of things like starters that we’ll list a price.



Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop

What were the top surprises you found when you adopted the AgVend Platform?


Culley Medley, Vice President of Operations at River Valley Cooperative

I’d say the top one for me is easy to read invoices and statements. That’s a lot of feedback I get from growers. The next couple of assumptions we made were that we thought an older generation was not adaptive to it. They made liars out of me. Landowners and the older generation actually gravitated to the AgVend portal better than I ever thought they would. That gave them some transparency that they hadn’t seen before, especially if they’re outside of the market area, maybe living somewhere else and the access to the information that they’ve never had before. It’s not the advisor kind of communication. You can actually send it through there and they can see their statement. That was probably the most eye opening to me.


We thought an older generation was not adaptive to it. They made liars out of me. Landowners and the older generation actually gravitated to the AgVend portal better than I ever thought they would.

The other part that I found from our sellers is the ability to view purchase history. I think they found that very, very, very useful knowing what they sold last year. I gravitate back to fertilizer. We’re selling commodities. They’re selling commodities. They sell it in percentages. Why don’t they buy in percentages? Instead of having to put a full farm proposal together, why don’t they take some of that risk off? Why don’t we offer them, why don’t you buy 30% now of your nitrogen? Start talking differently.


Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply

First benefit, I would say, is the stickiness factor. Back when we all created websites, we were seeking or being sold something to have on your website like the weather. The weather was supposed to be that attraction that would bring people to your site. So with the portal that we’re offering, the stickiness product is previous purchase history and just simple label lookup. Its connection with the customer would be the first one.

Second, we’re turning more money faster. They’re paying digitally (ACH) and other ways faster. So that’s always a good thing to turn money.

Third, from an internal communications perspective, having the allocation problems that we had in 2022 of which we will carry into 2023 as well and having the managers of the departments and enabling them with a tool to communicate on allocations internally. That’s number three.



Margy Eckelkamp, Editor at The Scoop

So in the launch of your customer portal? What would you have done differently?


Culley Medley, Vice President of Operations at River Valley Cooperative

I wouldn’t have waited a year to let the sales team dabble and I would have had Kendra in place quicker. Those are the two things from an execution side and not allowing the sales team to waver in it.


Harlan Asmus, President & CEO of Asmus Farm Supply

What I would do differently can still be changed. So it’s not too late. What I would say is so we as organizations probably print quarterly or periodic newsletters, and who do you send them to? You send them to everybody on your mailing list, whether they want it or not. I don’t know if this is possible from the AgVend team yet. I still have to talk to them. But for these 85% of our customers that are currently not enrolled in active, we’re going to sign them up.

You’re going to start getting promotional materials from us on a featured product of the month or something like that. We’re going to expose them more forcefully than to wait for them to see the value of the tool. We have to show them the value.


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