Stoller on a growth path in the Midwest
Educating growers and ag retailer agronomists has been a main emphasis as Stoller USA has advanced product sales in the row-crop markets and is increasing its presence in the Midwest. With 14 sales representatives serving the nation, the company is looking to increase its sales force in the Midwest.
“During the last several years, we realized in the Midwest, especially in row crops, we needed to find a channel to get to the growers a little more effectively than we had been doing in the past,” said Wayne Smith, Stoller USA general manager.
The company has been establishing stronger working relationships with the wholesale distribution channel in the upper Midwest.
The Stoller products, which mainly alleviate stress factors in a crop, were first recognized as highly beneficial to growers in the specialty, high-value crops as a group of consultants began working with the company about 20 years ago.
“In my opinion, with the commodity prices where they are today, there is no such thing as a high-value crop because everything we deal with is high value in the grain markets, too,” said Tom Daniel, sales and marketing director for Security Seed and Chemical.
“Ten years ago when corn and soybean commodity prices were much lower, a one- to two-bushel increase in soybeans or a four- to five-bushel increase in corn may not have given a grower enough return. But with today’s commodity prices, suddenly the return on investment from a $6 to $12 treatment is pretty nice,” Daniel said. That one-bushel yield increase is definitely the low end of yield enhancement but shows that any yield increase more than pays for an investment, he explained.
The 13 retail locations of the full-service farm supply Security Seed and Chemical have jumped into selling Stoller products in a big way based on what the products have shown in the company’s own field research trials and third-party research. The company’s service area stretches from southern Indiana to northern Georgia and Alabama and has headquarters at Clarksville, Tenn. Major crops serviced are corn, full-season soybeans, wheat, double-crop soybeans and tobacco.
Daniel said Stoller products fit a wide range of crops, but the products’ capabilities need to be fully understood so that proper use and application information are passed along to a grower. Some growers also turn the application responsibility over to Security, which helps increase the company’s custom application business. Security is big in pesticide and liquid fertilizer custom application.
Security is known for “what we call ‘new technologies in the marketplace,’” said Daniel. “We started testing Stoller products in our production systems four years ago. We have a full-time staff to do nothing but research and three full-time research farms within our geography on which we do nothing but on-site testing… There are a lot of products on the market that are good but don’t work all the time because they are not applied correctly or the application timing is not just right. And there are a lot of products that just don’t work. Our concept is that we want to be able to test everything and work with it on a local basis so that we can see local results with our growers in the local conditions that we face.”
This kind of testing proved the Stoller products. And even though there have been 20 years of university and Stoller trials, Daniel suggests that Midwest ag retailers will probably only be confident of Stoller products’ maximum potential after they have kept track of exactly when and how to use them with each specific crop—although the Stoller sales representative can be extremely helpful in shortening the learning process.
Because the Stoller products are unlike other products being widely distributed, the sales representative has to be part researcher and technical sales specialist. They cannot be marketing, sales emphasis representatives.
Jeff Morgan, Stoller USA marketing manager, said the company has turned the corner on having a respectable number of commodity crop growers in the Midwest praising the Stoller products. He said there is an ever increasing number of growers who understand what originally was intimidating about the portfolio of products.
“We see some growers who might be a little intimidated about plant hormonal activity or some other big scary words, but once they start to use the products, and they see how easy they are to use and experience the flexible application options, then it is a no brainer to them,” Morgan said.
So, the bottom line appears to be that the increased distribution in conjunction with grower knowledge is providing increased opportunity for ag retailers, specifically in the Midwest, to turn a profit selling the Stoller portfolio.