Green says AGCO is rearranging the batting order in the global agricultural machinery game.
I remember the first time I met Russ Green, director of product and brand strategy for Agco. It was in the late 90’s, right around the time of the famous merger of the then-rivals Case IH and New Holland, and Green was serving as the senior director of marketing for Case IH.
He was seated at the head table in a lakeside restaurant wearing a dark tailored suit, a striped red necktie, and a big gold ring, remnants from his college years.
He was there for a meet-and-greet with reporters to tell us about the new plans for building the company, with a new line of products that would take Case IH to the next level.
Over the years, Russ has worn many colors. Case IH red, Claas yellow, Kubota orange and now multi-color Agco. His multi-colored journey isn’t unlike many other farm equipment CEOs. They take what they learned at one company and use that intelligence at the next. Examples include Kubota’s Todd Stucke, formerly with Agco; Rodney Miller who was with McCormick and now hosts an RFD-TV show; James Walker, going from Class to Case IH. There are others.
Now, just last year, I met Green at an Agco field day in Jackson, MN, where the company manufactures its HHP tractors and application equipment.
“It’s a good company to be at,” Green says. “You can see its success with all these different lines, which aren’t going away.”
Q. How would you define Agco market position?
We’re young, inquisitive, and aggressive, “almost sassy.” Where other companies are implementing strategies to protect their past, Agco people have their sails set for the future. After all, this month Agco is celebrating our 25th anniversary as a company. During those 25 years, we have made 27 company business acquisitions. The entire energy of every employee is directed at assisting professional producers in agriculture to recognize, adapt and utilize advanced technologies in an effort to feed the world.
We have a global scope and vision. Over 75 percent of our corporate revenue is derived from international sources and Agco brands are the best-positioned of any competitor to take advantage of global growth opportunities. We have observed the borderless society of agriculture, and we are quick to adapt new technologies from one region to improve performance in another.
Q. A lot of the technology that is on Fendt and Massey Ferguson tractors originated from Europe. What’s another technology making its way to the U.S.?
Of course, the most significant advancement in drivetrain technology is the CVT transmission that has been developed by Agco and adapted into numerous tractors in the Agco portfolio. While we resist invitations to speak in advance of new product developments, I can say that managers in our new product development group are managing over 115 new product development projects for North America, with the investment value of over $825M.
Some of our most advanced programs are directed at increased product strength while controlling overall product weight and additional drivetrain efficiencies. Customers tell us they are looking at more control over crop inputs while maintaining selection and customization with planting and seeding options. Technology replacing the decision process of the operator will give the owner the confidence that they are utilizing machines in their optimum performance ranges and allows the product owner the ability to turn their attention to other management decisions away from the setting and adjustments of the machines.
Q. Give us the inside scoop of where Agco’s Fuse precision farming technology is headed now with your new partnership with Appareo Systems?
Agco is investing considerable monetary and human capital in the precision technology environment. Guidance and variable rate have become table-stakes for most top producers. A key competitive advantage for any company that can take precision knowledge and translate this knowledge into machine efficiency, performance and reliability.
The progressive dealer of the future will move from a support business of the customers in a reactive mode of product behavior, to a consultative member and trusted advisor of the customer’s machine performance. Monitoring of product health and performance will become more valued, and customers will take maximum advantage of the telemetry to improve their efficiency and full machine capacity.
The joint venture with Appareo is called Intelligent Agricultural Solutions (IAS). We are really proud of this – it’s unlike any other partnership in the industry. Think of it as our technology R and D powerhouse, which combines our in-house expertise with that of one of the world’s most inventive software and engineering firms to deliver what our customers want and need. It isn’t just about improving the technologies we have today, IAS adds value by anticipating what technologies will give our customers the edge tomorrow. In-depth research determines what they’ll need in the next 3 years, 5 years and beyond.
Q. What is the biggest thing you learned from Kubota, Claas and Case IH that you are bringing with you at Agco?
Throughout my career I’ve benefited from associating with strong business leaders and mentors. It took me a while to learn the difference between knowledge and wisdom. I spent considerable time acquiring knowledge while the most effective leaders were effectively utilizing the knowledge and performance of others. Strong leaders don’t have to be the smartest person in the room to be successful. Sustainable progress is accomplished in teams. It’s important that every operating function in the company has a seat at the table. In an open, honest and transparent management environment, it’s the courage and confidence to trust the wisdom of those people around you that will bring out the greatest success of the operation.
Q. What’s next for Agco? Is it still in the expansion mode?
Profitable growth. As demonstrated by our past performance, the Agco leadership team is constantly evaluating growth options. Most of our growth will be demonstrated by the maturity of existing product development programs like our new crop production tools, Fuse precision technology and refinements to our leading hay harvesting portfolio. We intend to be a thought-leader in the expansion of the biomass environment, all the while looking for new business acquisition alternatives that match the requirements of our existing customers. A constant refrain in the Agco boardroom is “let’s play to win, not to lose.” After all, we are anxious to rearrange the batting order in the global agricultural machinery game. If we listen intently, we’ll hear the voice of the customer louder and quicker than the other competitors, and Agco will be in a good position to take advantage of every opportunity.