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How self-sufficient is your operation, and how self-sufficient can (or should) it be?

Ben Potter, Senior editor

November 11, 2021

2 Min Read
11-12-21 ADI.jpg
Dave Staack (left) and Aaron Kassing with Ag Drainage Inc. display a roll of tile at the 2021 Farm Progress Show. ADI produces and installs the tile itself.

Ask a farmer what the best operational investment is that he or she could make on an acre of ground right now, and chances are, they would give a one-word answer — tiling.

“Pattern tiling is readily accepted. It’s part of the infrastructure plan for most farms now,” says Aaron Kassing, vice president of marketing for Ag Drainage Inc. (ADI). “It’s not a luxury; it’s a necessity.”

It’s probably no shock that with farmer profits on the rise in 2020-21, business for tiling companies has been booming, along with grain bin manufacturers and others who help deliver on those infrastructure plans.

Meantime, the pandemic created plenty of supply chain headaches, from factory work stoppages to shortages of raw materials and even transportation delays due to labor shortfalls.

As a result, most companies — not just within the agriculture industry, but everywhere — were scrambling to figure out how to become pandemic-proof and solve their various logistical problems.

ADI, as it turns out, was not one of them. The company has developed a fair amount of vertical integration by making its own product, transporting it and installing it without outside help.

“We are our own supply, so we won’t have a shortage of tile for our customers,” Kassing explains. “We control the entire process, and that’s huge. We never quit working, and we can deliver on promises and give realistic expectations.”

Related:InnerPlant creates InnerCircle to connect with customers

Is becoming more vertically integrated the secret to avoiding pandemic-related shortages?

It’s one route to consider, but most businesses (including farm operations) would struggle to find true self-sufficiency.

Researchers with Washington University in St. Louis offered some additional advice after interviewing multiple high-level executives “representing a wide range of industries affected by the pandemic,” who deployed some combination of the following strategies to become more resilient:

  • create operational buffers

  • seek out flexible supply options

  • constantly communicate with suppliers

  • diversify your footprint

  • focus on “end-to-end visibility”

According to Washington University, these companies designed a resilient supply chain via a two-stage process: selecting the right fit of strategies and then defining how to implement them.

These strategies were used by traditional manufacturers, not farmers. But there are still valuable lessons to be gleaned. For starters, strive for resiliency, flexibility and transparency. Those wishing for a magic bullet are bound to be disappointed. But as the saying goes, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

Related:5 considerations with high nitrogen fertilizer costs




About the Author(s)

Ben Potter

Senior editor, Farm Futures

Senior Editor Ben Potter brings two decades of professional agricultural communications and journalism experience to Farm Futures. He began working in the industry in the highly specific world of southern row crop production. Since that time, he has expanded his knowledge to cover a broad range of topics relevant to agriculture, including agronomy, machinery, technology, business, marketing, politics and weather. He has won several writing awards from the American Agricultural Editors Association, most recently on two features about drones and farmers who operate distilleries as a side business. Ben is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

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