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view overlooking the top of green corn plants with farm buildings on horizon Willie Vogt
ENHANCING INPUT BUYING: A startup called HarvestPort wants to work with retailers to bring added technology to the buying process. The aim is to take a holistic look at the farm and match specific needs to key products.

Startup aims to rethink ag input retailing

HarvestPort's goal is to work with retailers to innovate the purchase process.

The number of startup firms targeting agriculture continues to grow, and in each case these new companies see opportunity in different parts of the business. One area that may see more attention is the way farmers buy crop inputs, and HarvestPort wants to be part of that process.

“I would say we are a new-tech-enabled crop retailer,” says Brian Dawson, HarvestPort CEO. “We’re a marketplace, a procurement platform — and those terms are apt, but they don’t tell the story.”

There are others playing in this space, but Dawson says the HarvestPort approach is different. “We will work with crop retailers and manufacturers with existing boots on the ground; we will not take principal risk on product,” he says.

The ag retail industry has been adding innovation to the business for the past decade with new platforms for fleet management and retail information. However, the transactional tech is still in its infancy. Those are the tools that allow you to pick your products, put in the orders and manage delivery — all from the comfort of your farm office (or perhaps the cab of your combine).

The HarvestPort Inputs Program aims to “leverage the strength of farmers’ collective buying power to generate the best prices on crop inputs and other supplies,” according to a press release the company issued recently.

As part of that program, the company aims to help with planning and forecasting to help farmers learn how to save more money; secure best prices by choosing recommended generic products by active ingredients; and provide strategic assistance with procurement, product selection and budget management.

Working with retailers

Dawson explains that HarvestPort is already connecting with major retail organizations, including Nutrien and Simplot, to provide sales and procurement support. “We actually go with key partners and sit and have conversations with farmers to cut costs,” Dawson says. “We find value in the process and help cut costs.”

He explains that the relationship between farmer and retailer is changing, adding that the days of getting the free hunting trip are not what the buyer wants. “They want someone who can take a holistic view of the operation and can understand emerging technologies,” Dawson says.

And today, buyers are asking more questions beyond those about traditional herbicide, fungicide and insecticide, as more biological products and other innovations come to market. Dawson explains that HarvestPort can be part of that conversation and help connect farmers to those new products through existing retailers by offering more support.

“We’re not agronomists. We’ll bring in partners and get novel or innovative products from a manufacturer; we won’t go around the retailer,” he says.

For retailers looking at novel products, HarvestPort can provide the sales and insight to the customer to move those products to market. “We are more high-touch to begin with for a tech platform; but once in our system, growers in our platform can see a full annual forecast of what they need, which is updated all the time,” Dawson says. “We’re providing product suggestions from Syngenta to Bayer to Corteva, showing how they can save X amount of dollars by providing them ongoing business intelligence.”

Dawson says the pricing model for the service is based on how farmers buy. In California, for example, where crop inputs are bought throughout the year, it’s a per-acre fee. In the Midwest, where buying is highly seasonal, there’s a per-purchase charge for the service. The program is tailored to the market and situation.

HarvestPort, like many startups, got rolling in California, but it’s looking at expanding into other markets — from the Pacific Northwest to the Midwest. Dawson explains that his firm is already working with retailers in the Midwest, who have shared their transactional data that HarvestPort can use to help support customers.

Learn more about the services the startup provides by visiting harvestport.com.

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