GPS and precision farming firm Trimble is set to buy the Canadian operator of North America’s largest network of independent agricultural consultants.
Publicly traded, U.S.-based Trimble, which specializes in GPS and other location services, including the collection and management of on-farm data and services for precision farming, announced Tuesday it will buy Red Deer-based, privately-held Agri-Trend for an undisclosed sum.
“It’s a perfect fit for us,” Agri-Trend CEO Rob Saik said in an interview Tuesday, adding that under the deal he will work with Trimble and expand the Agri-Trend model globally.
“We’re also very excited about the integration of Trimble technology. The reality is farmers want to move forward with precision agriculture and we have been doing that and we’re going to be able to do that in a much bigger way now.
“We’re planning no changes for our employees, no changes in our business model, no changes to the coaches, no changes to the physical location. It’s just taking it (model) and amping it up — turning up the dial.”
Agri-Trend has 200 specialists in Canada and the U.S., including more than 110 independent “coaches” specializing in agronomy, precision farming, crop marketing and farm business management.
Coaches are supported by a team of science specialists comprised of more than 30 Ph.D’s and M.Sc’s providing in-house research, training and support for both the coaching network and the Agri-Data Solution platform, a proprietary farm data management service.
“As a result, Agri-Trend’s solutions enable growers to make informed business decisions that better allocate scarce resources to produce safe and environmentally sustainable food,” the company’s release said.
Agri-Trend has the best business model for supplying expertise to farmers, but it takes capital, which Trimble can provide, Saik said.
“To see Agri-Trend grow to well over 200 individuals influencing agriculture and to have it carry on the legacy within the Trimble group is really exciting for me personally,” Saik said. “I’m passionate about agriculture. I’m passionate about speaking out about science in agriculture and I’m passionate about making a difference at the farm level and I always have been.”
Agri-Trend’s farm coaches are billed as independent and unbiased experts, backed up by Agri-Trend’s senior coaches, most of whom are former university and government experts hired under contract, Saik said.
“I describe it as an entrepreneurial co-operative where you reap what you sow and share what you know,” he said. “That has been our model. The coaches will utilize Agri-Trend process and Agri-Trend’s platform and people to support them as they work for farmers. That’s how they make their money. That’s how we make our money.”
Trimble works in a range of areas including engineering, construction as well as agriculture. Trimble Agriculture helps farmers maximize efficiency and reduce chemical and fertilizer inputs and protect natural resources and the environment, the release said.
“Trimble’s precision agriculture solutions cover all seasons, crops, terrains, and farm sizes, and its brand-agnostic strategy allows farmers to use Trimble products on most vehicles in their fleet — regardless of manufacturer.”
Trimble provides water solutions for irrigation, drainage, and land levelling. Trimble’s products include vehicle and implement guidance and steering, a portfolio of correction options, unmanned aircraft vehicles for aerial imaging and mapping, application controls for seed, liquid, and granular products and farm management software.
Saik began his agricultural career with now defunct chemical company Elanco. His comedic alter ego, Steve Stubblejumpski from Double Bumps, Alta., has often been a banquet speaker over the years and is known to many Prairie farmers.
“I love doing it,” Saik said. “I still do it once in awhile when it fits into my schedule and I do it because I love to hear farmers laugh. I love to take the stuff that we do in agriculture and twist it and make some fun of it and enjoy life.
“There’s nothing better than hearing a crowd of farmers laughing about jokes about GPS or GMOs.”
— Allan Dawson is a reporter for the Manitoba Co-operator at Miami, Man. Follow him at @AllanReporter on Twitter.