Website designed to connect farmers with agribusinesses
By KRISS NELSON
JEFFERSON – The possibilities are endless when it comes to products that can be purchased online.
With the launch of a new website, producers will now have the opportunity to request and receive competitive offers on their inputs from local, competing agribusinesses.
Tyler Horbach said his new website, The FarmElement, will provide a “simple, fair and local way” to help producers increase their margins, all for free.
Horbach said the website is very user-friendly and farmers simply submit requests for products and services they are looking to buy. That information is then sent on to the local agribusinesses, which can then reply back to the farmer with their competing offers.
“From there, the farmer can review his options and choose who to do business with based off of what is most important to him,” he said. “Whether it be price, service, quality of product, etc. It’s a free way for farmers to get competing offers from local businesses.”
There are other online services that allow farmers to purchase inputs, which, he said, is a good concept and can possibly save farmers money.
But he added there’s a problem with that.
“You are steering the business away from the local agribusinesses,” he said.
Keeping business local is a passion for Horbach, a fifth-generation business owner.
“I grew up in Jefferson,” he said. “It’s these small towns that I know and I love that local agribusinesses and the farm economy keep alive.”
Horbach believes The FarmElement will help steer the online business that still keeps farmers shopping local as more and more producers lean towards online shopping.
“Not every farmer is going to go online, but as the younger generations start to take on more responsibility within the family operations, this is a way to satisfy their need to do things online, but still steer that business local,” he said.
One of the main concerns he has heard from people is that they worry the agricultural industry is going into the “Amazon effect,” which is what happens to small businesses when people decide to buy everything online and skip over their local businesses.
“I think one thing that my company leverages, does, that some of the competitors who bypass the local agribusinesses don’t have is that the agriculture industry is very relationship-based,” he said. “Going to buy a pair of shoes on Amazon is different than going to buy your livelihood – your seed, your fertilizer, your chemicals. You get the best of both worlds with the online experience but then you also preserve the relationship factor.”
“I am not trying to get in between the relationship of the agronomist and the farmer. It’s really just making connections.”
The FarmElement was launched on Dec. 1 and Horbach said is in a pilot area right now.
To get his business going, Horbach took advice and other help from resources at Iowa State University and other sources.
“They advised me to start with a pilot in a relatively small area,” he said. “So what I am doing is piloting the website in Greene County and surrounding counties including Carroll, Calhoun, Webster, Boone, Dallas and Guthrie. December was the month to launch it and see how the website works, and everything went pretty well.”
As of this week, Horbach said the site now has enough businesses to sell seed, fertilizer and chemicals in all of the pilot counties. More work is being done on finding services for custom farming and soil sampling.
Horbach found speaking with local farmers was the best way to find which companies and services to include on The FarmElement website.
“I talked to co-ops and seed dealers, but I found one of the best ways was just asking farmers in the area,” he said. “I sat down at the kitchen table with them and asked them who they would want to do business with on here, because I want quality businesses to be on my site. Farmers told me who they like doing business with and then I approached those businesses and talked to them about the website and have been able to bring most of them onboard.”
Horbach said he considers his website user-friendly and compares to using Google.
“Farmers do not need to create an account, or pay anything,” he said. “They can just go to the website and immediately submit requests. I currently have three areas of products and services that farmers can request offers on. We have inputs such as seed, chemicals and fertilizer, and we are also branching out into custom farming and then also soil sampling.”
Horbach said producers simply enter The FarmElement site, click on which product they are interested in receiving offers on, what they are interested in purchasing, fill out a short form that will provide their name, contact information and their preferred method on how they would like to receive their offers from the agribusinesses.
They then answer a series of questions that those agribusinesses will need in order to provide the product.
“They hit submit, and then the local agribusinesses that offer the product or service requested will be notified and responsible for getting back to the farmer with their best offer,” he said.
He has seen response times as quickly as 20 minutes up a full business day.
Horbach also noted the website is built for farmers who are actively looking to purchase a product and/or service from the agribusinesses listed on the site.
He said the companies he partnered with are paying for the opportunity to compete for a farmer’s business. Horbach believes they will no longer participate if they feel like they are being taken advantage of.
Future of The FarmElement
Within two to three years, Horbach would like to see The FarmElement serving producers throughout the state of Iowa and eventually branch out across the Midwest featuring a plethora of products.
“I have plans to add over 40 different products and services to the site,” he said. “But that’s obviously going to take some time.”
He encouraged producers and agribusinesses to visit TheFarmElement.com. If anyone has any questions, he suggests they click on the “contact us” tab and he will respond them very quickly.
“If there’s anybody interested in The FarmElement that has questions, or advice for me, please feel free to reach out,” he said. “I’m always looking for more agribusinesses to add as well. So if anyone would be interested in learning more, please contact me.”
Horbach added that 10 percent of his net earnings from The FarmElement are donated to local organizations.
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