Farmers turn to internet to save on seeds and other supplies; dispensing with a visit to the local co-op
Brandon Sinclair spent $26,000 on herbicides for his corn and soybean fields last year, roughly half what he says he used to pay at his local co-operative.
The savings came from a source many U.S. farmers have been slow to tap: the internet.
Farmers have long made pilgrimages to farm stores and co-operatives to purchase seeds, fertilizer and weed and pest killers. Now, with a commodity glut pressuring crop prices and pushing farm incomes to an eight-year low, farmers are scouring the web for better deals on the products they use to grow their crops.
The shift could upend a decades-old system built around small-town suppliers that also offer farming advice and sell services such as spraying for weeds. Mr. Sinclair says the math is simple: Using savings found online, the 31-year old Illinois farmer was able to spring for a helicopter to wrangle his herd of cattle. Now he is urging his neighbors to shop online, too.
“I’ve always been kind of a tech guru and a tight-ass,” Mr. Sinclair said.
The internet has been slow to spread across rural America, but increasingly farmers are within reach of online pricing and sellers. A decade ago only a third of people in rural areas had access to broadband internet, versus nearly half in cities, according to the Pew Research Center. As of November broadband had reached 63% of rural residents and 73% of people in cities.
Farmer proponents of online shopping say they have discovered local prices for crop supplies can vary widely across the country. Weedkillers can cost up to four times as much in one part of the country as in another, according to Farmers Business Network Inc., a San Francisco-area startup backed by Google Ventures.
FBN, which provides farming advice and sells supplies, last year launched a service allowing farmers to monitor what their peers nationwide pay for hundreds of chemicals. Farmers use the data to negotiate for lower prices from local retailers or buy products directly from FBN.
To read the full article, visit The Wall Street Journal.