Be ready for the Aussie invasion. Some of them are here now, and more are likely to follow.
It is probably a slight exaggeration to say having lunch with the fairly new-to-Canada country manager of Nufarm is really an Aussie invasion, but Lachie McKinnon is the second Australian I have met in the past 20 years or so who has come to Canada to market their wares. The first was Didsbury, Alta., area rancher Graeme Finn, who showed up about a decade ago extolling the virtues of the Australian-made Agrowplow seeding and tillage equipment. Finn is no longer with Agrowplow but like a bad penny, he’s still involved in all sorts of things and turns up everywhere. (If you need some unique and productive forage seed blends call Union Forage). We’ll see how McKinnon does.
And as all farmers know Nufarm isn’t exactly a new name on the Canadian crop protection scene. Founded in Melbourne, Australia in mid-1950s, it began manufacturing and marketing crop protection products from its Calgary plant in the late 1990s. (That plant was closed a couple years ago. Apparently it wasn’t good optics having an ag chemical plant a few blocks south of the Burnsland Cemetery in southeast Calgary. That was just a bad joke. By all accounts closing the plant here and consolidating manufacturing and distribution operations to the U.S. was totally about business and not about any health concerns — although I have noticed there are no dandelions in the Burnsland Cemetery.)
Nufarm’s first claim to fame was to develop and market products built around long-established pheonxy herbicides such as 2,4-D and MCPA and its portfolio has grown over the years.
But, all good products as far as I can tell. I remember making a couple field trips years ago with Nufarm’s then marketing and communication specialist Wayne Karlowski to look at some very dead weeds. I actually forget the products — it might have been Credit or CleanStart — but if you had those wolfy, old deep-rooted dandelions it really did a number on them. It not only killed the dandelions on your field, but at least weakened most within a 30-mile radius — it was that good. Just bringing the product packaging to the field made weeds tremble.
Moving up the middle
Nufarm has in my mind been sort of a back-burner company when it came to crop protection products. Bayer, Dow AgroSciences, Syngenta and BASF were among the front line players, but then, oh, yeah, maybe Nufarm has something. McKinnon says Nufarm isn’t looking to be the Alpha wolf in the crop protection pack. But while the major players are doing their thing, Nufarm is steadily and purposely weaving its way up the middle of the field filling those weed control niches.
They’re not searching for new chemistries, but are re-working some of the effective, long-established active ingredients to give or renew their fit in your farm’s overall crop protection program. Helping farmers manage herbicide resistance in weeds, by using these established chemistries, usually in a blend with other chemistries, is one of Nufarm’s main product and marketing objectives.
Australia is a continent all too familiar with the impact of herbicide resistance in cereal, oilseed and pulse crop production. Nufarm isn’t wearing a super-hero cape but it’s hoping its portfolio of products, strategically used, will help Canadian farmers avoid the same fate.
I won’t hold it against McKinnon that he didn’t bring me an amazing Nufarm pen at this lunch, fortunately my Bayer pen is still working quite well. And to his credit he does seem very personable, after 30 years in the business also very knowledgeable, and although he has a bit of an Aussie accent, it’s a bonus he doesn’t need an interpreter.
One lesson I was reminded of at this luncheon — don’t be the first to order. I went for my standby burger and fries and everyone else ordered salad. I figured someone had to stick up for the Canadian beef producers and southern Alberta potato growers. And maybe it becomes a bit obvious, too, who is being swayed the devious lettuce growers lobby. I am totally above that, unless they have really nice pens.