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Expert answers are just a phone call away

What’s that bug? What’s that weed? Why is that cow not eating? Why am I not getting the yield I expected from this wheat crop? Which sprayer nozzle will work best for my needs? Why is my combine making that noise? If you’ve been faced with those or hundreds of other questions during your farming day, AGvisorPRO probably has a specialist on the line, ready to answer your question.

AGvisorPRO is a new service for western Canadian farmers, launched in July. On one side of the service is an ever-growing bank of specialists and experts from different fields of expertise, from across the country, available to speak with farmers. On the other side of the service are farmers and ranchers with the free AGvisorPRO app on their smartphones, tablets or desktop computers who are dealing with some production or management question. They may or may not need an immediate answer. But they can use the app to connect with one of those specialists or experts — talk, text or video with them directly — and potentially have their question resolved within a few minutes.

Fee-for-service advice

It’s a fee-per-call service, ranging anywhere from $35 to $60 for initially 10 minutes worth of consulting services, with more time available as needed.

“AGvisorPRO is the uberization of knowledge and wisdom,” says Patrick Walther, general manager of AGvisorPRO, who advises people to take a moment to digest that concept. Similar to the Uber car-for-hire service that pools the resources of privately owned vehicles to be rented by individuals as a taxi service, AGvisorPRO pools the resources of some of the top agronomic, farm management, livestock production and ag mechanical expertise — making them available to be a phone call away from producers.

“A question or problem arises the farmer needs help with, and often timing is important, and they may not know who to call,” says Walther, explaining the process. “They can go to the AGvisorPRO app on their smartphone, enter a few key words, along with photos or short video, describing the problem. The system will then produce a list of AGvisorPRO professionals who have knowledge and expertise in that problem area and the farmer can select one to call for information. It is expected the professional will be in touch with the producer within 10 to 15 minutes or sooner.”

With the initial call, producers need to register their credit cards. The cost of the consulting service will be billed directly to the card for time used, based on 10-minute increments. The AGvisorPRO service, developed by founder Rob Saik, a well-known figure in the agriculture industry, will offer expertise in seven key areas: crops, livestock, machinery, technology integration, business management, human resources and mental health.

While there is a fee-for-service, Walther points out many of these advisors are some of the leading experts in their field and their time and knowledge is valuable. “At the same time if there is some problem in front of a farmer that can be resolved in a few minutes and get equipment back working in the field that is worth quite a bit too,” he says. After they finish the call, farmers are urged to rate the value of the information they received.

As of early August, AGvisorPRO had about 80 professionals and specialist in its pool of “agvisors” with the list growing steadily. In the first couple of weeks after the service was launched, between 400 and 500 farmers downloaded the app. The field of experts includes independent consultants, equipment specialists, technologists, government experts and industry professionals as well as farmers. “We’re always interested in signing up more specialists and experts,” says Walther. “And that can include farmers advising farmers.”

While most farmers have solid experience to share, the AGvisorPRO service is particularly interested in farmers with expertise in a particular area of crop or livestock production or farm management that may be helpful to another producer.

Complementing, not competing

Farmers will be able to connect with AGvisorPRO consultants through a couple of different avenues. There is the direct farmer connection to a professional through the cell phone app, but AGvisorPRO is also enlisting industry partners including grain companies, ag retailers, and chemical companies. Producers will be able to contact their ag retailer, for example, and connect through them with a consultant, with the cost of the consulting services covered by the industry partner.

“If a farmer or ag retailer already has a crop agronomist, for example, we don’t see AGvisorPRO taking anything away from that service,” says Dan Brewin, company co-CEO. Brewin has extensive ag industry experience in food production, crop input sales as well as grain and livestock marketing. “We see AGvisorPRO as an extension or complementary to that service. The local agronomist has excellent knowledge but for certain questions or when needed AGvisorPRO can connect farmers with a specialist.”

Brewin says the high-tech AGvisorPRO app virtually shrinks time and space. “We are starting the service largely with experts in Western Canada but we hope to expand that across North America and even other parts of the world,” he says. “You can be standing in your field someplace in Saskatchewan and speak to a specialist in another part of the province for a few hundred miles away. Sometimes you may need someone with local or regional knowledge. But when it comes to a machinery question for example that combine technician could be anywhere in North America.”

Brewin says the usage fee applied to each call reflects the value of service and information. “It’s surprising how much ground can be covered in a 10-minute phone call,” he says. “A producer may be looking for information to solve a specific and immediate problem, or they may be looking for an expert to bounce an idea off of before making a management decision.”

For more information on the service, visit its website.

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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