With Trimble set to buy Agri-Trend, farmers who count themselves among Agri-Trend’s clients may be wondering what’s in it for them.
The pending deal between Trimble, headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, and Agri-Trend, was announced November 10th. Agri-Trend, based in Red Deer, Alta, operates the largest network of independent agricultural consultants in North America. That network includes 110 coaches, plus a team of science specialists that supports the coaches and the company’s farm data software. The deal is expected to close this month.
Exactly who will have access to that client data, stored on the company’s Agri-Data Solution platform, was a question likely on the minds of Agri-Trend’s current clients.
In an interview Thursday, Rob Saik, CEO of Agri-Trend, said nothing had changed with respect to the company’s data policy.
Agri-Trend has always maintained that the data belongs to the farmer, and it’s built into the company’s agreement with clients, Saik said.
“In our model, the farmer has the ability to provide multiple points of access to his data,” said Saik. Agri-Trend coaches working with the farmer can access the data, Saik said. That can include the coach working directly with the farmer, as well as cross-referencing coaches and senior coaches supporting the farmer, Saik said.
From there, farmers can grant access to ag retailers, Saskatchewan crop insurance, or machinery companies, if they choose, Saik added.
“From what I see there’s no planned changes to that. That’s a pretty important part of our work with farmers,” said Saik.
Asked what happens if a farmer cuts ties with Agri-Trend, Saik said the policy was to offer the farmer a complete download of his data.
“And what we do usually is we put it into a dormant file,” said Saik. Agri-Trend has had farmers return, sometimes years after leaving, and ask for the data to be reactivated, he added.
Business as usual
Trimble doesn’t want to make any changes in the Agri-Trend model, said Saik. One of the reasons he’s excited about the deal is because “everybody wakes up Monday morning and nothing changes for them.”
But, after 18 years as an entrepreneur, Saik is stepping into a new role. Darren Howie, who’s booked 15 years with Agri-Trend, will be stepping up as manager of the Agri-Trend group within Trimble. That will free Saik to focus on business development, global expansion, and seeking technology.
“And I’m going to continue to be an ambassador for agriculture,” Saik added.
The deal is a succession plan of sorts for Agri-Trend. Continually growing a mid-sized business is hard work, and requires a lot of capital, Saik said. The Trimble deal assures farmers that Agri-Trend will live on, he said.
“And it’s living on beyond Rob Saik’s strength and the strength of our business team….So it provides continuity.”
Agri-Trend’s unbiased, independent advice on crop inputs and agronomy was valued highly in farmer focus groups, Saik said. Trimble, a publicly-traded company that provides technology to several industries, is also fairly agnostic, Saik said.
“They work with all the different lines of equipment, so they’re agnostic in that respect. They’re not tied to crop inputs,” said Saik.
Trimble is a leader in GPS and GIS technology and engineering, with “a plethora of products” on the shelf that can be brought into agriculture, said Saik. The Agri-Trend team “is really excited about opening the door to the toolshed” inside of Trimble, he added.
“And they’re excited about letting us do it, too.”