Independent dealer eyes Prairies

A new chain of independent crop input stores is cropping up at a time when many are getting gobbled up by multinationals.

SynergyAG will be opening stores in Govan, Sask., Lewvan, Sask., Lumsden, Sask., and Provost, Alta., in the fall and winter of 2016 and 2017.

The company was founded by the Hanmer family, which has operated a seed company in Govan since the late 1950s.

Company president Brad Hanmer said over the years the seed operation branched out into selling hybrid canola, fertilizer, pesticides, fungicides and biologicals.

It got to the point where the company had a full lineup of crop input products and felt it was time to have a bigger footprint in that business.

The crop input business is becoming increasingly consolidated in the hands of large multinational companies.

Agrium announced on Sept. 6 it has received regulatory approval to acquire 16 retail outlets in Western Canada from Andrukow Group Solutions.

That is in addition to the recent purchases of Wigmore Farms, Northstar Fertilizers and Wendland Ag Service.

“Our industry is in flux daily,” said Hanmer.

“In order to be competitive at all, unfortunately there is some economies of scale that you need in order to acquire and attract who I feel is the best of the best for partners and employees.”

Hanmer said farmers are clamouring for more independent retailers.

Norm Hall, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, is pleased to see more competition, especially in the form of an independent.

“They are generally started by farmers themselves, so they understand the needs and wants,” he said.

Hall said independents are typically more flexible and willing to work out the best deal for farmers while multinational outlets tend to have strict, bottom-line oriented policies.

“I liken it to bank versus credit union, local management versus Calgary or Toronto management,” he said.

Hanmer said they picked locations where there was an obvious need. Govan was a no-brainer.

“That’s ground zero for our existing customer base,” he said.

The Hanmers will be the sole owners of the Govan store but they will have partners in the other three communities.

“We’ve been in negotiations with local entrepreneurs and farmers within those marketplaces,” he said.

“It is very evident there is a void and a need for an additional voice for independent crop retail.”

The Lewvan outlet is scheduled to open this fall followed by Govan in the winter. Lumsden and Provost are scheduled for fall 2017.

SynergyAG will source its product from a wholesaler that provides product to other existing independent stores.

Hanmer said what will set SynergyAG outlets apart is they are owned and operated by people who farm in the area.

“I watch the same clouds go by as my customers,” he said. “We get intimately how farms operate and what makes them tick.”

Each store will be staffed with four to six employees including crop advisers, agronomic professionals and sales and support staff.

Hanmer said he has a “playbook” of other possible locations for SynergyAG stores once the first four are up and running.

Contact sean.pratt@producer.com

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