Pharmacy for farmers expands

Farmers Farmacy expands its e-commerce reach with outlets in Lethbridge, Red Deer, Brandon and Winnipeg

It’s a pharmacy that offers everything from antibiotics and bag balm to pig toys and Z tags.

Farmers Farmacy has expanded its reach to four outlets in Western Canada.

The business, an e-commerce model with an on-line catalogue of more than 2,000 products for diary, swine, poultry, beef and sheep operations, has operated in Ontario for 20 years.

The parent company, Grand Valley Fortifiers, now has pick-up and order points at its Fortified Nutrition outlets in Lethbridge, Red Deer, Brandon and Winnipeg.

The service will operate out of existing locations in those cities. Customers can order there or on-line and pick up orders about two weeks later, said GVF Group president and chief executive officer Ian Ross.

“We already have locations in Winnipeg, Brandon, Lethbridge and Red Deer with small offices and warehouses,” he said.

“We thought this would be a lot easier, to offer the full catalogue of goods, which for us is about 2,000 products, to western producers if we put together an order pickup point mentality.”

Ross likens it to the IKEA model. The multinational home furnishings giant offers online ordering and pickup points in cities without a giant outlet. Farmers Farmacy can do the same with no need to establish full product inventory at each location.

Ross said pick-up is not an issue for farmer clients in the West who are used to travelling for goods and services.

Though direct delivery is more common for farmers in Ontario, “we don’t have the colonies that actually like going to town … so a different model for different parts of the country. But we’re pretty confident this is going to work well.”

Nick Korver of Fortified Nutrition Ltd. in Lethbridge agreed with that assessment.

“The pickup has never been an issue because they’re in town enough anyway to just fly by here, and two minutes later they’re out the door. So it is convenient that way.”

He is hopeful the expansion of Farmers Farmacy will build the Fortified Nutrition business be-yond its core strength of livestock feed and nutrition.

“I think it definitely is synergistic in the fact that we’re on farm a lot already on the feed side and this will just complement the feed business. A lot of the products that are in the Farmers Farmacy catalogue or online are products that these guys are going to use anyway,” said Korver.

“It will work hand in hand with our existing business and I think eventually it will help us grow business in other sectors. We’re pretty strong in the swine side but I think this will give us some opportunities in the dairy and poultry and beef side as well.”

Among the challenges for customers is the 10-day to two-week delivery time for products, which ship from the Cambridge, Ont., head office and 23,000 sq. foot warehouse.

Shipping at this point is free on orders exceeding $500 but otherwise there is a $20 flat fee for delivered goods.

Ross said shipping liquids like barn disinfectants and other temperature-sensitive goods will also have to be handled with care.

The next step in the business development may be creation of retail space similar to the Lee Valley model, in which customers can see and handle items on display and then place their orders for later delivery.

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