Ag Leader-AutoFarm Alliance Shakes Up Precision Agriculture World

Months of rumors about an impending alliance between Ag Leader and AutoFarm came to fruition this week with a resounding bang. The two companies announced the release of several new products in addition to the new business relationship, swinging Ag Leader in a new direction and away from its previous relationship with Trimble.

“Ag Leader chose to partner with AutoFarm for steering solutions based on our belief that the combination of products from both companies will provide the end-user with the greatest efficiencies in their operation,” says Jessica Reis, marketing communications specialist for Ag Leader.

The product releases, individually developed and co-marketed by Ag Leader and AutoFarm, represent a significant broadening of the Ag Leader product line for its Midwest-intensive sales force, and provides greater brand exposure for AutoFarm in the Heartland. In particular, the ParaDyme dual antenna roof module provides an Ag Leader branded entre into the premium RTK guidance arena, and the new Integra display console provides a control center for the new products and capabilities.

“The collaboration between the two companies brings together the highly popular and successful precision agriculture products of Ag Leader with the latest embedded and integrated steering solutions from AutoFarm,” read a joint press release. Adds Al Myers, Ag Leader founder and president: “This alliance is nothing but a win-win for the precision agriculture industry, and more importantly for our combined customers. Each company brings strengths to the table allowing us to develop better precision farming solutions quicker, ultimately furthering the industry.”

“This alliance will allow the new ParaDyme products to operate with Ag Leader’s new INTEGRA display as well as its recently launched EDGE display for planter control, application control, yield monitoring and other key functions in a fully integrated system,” says Herb Satterlee, CEO of Novariant, Inc., the AutoFarm parent company.

An Eventful Year
The move is just the latest in a busy 12 months for both Ag Leader and Trimble, as each company has engaged extensively in business-building acquisitions and alliances that have increased the competitive heat between the precision manufacturing rivals. Trimble acquisitions included controller manufacturer Rawson Controls, planter clutch manufacturer Tru Count, sensor manufacturer NTech Industries, and software manufacturer Farm Works Software. Ag Leader struck an alliance with sensor manufacturer Holland Scientific, recently broke ground on a new training facility near its Ames, IA, headquarters, and now is allied with the California-based AutoFarm.

In addition to the alliance, Ag Leader has established a new tiered approach to identifying dealers within its dealer network. The so-called “Blue Delta Dealer” network is an effort to bring more structure to a new and growing precision farming community, says Reis. “The goal is to help precision farming dealers become well-rounded precision farming experts and help growers locate and identify elite precision farming dealerships throughout North America.”

Blue Delta dealers are required to go through more training on Ag Leader’s product offerings, and they are required to sell all of Ag Leader’s products and will be the first line of support for the end user, notes Reis. The designations have already been identified on the Ag Leader dealer locator section of the company’s redesigned Web site.

While the Trimble-Ag Leader relationship has changed moving forward, Reis notes that Ag Leader will continue to provide support and service for the life of any product purchased from an authorized Ag Leader dealer, including Trimble products.

In response to the move, Trimble provided the following statement to PrecisionAg.com to address customer concerns:

“Trimble is committed to providing the best products and the best support for its valued customers, especially to you, the farmer. Ag Leader has independently decided it will no longer distribute Trimble-developed and manufactured ag products such as EZ-Guide 250, EZ-Guide 500, EZ-Guide Plus and EZ-Steer. Trimble is committed to make this transition go as smoothly as possible for farmers still wanting to operate and add valuable features to their investment.

Trimble, Case IH and New Holland are cooperating to see that Trimble products sold via Ag Leader, such as the EZ-Guide 250, EZ-Guide 500, EZ-Guide Plus and EZ-Steer, are properly supported and serviced by Trimble, Case IH and New Holland dealers.

Customers wanting Trimble ag products or support should contact their local Trimble, Case IH, or New Holland dealership. Solutions to be offered by the Trimble, Case IH and New Holland dealers include product support, additional functionality, upgrades and accessories.

If customers would like assistance locating a local Trimble, Case IH or New Holland dealer, please contact: agleadersupport@trimble.com and include your name, address, email address and phone number.

Thank you for your understanding. Trimble looks forward to continuing to add value to your existing precision agriculture purchases.”

The alliance will have far-reaching impact in precision ag, however it does not affect the existing AutoFarm alliance with Raven Industries, says Paul Welbig, Raven marketing director. “We have had a good relationship with AutoFarm for about five years, and we have mutually developed and sold products through our respective channels,” he notes, including efforts like SmartSteer and FarmPRO which integrate AutoFarm steering technology with Raven displays and controllers. “They are a good partner, and even with this announcement, we are not changing direction at all. We have talked openly with AutoFarm about the deal and about the future and our direction will not change.

“AutoFarm is a good partner, and I think that Ag Leader will find them great to work with and that it that was a good choice,” Welbig continues. “In the final analysis the alliance will be good for precision agriculture overall — Ag Leader is a good competitor and good for precision agriculture. The hope is that their success will benefit all three companies, and that maybe some new market opportunities will emerge. I don’t know what they are yet, but the possibility is there.”

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