Iowa farmer Ben Pederson turned a misstep into a business opportunity, and ignited a passion for bringing his farm and the whole industry into the digital age.
Ben started farming corn and beans with his dad in the early 2000s. The boom years around 2010 came and went without a big payoff, teaching Ben one of the hardest lessons a young farmer can learn, that adaptability - even over tried-and-true marketing principles - is most important.
“After that time, I had this determination to succeed in something where I thought I had failed at commodity farming. In hindsight, I didn’t fail, I just learned that I need to be more adaptive. I knew I wanted to find some other way to gain my competitive edge back and to find another way to augment my commodity crop income.” The first place Ben looked was to technology.
“I bought my own Precision Planting system around that time. I did a good install and I eventually became a dealer. I started with one customer, one system, one problem at a time, and basically got to a point where I’m now on the phone all the time while I’m planting, helping guys use and troubleshoot their equipment.”
“When I heard that 360 Yield Center was getting started, I latched on like a bulldog and got in as a dealer. That was a really valuable decision- their new products, like the Y-drop applicator, have allowed me to become a custom applicator too.”
This kind of exposure has allowed Ben to give farmers in his community unprecedented access to new technologies that otherwise wouldn’t be available without a farmer making a big equipment investment on their own.
“There’s been so many twists and turns where I’ve had to be really nimble. At first, I thought I only wanted to be a Precision Planting dealer, but I knew that once I’d started, adding another product to the mix would be a lot easier. Now I have a pretty diverse business"
"Despite the fact that many of the new things I’ve done weren’t on my radar at all three years ago. My eyes are always open to new opportunities.”
Ben is excited about the future of the industry, and has seen the gamble he made on technology pay off in a big way. “There are incredibly cutting-edge and innovative companies and technologies in agriculture right now. The networking has been great- the products attract really progressive farmers with sharp business acumen who have given me great advice and shared some important secrets. ”
In Ben’s experience, the real secret to having happy farmer customers is providing good service. “There’s no bigger turnoff than bad customer service, so I work really hard to be better than average.”
“There were a lot of unanticipated consequences to starting the sister business to my farm. The first effect was having much better wherewithal to keep employees year round, since we can install and sell equipment even during the winter. That was huge.”
Ben is even thinking about what might be next for Sprout Ag. “It still takes a lot of the human element to get value out of drones, but there are cameras and things coming that will be able to detect diseases or count plants. Once that comes online, that might be a direction we want to head. We’re staying on our toes, and we’re looking for all opportunities to be new, cutting-edge, and out-of-the-box.”