Farmers Business Network expanding into Canada, acquiring Saskatchewan retailer

Farmers Business Network (FBN) has initiated an aggressive plan to expand into Canada.

Launched as a Silicon Valley start-up with backing from venture capital funds in 2015, FBN started as a platform for aggregating data across millions of acres to provide U.S. farmers with information for crop input purchasing and agronomic decisions. Since then, FBN has expanded its offering to include crop input sales and grain marketing services for farmers in the U.S.

As for the Canadian market, FBN Canada only hired its first employee in November, but the Canadian staff count has since grown to 18, as of Monday.

RealAgriculture has also learned FBN closed a deal last week to acquire its first physical assets in Canada, signing an agreement to purchase retailer Yorkton Distributors at Yorkton, Saskatchewan.

“It’s a first puzzle piece in what we’re going to be doing in Western Canada when it comes to bricks and mortar,” says Tom Staples, general manager (and first employee) for FBN Canada, in the interview below.

The company intends to make further moves to develop distribution centres for crop inputs across the Canadian prairies.

Staples describes the FBN Canada business as part data analytics platform — collecting and sharing data to compare crop input pricing and agronomic results — and part crop input supplier.

“Really it’s both. What we’re bringing is the power of digital technology to the agricultural marketplace,” he says. “We’re bringing it to agriculture in a way that we can give more information to farmers so they’re better able to make decisions and know as much or more than who they might be dealing with, but we’re also bringing digital technology to the growers’ supply chain, where the grower can in a frictionless way purchase crop inputs, where the decision is easy and convenient…”

Using a membership model, farmers in Canada can access FBN’s data and crop input pipeline for $800 per year, he says. Along with membership, a farm will also contribute its data to the network.

Staples says they’ve signed up around 2 million acres in Western Canada in the last two or three months.

In addition to establishing a crop input distribution network, he says farmers can expect FBN will be expanding its crop marketing service offered in the U.S. into Western Canada “in the near term.”

Listen to the interview below for more on Farmers Business Network, why a digital company is buying a traditional retailer in Saskatchewan, and FBN’s plans for Canada:

 

 

Kelvin Heppner

Kelvin Heppner is a field editor and radio host for RealAgriculture and RealAg Radio. He's been reporting on agriculture on the prairies and across Canada since 2008(ish). He farms with his family near Altona, Manitoba, and is on Twitter at @realag_kelvin. @realag_kelvin

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