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Survey finds that agronomic “outsourcing” is on the rise

Farmers in Western Canada are "outsourcing". That is they are hiring consultants – skilled individuals who offer agronomic expertise and valuable advice on the ever-changing world of crop production.

Today’s farmers wear many hats; they act as mechanics and engineers, meteorologists and agronomists, business managers and even political activists. In the last 15 years, though, a growing trend has seen farmers “outsourcing” more of these expert roles. That is, they are hiring consultants – skilled individuals who offer agronomic expertise and valuable advice on the ever-changing world of crop production.  

A recent survey conducted by Stratus Ag Research found that 20 per cent of western Canadian canola growers had hired an agronomy consultant in 2013 – a number that represents 1/3 of the canola acres sampled. 

Large-farm owners (those with 4,000+ acres) are more likely to hire consultants than those with small farms. In fact, the survey found that 34 per cent of large farms hired consultants in 2013, which is significantly less than the 15 per cent of small farms (those with under 2,000 acres) who hired consultants. 

“Farming is an important business today, and it is also a complex one,” notes Krista MacLean of Stratus. “The decision to hire someone for their expertise is often about focusing and capitalizing on your own strengths.”

The amount farmers spent on agronomic services varied widely, as did the services received. In total, the survey found that the average farmer spent $9,411 on agronomic services in 2013. 

Among the western Canadian farmers who hired a consultant in 2013, the adoption of Variable Rate Technology was quite high. Of those who paid for agronomic services in 2013, 28.7 percent paid for variable rate prescription maps. In fact, those who paid for variable rate prescription maps paid more than twice as much as those who paid for fertility planning and crop scouting services.

The survey revealed that support is highest for independent consultants in western Canada. “When it comes to the dollars that farmers are spending on these services, we found that there is no clear market leader,” says MacLean.

While a number of large companies provide agronomic consulting services, the highest percentage of farmers reported purchasing agronomic services from an Independent consultant with no affiliations.

“I would surmise that when someone is paying for advice, it is more about the trust in the individual delivering the message than in the logo on his jacket,” says MacLean.

Stratus Ag Research surveyed 802 farmers in western Canada between October 29 and November 9, 2013. Interviews were conducted in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia’s Peace region.

Every year thousands of farmers and retailers use Stratus surveys to tell the agricultural industry what they think and need. Stratus prepares reports that directly reflect the input provided, then tells the rest of agriculture what’s working, what’s not and how needs can be better met.

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By Vice-President, Client Services

Krista MacLean has been studying trends in agriculture in both Canada and the US since 2013 when she first joined Sratus Ag Research.  Krista specializes in helping clients extract valuable insights from syndicated market research, as well as developing the study content and methodology for their proprietary research needs.  Her marketing background and extensive practical knowledge of the agriculture industry enable Krista to assist clients in turning research insights into effective strategies for their agribusinesses.

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