Regional Seed Company Spotlight: AgVenture D&M
AgVenture D&M co-owners Mike Davis and Mike Mullen talk about what sets AgVenture apart and why it's been successful for 35 years.
You’ve been involved with AgVenture since day one. What’s the journey been like from creating and launching AgVenture in 1983 to AgVenture D&M?
MIKE DAVIS: John Cassidy and I came up with the idea that became AgVenture in 1983. For the next couple of years as we added partners, we refi ned the concept to include three key points for AgVenture Regional Seed Companies (RSCs): the capability to choose their own product packages, a protected territory and total independence within their marketing area. We wanted to provide an overall brand and coordinate production, research and product selection from industry originators and breeders. That original concept is 90 percent intact today, 35 years later. For a long time, AgVenture D&M served as the marketing arm for the company. In 1994, Mike Mullen and I decided to make D&M an independent unit just like the rest of the Regional Seed Companies.
MIKE MULLEN: When Mike and I started D&M, we were pretty much a two-person shop. We sold it. Sacked it. And delivered it. Now there are more than 20 of us.
What does AgVenture D&M look like today?
MIKE MULLEN: Our market area is northwest Indiana, central Illinois, western Kentucky and a little bit of northern Tennessee. Our sole physical plant is in Kentland, Indiana, which has a 3,000-square-foot office and 50,000-square-foot warehouse. We also have a downstream treatment facility, so we can treat all our soybeans in-house.
What sets AgVenture D&M apart from the competition?
MIKE DAVIS: We get our genetics in the marketplace faster than larger companies. We keep our inventories lean. We can jump in, grab new material and quickly get product into our customers’ hands in small quantities. We have a higher percentage of new genetics on the farm because of this strategy. We also have a significant testing program that goes beyond what’s required. We can reject anything that doesn’t meet our standards. We’re very aggressive when it comes to this component.
MIKE MULLEN: We also give our customers the information they need to get the most out of every acre. We work alongside farmers to learn as much as we can — so the information we provide is accurate. That’s why we walk the fi elds with our customers. If you’re not out there looking at the crop, how can you talk about it?
Conveying information and guiding your customers is a big part of the Maximum Profit System™ (MPS), right?
MIKE DAVIS: Yes, it is. When we first started, we worked with what we called the customer farm profile. We used it to gather as much information as we could, matched the genetics to what the farmers told us and tried to find places where we could help boost performance. That evolved into the MPS. Customers really bought into this concept because we gave them information year-round that helped them improve their actual production history.
MIKE MULLEN: MPS is a process that farmers can count on to guide their decisions. All of our AgVenture Yield Specialists are trained to use it.
MIKE DAVIS: MPS is how we challenge our customers to go to the next level. We strive to get their yield numbers consistently higher than the county averages. With MPS, we’re an integral part of helping farmers develop successful businesses.
How does it feel when you give farmers information that will help them be more successful?
MIKE DAVIS: It’s great. For example, we had a customer who was, in our opinion, planting too shallow. We advised him to plant between two and two-and-a-half inches deep. And he said, “Well, if you guys are right, that means my whole farm is wrong.” He trusted us, adjusted his planter and added about 25 bushels to his overall yield.
MIKE MULLEN: When customers trust you and trust what you can do for them, they’ll stick with you. I’ve been working with a couple of farms for three generations.
Why should farmers in this area work with D&M?
MIKE MULLEN: We’re easy to work with and our services are second-to-none.
MIKE DAVIS: We’re committed to our customers’ success, so they can pass their operations on, generation after generation.