Agricon – Looking at Farming Differently
Led by a young and dynamic team, Agricon’s ethos is to make its customers, both large and small, profitable.
“Our entire organisation upholds one simple commitment: customer satisfaction,” said Neville Sealy, commercial manager. If there’s one thing we promise to our customers – our partners – it’s to help maintain their investments year in and year out with unbiased expertise that maximizes their profits. Bottom line, you want your project to go smoothly. And so do we. So we’ll do everything we can to make that happen.”
Agricon sells and services farming and construction equipment and stocks a full line of products for Zimbabwean Case IH, Case Construction, Sany & KUHN Equipment. It stocks a comprehensive range of parts to provide fast and proper maintenance on each piece of equipment it sells.
Its core is the call centre, which operates 24/7. Some half dozen operators that field farmers’ problems and relay them to Agricon’s 18 technical teams spread out around the country.
“Each team consists of two, trained operators, a truck and a selection of spares and this enables us to solve 95% of problems in the field,” said Sealy. This is in addition to permanent sub-dealers and technical support in Marondera, Bulawayo, Masvingo, Mutare, Chinoyi and soon, Chipinge”
Virtually all its equipment comes with a 1,000-hour free service contract. The call centre also follows up on these, arranges suitable times for the technicians to call and ensures that every service and issue is logged at the call centre, providing a complete record of the maintenance of all equipment. This can be extended to planned maintenance throughout the life of the equipment, should the farmer wish. “We are trying to bring first-class efficiencies to Zimbabwe’s agriculture,” Sealy said. “Our parent company designs the systems in house and there is an 11-step process of checks and records. As a result, there is a growing market for Agricon’s second hand equipment”.
“We are happy about this, because if a farmer is selling a tractor it is because he wants optimal efficiency out of his fleet, and this allows him to stay up to date in terms of agricultural innovation. The purchaser of the second hand unit will, in turn, be improving his crop management with a dealer maintained unit, enabling him to make more money and this becomes a virtuous circle.” Sealy said.
“We want to increase farmers’ businesses through improved knowledge and better service—and with today’s access to the internet our customers are ever more in tune with these advances. We look at optimising their returns, preserving resources and maximising the efficacy of inputs.”
One way of achieving the most effective use of fertilizers and chemicals is through field mapping and variable rate application machinery. “Any farmer’s office has a field map, based on soil samples and a report, but most people aren’t aware of the best way to apply this in field. With our drones and Smart Farming Solution department we offer accuracy down to 1 cm2 as an additional free service, as well as the technical specialists to use that information with our equipment on application”.
“A big part of our job is taking the knowledge to farmers and persuading them to accept these new concepts as the way forward. Ideally a field map should be all the same colour, as a result of years of corrective application—but this is rarely the case. We are trying to assist in the achievement of that goal.”
Neville points out that even the best operator, looking over his shoulder in the traditional manor of application- whether it’s planting, spreading or land prep, cannot be anywhere near 100% accurate, whereas with GPS and variable rate implements the farmer can plug in his swath size and intended application according to the implement and the GPS and AutoGuidance will handle the heavy lifting in terms of driving and accuracy and leave the operator free to finesse his operations.
He reckons that using Case IH AFS Accuguide GPS Controlled steering on the tractor leads to an 18% saving in fuel alone.
Agricon has a training school in Chinoyi for customers and their operators and runs training courses on how to maximize the use of its equipment two or three times a year.
All this support is turning people into better farmers, who want bigger and better equipment. “Each year we bring more and more large HP Case IH tractors into the country and we have never battled to sell them. If you are saving money and time on inputs and producing a better crop you are earning more and have spare cash to invest to become even better.”
Agricon sees agriculture as the cutting edge of Zimbabwe’s economy and is prepared to lead from the front in this newly invigorated market