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Wired for marketing

DANIEL LOOKER 11/17/2011 @ 2:47pm Business Editor

Two years ago, Successful Farming magazine described new ways to market grain electronically online. Some of those ways are still available, and some new players have entered the market. Following are two new websites worth checking out.

1. Growers edge www.growersedge.com

This website describes itself as a one-stop resource for farmers' business and marketing needs.

Like many marketing websites, it offers weather radar and market commentary, including analysis from Alan Brugler, Stewart-Peterson, and FCStone.

“How we really differentiate ourselves is that the intelligence and the data we provide is very location-specific,” says Growers Edge president Craig Mouchka.

Growers Edge is an investor-owned independent site that provides its services free to farmers. It makes revenue from unobtrusive advertising, says Mouchka, who demonstrated the site earlier this year.

Growers Edge will calculate the best cash price within 200 miles of your farm using real trucking costs.

“We do have a lot of basis intelligence to supplement those cash prices,” says Mouchka. The website has a basis history for more than 4,500 locations going back one to five years, depending on location.

You can change the setting for a shorter distance from your farm. And for large farms, the program allows you to calculate the best cash prices for up to three grain storage locations. If you need more than that, you can set up another free online account.

The program allows you to set profit goals. You can edit input costs, record marketing transactions, and track your profitability by crop and year.

Once your goals are set, you can use a profit analyzer tool to select marketing and insurance strategies, and to run scenarios based upon price and yield fluctuations.

Growers Edge also offers customizable charts, mobile alerts for your phone, and weather data for specific fields.

Mouchka likes to describe the site as a Google for agriculture. Like Google, it's free to the user and it sells ads for revenue. But the advertising is unobtrusive, without pop-ups or banner ads.

The privately owned business was started by investors with a vested interest in agriculture, including members of agribusiness, banking, and farmers. It's not tied to a major agribusiness. Nor does it sell data about farmers using the website, protecting their privacy.

The site provides a 24-hour-a-day discount trading platform for those who want to buy or sell futures online. You have to open a margin account, but you can try a demo for free.

The website also works with several hundred local grain buyers who are offering premium contracts to farmers who sell them grain. It's similar to programs offered by large grain companies, Mouchka says.

Mouchka grew up in Newton, Iowa, and spent his summers working on his grandfather's and uncle's farms. After graduating from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, Mouchka worked in agricultural sales.

Later he worked with banks and crop insurance agents in risk management.

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