Growers Edge: Building products to help retailers, manufacturers serve farmers better

By Michael Crumb

Starting out as a crop insurance company in 2016, Growers Edge has evolved into a company that offers warrantied crop performance products and an agriculture input financing program.

The goal, leaders of the Johnston-based company said, is to help retailers and input manufacturers, and the farmers they already serve.

“Those ag experts are the trusted advisers of farmers, so we decided why don’t we help them do a better job of connecting and supporting their farmer customers that they have rather than have us try to go out and dismantle a very good system that already exists through those cooperatives and retailers,” said Craig Hanken, director of communications and public relations. “It was a combination ag technology and a really unique financing platform that we are delivering as a B2B. We work in that environment where we’re working directly with ag retailers and input manufacturers across the country to deploy these two products.”

Often those are sold together, but that combination can be separated and deployed as either just the input lending program or just a crop plan, Hanken said.

In February, Growers Edge announced a leadership transition, appointing Hollie Bunn to serve as interim CEO following the resignation of Daniel Cosgrove. Bunn joined Growers Edge in August 2020 as vice president of lending before becoming chief lending officer.

She said Growers Edge is seeing success with its products.

“We are launching the product in a different way than we have historically,” Bunn said. “What has been done has been administrative, so we provide the administration around a plan and data and ways to track what farmers have done.”

Growers Edge is shifting to a program where it carries the risk for its partners to help farmers change their practices, she said.

“There’s a cost to doing that, and the ag retailers don’t want to provide that guarantee to the grower,” Bunn said. “We are now stepping in to carry the risk for the partners. In the past we’ve administered them doing that. This is a whole different way and it’s been asked for in the marketplace. ‘Can you help us do that? Because we can’t cover the risk ourselves, so can you work to do that?’ And that’s where we are right now, which is a very significant shift in the product.”

Growers Edge, based in Johnston, has fewer than 50 employees working remotely under its “work from wherever you want” policy. Besides Iowa, its employees work in California, Minnesota, Colorado, Kentucky, Indiana, Texas, Illinois and Ohio.

Bunn said the company’s remote work philosophy allows Growers Edge to “hire the best people that I possibly can for the dollars, where they are at, and not require them to relocate.”

“It used to be back in the day you’d have to consider, do you need these people to be somewhere, and we said, ‘We don’t need you to be somewhere,’” she said. “We are technology, we are a fintech company at heart. 

“Everything we do, the technology systems and data we provide to those businesses, our model is very intentionally helping provide them with an infrastructure they can’t build themselves. They don’t have technology departments. They don’t have access to that kind of data, or don’t have a team of data scientists there to provide analytics and whatnot.”

Bunn said the next step for Growers Edge is to expand the number of financial technology tools it provides.

“We’ll continue to look at how we can help an ag retailer manage their 30-day credits, and expand all the financial lending tools and products that we have to them,” she said. “There could be leasing opportunities. Ag retailers are closer to the growers than bankers and farm credits are, frankly. There’s a shift to where people are starting to do those online. Any kind of financial product is on the table for us.”

Details were not available at press time, but Growers Edge acquired a mortgage tool that will help remove roadblocks and delays to getting land valued after a loan is approved.

“We did acquire some assets that we’ve taken and with our data science team built an automated land valuation model,” Bunn said. “We’re working with partners to help revolutionize how they’re getting it done and providing real-time information to customers. So you go to the ag retailer or another lender and be able to provide them with a tool that enables them to evaluate their own properties so they can make their financial decisions on their own. These things in ag just aren’t out there right now, and we’re on the cusp of launching all of that right now. We’re open to where that will take us.”