By Leah Call
Entrepreneur Brad McDonald — recently named one of Forbes magazine’s 30 visionaries under 30 years old — thought it was odd that he could purchase just about anything online, except the things he needed for his farming operation. He then jumped at the opportunity to launch Agroy Inc., an online marketplace for agricultural products such as seed, fertilizers and chemicals.
McDonald started the business 2 ½ years ago after seeing a LinkedIn post about European-based Agroy, which was selling ag products online.
“I took an interest in it, and found out they were actually looking to branch out beyond Europe,” McDonald said. “They had proven the model was working, and they were looking for someone to implement it in the U.S.”
Growing up on a pig farm in northeast Iowa, McDonald’s agricultural and entrepreneurial spirit runs deep. He was involved in entrepreneurial ventures from a young age, including selling Basset Hound puppies to earn money for college. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in economics, McDonald worked in various ag-related careers, including ag finance positions and jobs at Monsanto and Bunge.
Through Agroy, McDonald can offer wholesale prices for the products farmers need. He noted products sold in the agriculture supply chain often touch many hands before actually reaching the farmer.
“There is no need to have 13 different companies touch a product from manufacturer to end user. So that is really what we are trying to do, just to help make agriculture more efficient,” he said.
Agroy sales currently represent 9 million acres throughout the U.S. It’s a venue for farmers to shop for the best deals and suppliers to market their products directly to the end user.
“We are frequently called the Amazon for agriculture,” McDonald said.
Farmers wanting to shop at Agroy Inc. can go to www.Agroyinc.com to create an account similar to an Amazon account.
“There’s no obligation to buy. It’s free to create an account,” explained McDonald. “When they sign in, they can see what products are available specific to them. So if you’re in Iowa, you are going to see products different from what is available to farmers in New York.”
Targeting products regionally is also an advantage for sellers. “We present a new marketing tactic for them as long as they are willing to give us wholesale prices,” McDonald said. “We feature their products and let farmers know via email what products are available.”
Sellers wishing to expand their markets can also benefit from Agroy.
“Say I’m a supplier in Iowa, but I want to get into Illinois, I can use Agroy to target farmers in Illinois specifically,” McDonald said. “Or let’s say I’m in a situation where I want to unload product right now as fast as I can. I can go ahead and let Agroy know what product I’m looking to move and at what price, and then we can blast it to all 9 million acres.”
Selling on the site is free to suppliers, though Agroy takes a small margin of the sale, similar to the Amazon model.
McDonald said everyone in the system has to benefit for the business to be successful. With savings of approximately $35/ton on commercial fertilizer, the benefit to farmers is clear.
While most sales to date have been to the “I states” – Iowa, Illinois and Indiana – McDonald said he will continue growing Agroy to farmers nationwide. And though he started with inputs, his vision goes much further.
“Anything a farmer is writing a check for, we want to be able to provide,” he said.