It’s true. Canada is known for maple syrup, poutine and hockey. But around the halls of Land O’Lakes, Inc., our neighbor to the north is mainly known for one thing -- farmers.
Greg McDonald, General Manager of WinField United Canada, knows Canadian farmers well. He was raised by them on his family’s grain farm in Saskatchewan -- a province in western Canada. Whether it’s in the US, Canada or elsewhere, we’ve come to understand that no matter where you are in the world, growing up on a family farm has some commonalities. You wake up early, you care about the land, you build a strong work ethic and you learn about the importance of grit and determination in the face of challenges. All these traits are especially true for Greg and his family. Every year, they faced the challenges of Canada’s short and unforgiving growing season. The constant reminder that winter is coming.
Compared to the ever-popular corn and soybean fields you’ll find in the US, the crops of Greg’s family farm -- cereal grains and lentils -- are of the most common in this region of Canada. Canola too. “We have good production here [in Canada], but the environmental conditions can make it very challenging. Our growing season is short, and we don’t get a ton of precipitation. Our family had to get through untimely frosts, extreme cold, drought, insect infestations -- you name it. These are the things you have to prepare for to get the crop in the bin at the end of the season,” says Greg.
Greg’s experience seeing his family and their neighbors deal with these kinds of challenges is the driving force behind his career – he wants to help farmers succeed. After getting a degree in Agricultural Economics at the University of Saskatchewan and spending more than 10 years working in sales and marketing with corporate agribusinesses, Greg launched a start-up cooperative along with seven independent retailers from across western Canada. These locally-owned ag retailers support farmers with products and services they need to get the most out of their acres.
Eight years, 35 employees and two mergers later, with lots of strategic planning, business expansion and team building in between -- Greg and his team are now a part of WinField United Canada -- a crop inputs company and subsidiary of Land O’Lakes. WinField United helps independently owned and operated agricultural retailers compete and optimize their yields. Sound familiar?
It’s no coincidence that the values, goals and vision of Greg’s then-start-up are aligned with those of WinField United. Together with WinField United’s technical know-how and research-based solutions, WinField United Canada is better positioned to support its retail-owners in offering products, services and insights to help their farmer customers succeed.
“Canadian retail owners are proud to be a part of something bigger. They are now a part of a company that spans North America and reaches into other parts of the world. As WinField United Canada, we can bring them more opportunities to sustainably strengthen their business and plan for the future,” says Greg. “They now have access to world-class information, technology and capabilities. At the same time, we are still grounded with a local team with local expertise and insights. It’s a powerful combination for retail owners and the farmers they support.”
The average Canadian farmer in Saskatchewan runs a large farm. Often over 4,000 acres. They are tech savvy and are looking to scale yields in a variety of crops -- namely grains, pulses and oilseeds.
With WinField United, brands like the R7® Tool, InterLock®, CROPLAN®, spray technology solutions and other products are now available to help these Canadian customers do just that -- scale up with greater customization and efficiency. But, Greg will be the first to tell you that the most important part of any farmer solution is customization to the local needs. That’s where his local team of account managers and agronomists meet WinField United halfway, using the Answer Plot® trialing model as grounds for discovering what combination of tools, technologies and products will work best in the Canadian market.
“Our Canadian strategy requires fine tuning because the market and the agronomic insights are nuanced. We are working with owners and their farmer customers to test, get feedback and modify the technologies for Canadian farmers. Answer Plot sites, are helping us identify insights so we can recommend the right tools, products and applications to help farmers make decisions prior to harvest.” says Greg.
The R7® Tool is one of the main products being customized. It uses satellite imagery and soil maps to reveal performance information and field data to help optimize return on investment potential. In the US, retailers and farmers have access to robust data for corn production. But for Canada, where canola and cereal crops are the focus, data and insights are still emerging. So far, over a million Canadian acres have been mapped in R7. With each acre mapped, combined with insights from local field trials, WinField United Canada ag-retail owners are better able to prescribe solutions to Canadian farmers -- farmers facing challenges just like the ones his family faced growing up.
In just 18 months, the WinField United Canada team has successfully unleashed key products, technologies and offerings to the Canadian market – and this is just the beginning. Early wins along with the grit and enthusiasm of the Canadian farmers are what makes Canada one of Land O’Lakes’ most exciting international growth markets.
This formula -- customized products, technologies, science-backed data and local insights -- is powering global growth at Land O’Lakes. Even though Greg’s experience growing up on a farm has commonalities to farming families across the world, each country is different. Each context within each country is different. Knowing this, combined with the strengths and capabilities of Land O’Lakes’ diversified businesses like WinField United, will always keep us driving innovation to the people who need it most -- farmers.