Brett Bruggeman

WinField United's key to success? Its ownership.

WinField United has troves of data to help farmers make the right decisions and mitigate risk, but their most valuable resource can’t be replicated: local expertise. Brett Bruggeman explains.

Today new technology is changing the agricultural landscape both for farmers and local ag retailers. As a Land O’Lakes, Inc. business, WinField United has the benefit of deep connections in rural communities, collective reach and decades of data-backed farming insights.
In fact, its Answer Plot® database is unparalleled in size, fueling an ag tech platform that allows for more reliable, efficient and profitable recommendations than ever before. When you match this with the reverse ownership (co-op) model, WinField United is in a great position to earn the business of local ag retailers and farmer across the country.
According to WinField United president Brett Bruggeman, longtime ties to rural communities are the key to its success, allowing the company to quickly adapt to the changing business needs of farmers and ag retailers.
That includes partnering with farmers to share expertise. “Rural America and farmers still value personal relationships,” he says, “But it’s not as much a lifestyle anymore as it is a business. Farmers want to have agronomic expertise, but they also want economic expertise.”
Bruggeman knows about rural communities. Growing up, he worked on his family’s grain and livestock farm where he observed how farmers innovated and adopted new technology. He also took note of the challenges they faced.
Bruggeman’s career has taken him from the farm, to research and development, to wholesale distribution. At WinField United, he takes a whole-system approach to helping the company usher in an omni-channel (e-business) strategy that’s more than just an online shopping cart. The approach is comprehensive, research-based and maintains the local touch that’s key in the ag retail system.
“We have the most advanced e-business mechanism in the industry,” Bruggeman says. “Farmers get recommendations and localized insights that help them confidently purchase products and services customized for their fields. We aren’t just talking about what is coming, we already have a suite of tools like the Answer Tech Data Silo, R7® Field Forecasting Tool, hybrid characterization and the TruTerra™ Insights Engine.”
The approach also has an element that cannot be replicated by anyone else: the local expertise and customized insights offered by our retail-owners’ teams of trusted agronomic advisors — only made possible by the reverse ownership (co-op) model.  
“It’s a model that’s more than 100 years old,” he says. “And when economic times are tough or when times are good, this model is probably the most reliable for farmers and industry partners. But it’s sometimes the best kept secret.”
Perhaps a secret to some, Bruggeman views it as a “secret sauce.”
“Instead of us owning retail, retail owns us,” says Bruggeman. “That means the profits made by WinField United go back to the locally owned retailers. So, we’re reinfusing profit into rural communities rather than sending it off to Wall Street shareholders.”
But the model is also a two-way street. The success of WinField United’s products, services, insights and data is dependent on its close connection to retail-owners and their communities. Leveraging local expertise and field-specific insights helps WinField United design robust start-to-finish platforms for retailer-owners that meet the needs of farmers. WinField United is also able to invest in scalable assets like research and manufacturing facilities that retailers or growers could not monetize on their own, and utilize for pennies on the dollar.
WinField United is so confident in its capabilities that the business is putting skin in the game by offering a money-back warranty on its agronomic advice, offered via the new Elite Rx prescription service. The Elite Rx prescription service is a total “advanced” acre program that advises farmers on in-season management decisions, including product recommendations, in-season adjustments and ag tech services. If farmers follow the prescription plan and they don’t achieve a target yield determined using their historic production history, WinField United will pay the farmers a predetermined payment.
“We can offer that because we have the research and system capabilities to back it up,” says Bruggeman. “We’re online, in the field and in the lab to make sure we can stand behind every recommendation we make.”
Bruggeman believes WinField United and Land O’Lakes, Inc. overall have just begun scratching the surface of how powerful the co-op model can be -- from lifting up rural communities to pioneering and scaling technology.
“Rural America is on the front lines of feeding a future population of more than 9 billion people,” he says. “There are challenges related to broadband connectivity, labor and environmental sustainability that fit right within our mission of feeding human progress.”
When you combine WinField United’s unmatched capabilities, approach to digital and local touch, there may not be anyone out there better able to help solve these challenges for farmers, ag retailers and rural communities across the country.