Our neighbors to the north are about to become family. On Oct. 1, 2017, United Suppliers Canada joins the team as WinField United Canada. And they’re as excited as we are about it.
“We’re looking forward to becoming part of Land O’Lakes, Inc. and the opportunities this will bring us,” says Greg McDonald, general manager of crop protection and seed for the Canadian business.
Adding United Suppliers Canada to our portfolio means we’ll have access to the country’s largest crop production market—the western Canadian provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba). This geography accounts for 80 percent of Canada’s crop production—more than 65 million acres. Today, the United Suppliers Canada team has 6 percent of that market share and 16 percent of the total independent (non-chain) market.
Western Canada will continue to be the primary area of focus for WinField United Canada. Greg and his team are excited to have access to WinField United brands and technologies such as CROPLAN®, the R7® Tool and the Answer Plot program.
“These technologies, along with WinField United’s expertise, will help us strengthen our offerings and credibility with our owners,” says Greg.
WinField United already had a presence in eastern Canada—Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces. Eastern Canada will be a part of the overall Canadian business, and Greg and his team will focus on opportunities in the east to increase market share with CROPLAN® and other proprietary products.
The two largest crops in Canada are wheat and canola. In the U.S., they are corn and soybeans. And while Greg expects soybeans and corn to increase in acreage, they still won’t surpass wheat and canola anytime soon.
While there are differences between Canada and the U.S. businesses, there are also similarities. Canada has faced a similar situation to the U.S. with consolidation in the industry.
“We’ve experienced consolidation of grain companies, equipment dealers and crop input businesses,” says Greg.
This consolidation means the independent retailer increasingly needs to be backed by a partner with size and scale that can help them compete. WinField United brings that to Canada.
As the Canadian business joins Land O’Lakes, they bring more than 45 owners and over 100 locations. This number has grown quickly and is continuing to increase.
Greg sees retail owned distribution (co-op model) as a way to differentiate WinField United Canada from its competitors, especially for future growth.
“Absolutely,” he says without hesitation. “The WinField United ownership model will be a great way to attract new member-owners and increase engagement among existing owners.”
Unsurprisingly, United Suppliers Canada owners are very much like our U.S. owners. They are the definition of “independent.” They operate successful businesses on a significant scale. They have strong ties to their communities. And they work hard, just like their farming customers.
“Our owners are excited to belong to something bigger,” says Greg. “They understand the importance of this merger. Even though they are independent, they know that long-term success is being able to bring results to their farming customers, who are constantly challenging them to deliver.”
Greg and his team pride themselves on transparent and open communication with their owners since joining United Suppliers two years ago. They’ve brought their owners along on this evolution from United Suppliers to WinField United and worked at the ground level to learn what owners need now and in the future to increase their capabilities.
“We’re also launching an owner advisory board so we can present opportunities and connect what Land O’Lakes has to offer,” says Greg. “They can help decide what initiatives they believe will be a fit for their businesses.”
While everyone at WinField United Canada will take a moment and celebrate on Oct. 1—with a little party—they know it’s not a time to rest on one’s laurels.
“We are young, aggressive and determined to be part of making WinField United as a leader in Canadian agriculture,” says Greg.
For this team, it’s about continuing momentum. In just a couple of years, they’ve grown from seven to roughly 30 people. They know what growth means and understand the near- and long-term areas of opportunity for the business. In addition to the growth of the corn and soybean markets, they’re gearing up to help dealers become stronger businesses and more capable of handling the anticipated growth. Part of this is working with owners to help them become better, trusted advisors for the farmers they work with through ag tech and agronomy insights.
The relationship with Land O’Lakes for this team is all about enabling growth—in small and big ways.
“It’s small and funny, but…having a landolakes.com email is particularly exciting,” he says. “Unitedsupplierscanada.ca is long.
“But seriously,” he adds, “being part of an organization with the breadth of people, standards and the history of success that Land O’Lakes has is very exciting.”
And if you guessed that hockey excites this Canadian team, you are correct. Well, hockey and curling.
“One of our team members qualified for the Canadian Olympic Curling Trials,” says Greg.
Since it isn’t hockey or curling season, the team is putting its energy toward joining Land O’Lakes in October.
“So far, from what we’ve seen, you have great people and a great culture with a history of high performance,” says Greg. “Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?”