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Feature Article: Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizer

10 Sep 2023
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www.agroliquid.comNearly 100 of Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers’ Area Managers—the independent agricultural retailers who sell the company’s products to farmers around the country—recently gathered in a ballroom in Lansing, Mich. AgroLiquid Senior Marketing Manager Lonny Smith asked a revealing question: “Who here remembers Mr. Cook; does anyone want to talk a little about who he was?”

The hands that shot up were outnumbered by those that didn’t, but the passionate stories that were shared more than compensated for any lack in numbers; and the man they revealed was a good one.

AgroLiquid HeadquartersA Family Business for Family Businesses

By 1983 Douglas Cook had three failed fertilizer businesses under his belt, with a fourth just starting to take off. A seed salesman who grew up on a mid-Michigan dairy, Cook had an entrepreneur’s spirit and a dogged determination to make a difference in the future of Agriculture. His son-in-law, Troy Bancroft, joined him on his fourth and what would be his final foray into the liquid fertilizer industry—and a family business was born.

Today, Bancroft’s three sons, Nick, Albert, and Gerrit, also help run AgroLiquid; serving as Vice President of Operations and Organizational Planning, Marketing Department Manager, and Senior Site Operations Manager, respectively.

Growth

It’s not just the number of family members involved in the day-to-day operations of AgroLiquid that has grown over the years though. In 1983 Cook and Bancroft set a goal to expand into just three states, now AgroLiquid fertilizers are available in more than three countries. In fact, the business has been on the fast track since the beginning; growing by 30-percent yearly for its first sixteen years of operation and then again by 20-percent every year since.

In 2000, Cook himself developed AgroLiquid’s 20-20 plan, a goal to grow the company by 20-percent every year through the year 2020—so far the second and third generations have been successful in executing that vision.

imageCommitted to Innovation

Back in the ballroom, it’s clear the execution of Cook’s vision is an integral part of AgroLiquid’s success. Through stories retold by the Area Managers who knew and worked with him from the beginning, Cook’s keen intuition and mind for innovation comes to the forefront.

Cook was, as the people who knew him best will tell you, ahead of his time. “What people want now, we’ve been doing for more than thirty years,” says Nick Bancroft, and the company’s line of 27 enhanced-efficiency liquid fertilizers proves it.

“For us, it’s not enough to have the best quality fertilizers on the market, we’re driven to solve the problems that face our growers,” said Albert Bancroft. Kalibrate, the company’s newest addition to the product lineup, offers those solutions to both growers and retailers in the form of a liquid potassium fertilizer that resists freezing temperatures.

Particularly well-suited for growers and retailers in northern climates and where early season delivery and storage cannot be avoided, Kalibrate allows transport, storage, and use of a superior potassium product even when temperatures are below freezing. Unlike even AgroLiquid’s own regular potassium fertilizer, Sure-K, which can only withstand temperatures as low as thirty-four degrees Fahrenheit.

Kalibrate is just one of more than two-dozen liquid fertilizer products specifically formulated to meet a wide range of growers needs, reduce passes over the field, imageand produce more food and fiber with less applied fertilizer across a variety of crop types.

Manufactured Close to the Farm

In the early days Cook and Bancroft manufactured AgroLiquid fertilizers by hand, using five-gallon buckets and a mere 200-gallon reactor just outside St. Johns, Mich., on the site of the company’s now 750 tillable-acre research farm. Later they moved to a separate facility closer to the city of St. Johns where they also housed the company’s main office. In the early 2000s manufacturing facilities opened in Williams, Iowa and Goodland, Kan. It wasn’t until 2010 however, that a dedicated manufacturing facility was opened in AgroLiquid’s home state of Michigan.

Thirty minutes north of St. Johns, the small town of Ashley, Mich. lies on the Great Lakes Central railway. An important factor in the company’s growth, the railway allows product manufactured in Ashley to be shipped nationwide, and the company’s other manufacturing facilities are not the least of those destinations.

Today the company has four manufacturing plants in Ashley Mich., Williams, Iowa, Goodland, Kans., and Stockton, Calif. A fifth facility is underway in Eastman, Georgia. “Strategically positioning our facilities close to the growers who need and use our products allows us to better serve them,” explained Gerrit Bancroft. “This spring, when the railways were backed up other companies struggled to get fertilizer to the fields where it was needed. While we do depend on the railways, our manufacturing facilities across the country were able to compensate and keep our retailers and growers full with the products they needed to get off to a good start to the growing season.”

imageProprietary Formulas Closely Held

The Ashley plant alone manufactured over 11.5 million gallons of liquid fertilizer in 2013; 3 million gallons of that total account for the proprietary base formulas that are then sent across the country to AgroLiquid’s other manufacturing facilities to be included in the company’s final products.

Ashley Site Manager Tom Hoten explained that the company’s proprietary formulas have always been manufactured in Michigan; first in St. Johns and then in Ashley beginning in 2010. “We’re careful about who we share our proprietary information with,” said Hoten. “Our fertilizers are truly superior to the other products on the market and that’s because we value quality throughout the manufacturing process. We test at every stage of production, from the raw materials to the end product and only trust people with the product when we know they will take the process as seriously as we do.”

Quality Start to Finish 

“Even our supplier relationships are integral to the process,” added Gerrit Bancroft. The company requests samples of every raw material before agreeing to make a purchase, and once that purchase is made every delivery of the material is tested again to make sure it meets AgroLiquid’s high standards for inputs.

From there, every batch of proprietary material manufactured is tested for quality before it’s included in a larger batch of end product, and each batch of the final fertilizer is tested, too. Not only that, every load of fertilizer that leaves an AgroLiquid facility is sampled and those samples are kept on file for 18 months.

image“Every step in both manufacturing and transportation is taken seriously,” said Hoten. “Most of our product is shipped in our own dedicated containers.” AgroLiquid owns 175 rail cars, 60 tankers, and 17 box trailers.

Better Fertilizer, Better Future

“With AgroLiquid’s enhanced efficiency fertilizers growers can produce more while applying less, and the product flexibility we’ve built into our line-up means they can do it with fewer passes over the field. More food with less fertilizer and fuel means a more sustainable agriculture for our grandkids. That’s why we do what we do,” said Troy Bancroft. To learn more go to www.agroliquid.com.


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