Agriculture gets into the ‘sharing’ act with MachineryLink

Agriculture gets into the ‘sharing’ act with MachineryLink

MachineryLink the Uber of agriculture? Boosting the bottom line by renting out your idle machinery.

With producers looking for solutions to softening bank accounts, MachineryLink says they’d do well to consider the company. Hosting a website for those looking to share equipment, MachineryLink is bringing farmers from across the country together.

In mid-May, Delta Farm Press spoke with Ben Dye, vice president for Machinery Links Solutions and an Arkansan, about the company’s genesis, its potential and how farmers are using it. Among his comments:

A brief history of MachineryLink…

“This business actually started around the sharing principle before the sharing economy exploded. Sixteen years ago, two farmers, one in western Kansas and the other in Nebraska, got together and said, ‘You know, there’s no reason for both of us to own an expensive combine. Why don’t we share in the cost? We could still get our harvesting done but cut our machinery cost in half.’

“That first transaction led to MachineryLink eventually operating a fleet of 300 combines that moved across the country. They worked hundreds of farms every year.

“Over the last few years, we’ve watched what’s happened with the sharing economy with the evolution of the Internet. That’s allowed us to take a look at what this could mean for our customers. As a result, we’ve developed an online platform that allows our customers to earn revenue off their idle equipment.”

How do you coordinate and accommodate crops in different regions being ready to harvest at different times?

“Farmers have been sharing equipment for decades, of course. A grower alluded to that last week — ‘our grandpas were doing this.’

“MachineryLink has allowed farmers to share online. So, we’ve essentially expanded the neighborhood from farms in the same county to farms that are across county and state lines that have different seasonality.”

How do you use the website? Do you do the mixing and matching or do users do that on their own?

“It’s so easy. Users come to our site and create a free account. It takes about two minutes.

“Then, they think about their farm and what machinery isn’t being utilized 100 percent of the time. They snap a few pictures, get on the site and create listings with short descriptions, block off dates they know they’ll need the equipment — usually with some cushion on either end — and then post the information.

“Then, farmers looking for equipment come to the site, put in the required dates, the type of equipment they need and do a simple search. Within a few clicks they’ll have a plethora of options to select from. Once they find the piece of equipment they’re looking for they hit ‘request’ and the owner is alerted. Then, they come to an agreement.”

Range, future plans

What’s the range of equipment on the site?

“There’s $244 billion worth of farm equipment on U.S. farms. Every piece is a revenue opportunity for the farmers.

“Today, we have categories that include harvest equipment, planting equipment, spraying equipment, and construction equipment; the options are expanding all the time.

“We had a younger farmer in central Kansas who posted his combines. He’s trying to operate the farm as a traditional business and looks at his machinery as a tool to get the job done. He said, ‘I don’t need this equipment idling all year.’ So, he posted the combines and immediately rented them out. That bumped his farm revenue up about $40,000. He turned around and said, ‘You know, I probably should post my hay equipment, as well.’

“So, it is expanding from the combine business that people traditionally know us for. The posts now include more expensive equipment or rarer equipment for things like cotton or hay, peanuts.”

How do harvest delays figure into the business? Hurricanes are always lurking.

“We get that question a lot. The answer is pretty simple. You need to block off dates the earliest you might need the equipment and the latest you might need it. Then, add some more time on both ends just to be sure.”

Greatest distance between folks sharing equipment?

“That’s a function of the value of the equipment and how long it’ll be used. We have combines traveling from Oklahoma all the way out to Idaho. Obviously, that wouldn’t be feasible for a small tractor that will be used for two days. But we routinely see combines moving 400 to 500 miles.”

Are you looking to expand internationally?

“We get inquiries from around the world all the time. It’s certainly a conversation we have here.

“Tech adoption in agriculture has historically been pretty slow. But if you look at the adoption of equipment sharing we’ve seen in just eight months, MachineryLink sharing has established a new trend-line. We have over 1,300 growers participating in the platform with more coming on board every day. It’s been incredible.

“Some of our early success stories were with guys who’d been in custom harvesting in the past. One customer had four combines he was going to take to auction. But when he started looking at the auction prices alongside our platform, he said, ‘You know what? I’m going to list these combines with MachineryLink and see what happens.’ It wasn’t long and he had $150,000 booked on his machinery.”

Anything else?

“No longer do farmers have to look in their sheds and see this beautiful, shiny equipment that’s doing nothing but be a monthly, or quarterly, expense. Every one of those pieces of machinery can now be a revenue opportunity. That hasn’t been the case in the past. This really is a transformative time in agriculture.”

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