Chatting with United Ag
A grower pulls away from a grain facility, having just delivered a load of corn
On his way back to the field, his load ticket appears in his local co-op’s mobile application. Using his smartphone, he and his wife can see the exact weight for the load, what the aflatoxin levels were, and how much the moisture was. Down near the Gulf Coast of Texas, this story is a reality for growers who belong to the United Agriculture Cooperative. During the co-op’s record harvest in 2020, managers, merchandisers, and growers watched it all unfold on their United Ag app. This was United Ag’s first harvest using their Bushel App.
“I try to challenge my staff to think of ways to better serve our members so they can rely on us more. I want to be able to take the cooperative to a different level and I think working with Bushel will help us get there.”
– Jimmy Roppolo, General Manager at United Ag.
United Ag is located in El Campo, Texas, about 90 miles outside of Houston. They operate a 6.4 million bushel grain storage facility, two cotton gins, four agricultural supply stores, and a custom bagging operation for deer corn and crack corn (puff corn).
United Ag knew they needed a digital tool to get information to their producers. Their first attempt at offering a (non-Bushel) mobile app resulted in low adoption rates: the app lacked an intuitive user experience and did not provide the critical information needed day in and day out. United Ag also faced problems with the current way they were pushing information out to growers. They were sending PDFs to their growers and it was a hassle for their growers to open emails and access each PDF individually. Instead, growers wanted something that was simple to understand and easy to navigate in order to quickly find the information they might need in a moment’s notice.
“They [Bushel] just took everything that I wanted and put it in a very user-friendly app,” Bowers said. “We have always aligned very well with Bushel because of the fact that our core values are the same.” “I wanted us to have a United Ag branded app that farmers would use and that there would be buzz about. I wanted it to be successful, and I wanted the money we’re spending to add value to our farmer’s experience.”
– Lindsey Bowers
COMMUNICATING STRATEGICALLY WITH FARMERS
Bushel Mobile provides the facility with tools in order to enhance their grower-to-grain facility relationship and experience. From Bowers experience, it’s all about effective communication. She uses the app for mass communication purposes. Being able to put information out to all farmers simultaneously allows her to have follow-up conversations with individual farmers without having to repeat the main message.
Since starting the app back in 2019, United Ag has experienced great success with their adoption rates. As of August 2022, they hold an adoption rate above 98%. United Ag took many different approaches in order to achieve such a high rate. They first introduced their Bushel App at their annual grower meeting, publicized it in their Grain Harvest newsletter, and put login instructions in monthly statements sent to growers in the mail. Their strategy was digital as well, including emails, Facebook posts, and website banners. The United Ag Team also sat with customers to help them log in. This showed their hesitant customers how easy the app was to navigate. “Every angle that we could possibly promote through, we did,” Bowers said.
SAVING TIME SIGNING CONTRACTS THROUGH eSIGN
United Ag also used the eSign feature to encourage users to sign up. United Ag loads contracts into the app and allows growers to approve and sign contracts from their cab, field, or from the comfort of their own home. That saved their growers time from having to stop what they’re doing to sign a contract at the co-op’s office during the busy season or when it’s impractical to make a special trip.
Implementing eSign helped growers during harvest, and the benefits will last year-long. Research shows that using electronic signatures reduces turnaround time by an average of 80%. Specifically, electronic signatures are shown to prevent missing files by 66% and scanning errors by 92%. United Ag and their growers receive the benefits from this investment in efficiency and security. Producers can sign contracts right from their devices, without needing to access an email, download a PDF separately, and then sign. They are also reassured knowing that the signed contract is immediately updated to their grain merchandiser and will live in their United Ag app.
“I wish we would have known then, that we’d have this level of trust with Bushel and with our producers.”
– Lindsey Bowers, Grain Merchandiser, United Ag
STREAMLINING BUSY TIMES LIKE HARVEST
During the busiest times of the year, the investment in their Bushel app helped distribute scale tickets and communicate pricing to growers. This seamless data exchange minimized errors and opened communication channels.
From 2021-2022, United Ag experienced roughly a 28% increase in app logins during the harvest season. This meant that the growers were pulling up the app to check their load deliveries, contracts, and the markets. Now that harvest is over, growers are still checking the app as adoption continues to stay above 98%. Every time a grower opens the app, they are engaging with United Ag at both the grower and grain merchandisers’ convenience.
The future is bright as United Ag looks to the coming growing seasons. In just one harvest, they transformed how they communicate with the vast majority of their growers. Now, growers can find their United Ag data at any time, in a paperless fashion. Growers still call in and visit the office, but business flows more smoothly because everyone is more informed. Through their efforts and investment in their Bushel app, United Ag created a successful customer experience and will continue to strengthen their buyer-seller relationships for many growing seasons to come.