Matt Ondrejko, Valley® vice president global marketing, spoke with Agri Marketing® Magazine about where center pivot irrigation is headed in the next five years, as well as the critical role that marketing plays in the development and promotion of new products.
Agri Marketing: Tell us about the founding of Valley and the markets it currently serves.
Matt Ondrejko: Valmont® was founded in 1946 by Robert Daugherty. In 1954, Mr. Daugherty purchased the rights to the very first center pivot water drive mechanism, and we started to manufacture center pivots in Valley, Neb., where we've been headquartered ever since. Today, Valley Irrigation is a division of Valmont Industries, Inc., which is much diversified with infrastructure products for highway and safety, lighting and the ag market.
Agri Marketing: How is the North American and global ag irrigation market?
Matt Ondrejko: As many people may know, the global agriculture market has been depressed from its high in 2013. The good news for us is that irrigation is still something the industry needs. While it's a large capital investment for farms, the payback and the benefits are quickly realized. Even though center pivots have mimicked the ag market in being slow, we have performed a little bit better than what the ag market has as a whole.
Agri Marketing: What and where are growth opportunities?
Matt Ondrejko: Let's talk about population growth first. The world is poised to have nine billion people by 2050; Asia and Africa are the areas where the population is growing at a rapid pace. Those regions, obviously, will need continued development, better infrastructure and the ability to provide for themselves. We believe those areas provide high potential for growth opportunities. There is also plenty of growth potential in the high-volume production areas of Brazil, Eastern Europe and North America.
Agri Marketing: What new technology services are you introducing?
Matt Ondrejko: The voice of the customer is a key feature that we focus on at Valley. Through product development, using Beta testing and in-field research, we’ve learned that growers want things simple; they want to spend less time managing their equipment and more time doing the things that matter the most to them.
At the beginning of 2017, we released our new Valley ICON® line of smart control panels for center pivot irrigation. The ICON control panels are basically the brains of the equipment; they send all the commands to the machine and provide growers an easy way to control and monitor their irrigation remotely. All of the ICON panels come out-of-the-box ready to be integrated into our BaseStation3™ or AgSense® remote irrigation monitoring and management solutions, which enable growers to control their pivots from anywhere using their mobile device. Less time in the field with the equipment means more time to manage their operation and more time to spend with their families.
Agri Marketing: What role does marketing communications play for Valley?
Matt Ondrejko: Marketing is not simply about the products that the company launches, but also about the way that the company touches someone's life. It needs to be more personal in today's world and less about broad messages. Marketing should evoke emotion, and it must evoke something that the customer can connect to.
Traditionally, marketing has specifically been a one-way street; the company communicates to the customer and says, “Here's what we have to offer.” Now, communication has changed through social media and through more in-the-field activity - it has become a two-way street. The growers will tell you what they respond to and what interests them. We at Valley have clearly put our sights on the grower, working hard to understand their needs and the way that their business changes, so that we can adopt and effectively communicate with them.
Agri Marketing: What else would you like agri marketers to know about Valley?
Matt Ondrejko: I think the biggest thing for agri marketers to take away is that they need to understand their customers. Like Valley, many ag companies have been around for a long time, but that doesn't mean that the needs and the conversation with customers hasn't changed. Our ability to adapt and to accommodate for the next generation of growers is going to be critical. The way we communicate with the next generation is going to be very different from the way that we've communicated with their parents and their grandparents.
You can see the entire March edition of Agri Marketing Magazine, including Matt's complete interview here.
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