Dealer Spotlight: Chris Blome, Premier Technologies
As a precision farming specialist, Chris Blome often serves as an extension of the farm itself. He is called on both day and night to help keep operations running, especially during the critical planting and harvesting seasons.
Graduating with an Agricultural Systems Technology degree from Iowa State University, Blome’s career in precision agriculture began more than a decade ago at Ag Leader Technology.
“I worked in product management on the SeedCommand® line for two years,” he says. “I got to see Ag Leader from the inside, which I really enjoyed.”
In 2009, Blome had the opportunity to return to his family’s farm near Alden, Iowa. He also began working for Premier Technologies, which was owned by Mike Anderegg at the time.
“We work hard to become the trusted precision ag guy. If we can bring honesty, integrity, and offer farmers solutions that fit their operations, it’s a home run for everyone,” says Chris Blome, owner of Premier Technologies.
All in on precision
Anderegg, who was a Pioneer seed dealer, started Premier Technologies about 25 years ago to help his seed corn customers with yield maps and yield monitoring. His business was thriving, and Anderegg reached a point where he had to make a decision: either grow the precision side of his business or dissolve it to focus solely on seed.
Ultimately, he decided to further invest in precision agriculture, adding Blome to his team. “We found one another through mutual friends, and it was a good fit,” Blome recalls. “When I came on, that side of the business was built solely around yield monitors.”
It wasn’t long before the pair began offering other Ag Leader products including guidance, planting, and application.
“I worked alongside Mike for five years,” Blome says. “We always had a gentlemen’s agreement that when he was ready to sell, I would have a chance to purchase the business.”
True to his word, Anderegg sold Premier Technologies to Blome in 2014. Today, the team not only includes Blome but also two full-time and two part-time employees. In addition to the main office in Alden, Iowa, Premier Technologies also has an office in Osage, Iowa.
“I wear two hats. I am a farmer, and I also operate Premier Technologies,” Blome says. “As a farmer, I want to have the best experience possible when I invest in inputs, equipment, or technology.”
That belief carries over into his business. “As a technology provider, I’ve set high standards for myself and my guys,” he says.
We had a chance to talk with Blome recently about the business, the challenges facing farmers when it comes to adopting technology, and what it means to be a Blue Delta dealer for Ag Leader.
Ag Leader (AL): What is technology adoption like in your area?
Chris Blome (CB): I’ve been part of a peer group for nearly ten years, and the adoption curve is something we’ve talked about a lot.
Around 15% of farmers are early adopters who are on the bleeding edge. This group is progressive, want to grow their farm, and are really into technology. They are the guys buying products as soon as they are released. The next group, which encompasses about 70% of our business, is farmers who lag around two to three years behind the bleeding edge guys when it comes to adopting technology. The last 15% are the tail enders who might be slow to adopt, but we serve them as well.
In our area, we can have a farmer who is on the bleeding edge and a mile down the road a farmer who is the complete opposite. We are selling autosteer to some growers for the first time ever. We put row clutches on planters this year for guys who never thought they would add them but think they are wonderful now that they have them. Then we have other customers who have been benefiting from row clutches for 15 years.
That diversity is challenging but it’s also what makes our jobs fun because no two days are alike. It’s a new conversation every single day.
AL: How is technology alleviating some of the pain points growers are experiencing in your area?
CB: Some of the pain points we see, especially in the last two to three years, is in soybeans. There are so many different trait options and herbicide programs that if there is a misapplication, it could kill the whole field. If there is drift, it can ding the neighbor’s field, which could involve an insurance claim as well as hard feelings between neighbors. Technology like RightSpot™, which offers nozzle-by-nozzle control on the sprayer, can alleviate those concerns because it places that chemical exactly where it needs to be.
If you have autosteer in a dry spring like we had this year, it allows you to continue planting into the night even though the dust is making it difficult to see. You still have straight lines and can cover the acres even though the weather is working against you.
This technology also impacts farmers beyond the monetary and efficiency aspects. It also helps farmers farm longer as well as improve their quality of life.
For example, I work with a grower who has had rotator cuff surgery a couple of times. He said without autosteer he would have had to retire years ago.
AL: What is one lesson you’ve learned through the years about farmers’ adoption of technology?
CB: Whatever you think it might be, it’s totally opposite. You can’t predict the future because farmers are typically last-minute decision makers.
AL: Agriculture is a very relationship-based field. How do you connect with farmers?
CB: In my opinion, agriculture is more relationship-based than any other industry. Whether it is the seed salesman, the machinery dealer, or the agronomist, those relationships are just as important today as they were when my great grandpa, grandpa, and dad were farming. Once you partner with good people, you want to continue to work with those people.
While we may not always be the least expensive option, when you build that trust and you can provide value besides just selling a product, that’s worth something to customers. We’re not cookie cutter salesman. We do not try to sell the same thing to every farmer and assume it’s going to work. We listen to what the farmer needs, tailor a solution to meet the needs of that operation, and then support it.
We are working hard to become the trusted precision ag guy. If we can bring honesty, integrity, and offer farmers solutions that fit their operations, it’s a home run for everyone.
AL: You not only sell Ag Leader products, but you also use many of them on your own farm. Talk about why that’s important.
CB: I have most of the Ag Leader product catalog on my farm, so I can say with confidence that I not only use these products, but I also know how they operate. I’m not just trying to be a salesman. I use these products in the spring. I use them in the fall. I can provide real world examples of how it can work on someone else’s farm and can relate to them, which goes a long way with farmers.
AL: Talk about how you’re investing in your staff to ensure they have all the tools they need to help a farmer succeed with precision ag tools.
CB: Precision ag specialists are a hot commodity. When we add someone to the team, we invest in them by not only giving them a job but also by providing extensive training. My guys have gone through all the training at the Ag Leader Academy in Ames, but they also receive on the job training, which, to me, is more valuable.
I’m also fortunate because myself and my two full-time guys all worked at Ag Leader at one point. Not only did we have that experience when we came to Premier Technologies, but we can utilize that knowledge to help customers because we know Ag Leader from the inside out.
AL: Tell me what it means to you to be an Ag Leader Blue Delta dealer.
CB: When I came to work for Mike in 2009, he was a Master Service dealer, which was the predecessor to Blue Delta. Around 2011, Premier Technologies transitioned to Blue Delta. As a Blue Delta dealer, we are seen as the elite dealer in our area because of our product knowledge and customer support. There is a lot of pride that goes along with being a Blue Delta dealer, so we hold our dealership to a higher standard.
There are other criteria you need to meet to become a Blue Delta dealer, like community involvement. We try to support the community as much as possible and are involved in several local events such as STEM night at the elementary school and the county fair.
AL: As a dealer, what is your biggest challenge?
CB: Word of mouth is the best advertising you can get. Our business has grown tremendously in the last five years. There are times when there never seem to be enough hours in a day, especially during the planting season.
We are not only servicing customers we sold product to this spring, but we are also servicing the guys we sold to last spring and the spring before that. There are days when we can get really bogged down in the day-to-day phone calls because we are servicing so many different generations of products, so it can be challenging to keep up.
AL: You’re also investing in the next generation of precision ag specialists. Tell me about the co-op program you offer and how it’s different from a traditional internship.
CB: Most internships run from May to August, so it’s hard to give an intern the full experience because he or she misses critical parts of the planting and application season. Our program, which is in its third year, runs from January to August.
By starting interns in January, we can train them for two or three months before we get into the hot and heavy part of planting. This allows us to get them to a point where we feel they are ready to be sent out to the field, so they can hit the ground running. It really gives them a sense of accomplishment when they’ve reached a point where they can do something on their own. That on-the-job training is so valuable because it gives us the opportunity to teach them what we’ve learned over the last 15 or so years. •
Dealership: Premier Technologies
Owner: Chris Blome
Location: Main office is in Alden, Iowa, with a second location in Osage, Iowa.