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E-COMMERCE PROFILE
FARMS.COM
For the first installment of this new monthly column profiling agricultural e-commerce firms, Agri Marketing talked with Ben Zaitz, president and founder of Farms.com, Chapel Hill, N.C.

AM: Ag-related sites - particularly e-commerce sites - have been hitting the Web at breakneck speed as of late. Can you tell us what prompted the development of Farms.com?

BZ: It seems that 1999 may be remembered by many as the year the agriculture industry focused its attention on the possibilities of e-commerce. Companies that previously would not have considered using the Internet are now quickly developing Internet strategies.

Farms.com, which began five years ago as Cattle Offerings Worldwide (COW), was one of the first companies to see the potential of Internet markets and to effectively launch and develop major ag markets. Farms.com is currently the only Internet company successfully making markets for agrichemicals and other crop inputs, feed, grain and livestock.

Success to date includes millions of dollars in sales across many markets. Farms.com has established a client base, building customized markets for stockyards, livestock producers and feed mills. More than 60 commodity suppliers, 60 alfalfa growers, 300 crop input suppliers, 15 stockyards and thousands of farmers are currently participants in Farms.com markets. Currently the Farms.com Web site receives more than 3,000 unique visits per day. And that number is growing.

AM: What, in your estimation, accounts for this success?

BZ: Farms.com's strategy is simply to create a seamless market place between the two major sectors of agriculture: crop production and livestock production.

Livestock producers use feed, cattle and other livestock inputs. Crop producers require markets for inputs and also for the output they produce. Both sectors create liquidity for each other. Market participants include elevators, feed mills, stockyards, dairy farms, trading companies, row crop farmers - virtually everybody in agriculture. The core of the success at Farms.com is technology.

AM: What aspects of Farms.com take particular advantage of new technologies?

BZ: Farms.com is the only Internet company in agriculture that has real-time instantaneous markets. Several thousand bidders can trade bids instantly, faster than at the Chicago Board of Trade or Mercantile Exchange. Ag markets move quickly, and a static trading system will just not perform in volatile ag markets. In addition, Farms.com provides market-making formats such as straight auctions, reverse auctions, Dutch auctions and bid/ask markets.

"How does this affect me?" an agri-marketer may ask. I would tell him that his company may already trade in commodities available in the general marketplace, or Farms.com could help create a custom market to suit its specific needs. Either way, trading operates on a central backbone computer system. Farms.com is a completely unbiased market and is not controlled by any manufacturer or distributor with market self-interests. AM


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