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AgriStar Global Networks, Ltd., headquartered in Chicago, Ill., with its operations center in Minneapolis/St.Paul, Minn., is a new satellite-based communications company integrating the world's top commercial farms, input suppliers and their dealers, commodity end users, and service providers into a two-way, ultra-high-speed global agricultural network system.

The need to facilitate increasing flows of information and e-commerce between the industry's fragmented segments is growing exponentially, as world agriculture rapidly moves toward a highly sophisticated, vertically coordinated production and distribution system. AgriStar, with its always-on, two-way broadband connectivity, will provide both traditional agribusinesses and new internet-related ventures an opportunity to reach the leading farms central to the food and fiber chain. They will work closely with ag retailers, distributors and others throughout the industry to involve them in the total network.

AgriStar's forerunner entities focused exclusively on providing premium independent business information and services to the top segments of agriculture over the past 50 years, and AgriStar continues this long-standing tradition. The underlying premise of AgriStar is that absolute neutrality is essential to serve all the needs of leading farm operators. "Top farmers told us repeatedly that for a network to become the industry's dominant central hub of electronic information and commerce, it was critical that the service not be beholden to any one company or sector," says Cliff Ganschow, chairman of AgriStar Global Networks, Ltd. "The idea of having a fox guard the chicken house just isn't comfortable for top farmers and others in the industry, no matter how well intentioned the fox may be." AgriStar achieved this neutrality by inviting top farmers and ranchers to help structure the network concept, including allowing them to be part of ownership, along with a broad spectrum of multi-national strategic partners.

Initial strategic investors included Rural Press Limited and Merial Limited. Subsequent discussions with more than two-dozen agribusinesses, news providers and food companies have quickly established the foundation for AgriStar. Together with these strategic partners, the company is continuing to build a network that will enable dealers, distributors, manufacturers and end users to connect directly to the top 10 percent of producers who now do nearly 80 percent of all farm business. AgriStar controls a proprietary database that includes extensive demographics and e-mail addresses for the country's top 200,000 farms.

Hughes Network Systems joined forces with AgriStar in late 2001 to supply all satellite equipment and support capabilities. AgriStar began final field-testing in the fourth quarter of 2001, with its full-scale national rollout to start in mid-2002. The company intends to have approximately 100,000 top farms and ranches and 10,000 retail outlets networked in two to three years, with upwards of 200,000 total users within five years. They will offer various subsidized programs for satellite units to both farmers and dealers based on the size of operations and usage. AM

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