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AM: Tell us about E-Markets, Inc.

Scott Cavey is president and chief operating officer of E-Markets Inc., Ames, Iowa.
SC: E-Markets was founded in 1996 with the intent to build business process applications that enable the use of the Internet to share information and data more efficiently. In 1997, E-Markets developed the industry's first online production contracting system, enabling a major crop protection company to improve its business processes significantly.

Then, in 1998, we brought process efficiencies to input ordering by developing the first Internet-based agricultural input ordering system, enabling real-time seed ordering and inventory management for Croplan Seed Genetics.

In 2000, we developed the first Internet-based risk management tool enabling hundreds of elevators throughout the country to increase forward-contracted bushels while, at the same time, helping their customers capture more value in the grain markets. We also introduced the first online attribute-based grain exchange in 2000 enabling businesses like Bunge North America to improve transactional efficiencies with traditional trading partners.

AM: What new products or services are you offering?

SC: Recently, we launched the Harvest Edge newsletter to provide retailers throughout the country with valuable content and commentary from Duane Lowry's Early Market News and Marcus Weather, Inc. The newsletter also features articles with the latest developments relating to agronomy and technol““gy. Today, more than 4,000 retailers read the newsletter, and the circulation base continues to grow daily. This fall, we will launch the Harvest Edge Retailer Sponsorship program. Retailers will have the opportunity to send a sponsored version of the newsletter containing their business name and company logo directly to their farmers/customers.

The next step in the evolution of our core business will involve the acquisition and development of ag retail accounting software systems. As we work with retailers using our systems, they continually struggle with the difficulty of single-entry interfaces to suppliers' systems. There is so much information available over the Web. With the addition of Web services and Web enablement, we will open up a new level of supply chain management with the full retail-to-manufacturer solution.

AM: What is your view on the future of the Internet within agriculture?

SC: The value of a lost customer used to be far more than the cost of double handling inventory. Ag input margins are shrinking and volume is decreasing. The net effect on the ag chemical market is a 15 to 20 percent decrease in revenue. The whole ag input supply chain has to start looking at the cost of doing business and start cutting out duplication and extensive inventories.

Whether government oversight, biosecurity or good stewardship is the impetus, the industry has to start tracking the movement of products of risk through the system.

Taking a look at the consumer products industry would suggest that vendor-managed and just-in-time inventories will create significant efficiencies and decrease cost substantially.

The solutions to all these initiatives involve the Internet. The Internet is not about doing business over a Web site because you are afraid of another company stealing your customer. The Internet is about transacting business more efficiently while still talking to our customer. We just cannot afford to keep transacting business the way we do today.

Be it Web enablement, Web services, system integrations or business messaging, the Internet plays the key role in cost control and supply chain management.

AM: How does your company differ from the competition?

SC: No other company does what we do in agriculture. Our company is made up of employees who know agriculture, and agriculture is where we focus our efforts.

In most cases, our main competitor is the potential clients' internal IT staffs. Many times our customers will spend a great deal of time trying to decide whether they can build a platform themselves. As a third-party provider, we complement and provide support to the current systems internal IT staffs manage. We help by preventing potential access from outside users to the back-office systems and increasing the security around the customers' system. Also, because our base systems are repeatable across many customers, we help our clients save time and money by eliminating the need to reinvent the wheel or to make a large investment in the infrastructure needed to maintain applications like ours. AM

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