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VantagePoint Network officially launched in December of 1999. Soon afterwards it had subscribers in 40 states. John Deere, Farmland and Growmark launched VantagePoint Network LLC to help farmers and their professional advisers manage the vast amounts of data they generate.

VantagePoint Network serves as an open channel for information and communication exchange. It is an established portal for professional retailers, farm managers and consultants to extend their services online to their customers.

"We're pleased with the response," says VantagePoint Network CEO Greg Holzwarth. "People correctly see us as a "clicks and mortar" entry - a network that seeks to bring the innovation of the Internet and the existing infrastructure of the agricultural community closer together."

VantagePoint attributes its success to customer contributions throughout the development stages of their Internet product.

The input from these producers, plus other professionals, created a platform for today's farm record needs and yet provides structure for future informational needs. VantagePoint recognizes that Internet connections in some rural areas are very slow and growers are slowly adopting the Web. VantagePoint is growing with its producer-customers and its goal is to be positioned with the most robust tools when Internet accessibility improves.

"We are listening very closely to input from our customers," says Holzwarth. "This spring, VantagePoint will introduce site-specific weather in direct response to those requests. Regularly scheduled upgrades are part of the business plan for VantagePoint, with the first major upgrade scheduled for mid-March."

Currently, VantagePoint offers free market, news and weather information. Commodity prices can be monitored for the Chicago Board of Trade, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the Kansas City Board of Trade and 12 other exchanges. News updates include Doane Ag News Reports and Brock Market Commentaries. VantagePoint boasts comprehensive weather tools on the Web providing local forecasts, national radar and satellite maps provided by AccuWeather. The free site also hosts agricultureís largest search engine, Search4Ag, with more than 22,000 links searchable by keywords or established categories.

The VantagePoint Membership service offers a central portal for business communications and farm record-keeping. "We took a 360-degree view of a producer's operation and built a tool that allows the producer to strengthen communications with his or her business partners to make better management decisions," says Holzwarth.

Through VantagePoint, a producer and his or her advisors can store information about seed, fertilizer and chemical inputs, weather, soil nutrients, environmental compliance and marketing transactions and associate all the data to a specific field location.

The VantagePoint Network features a comprehensive Crop Management record-keeping system. "Trends in the food and agricultural industries demand that producers keep comprehensive records, including seed varieties, tillage practices and chemical applications," explains Holzwarth. "VantagePoint members will have more opportunities to increase the value of their outputs as we add features, and as the market for trait-specific and identity-preserved outputs expands."

Additional features include a storage and sales tracking system, usage data on chemicals and seed, and GIS mapping imagery for whole-field or site-specific information.

VantagePoint Network can be accessed through any computer with an Internet browser and minimum modem speed of 28.8 kilobytes. Live customer support is available 24 hours, seven days a week, through online chat capabilities or a toll-free telephone number. Complete information on the new service can be found on the VantagePoint Web site at

"As the VantagePoint team continues to enhance our information portal, strengthening the relationships between farmers and their advisers is a priority," Holzwarth says. "VantagePoint is designed to bring farmers, their advisers, and suppliers closer together with online services that improve communications and decisions. Our mission is to help our customers manage their information as a vital asset, just as important as capital and labor, to enhance their long-term productivity and profits." AM

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