NAS Agribusiness joins NRI in Naracoote

A respected South Australian independent has departed from traditional wholesaling arrangements for the more profitable reseller-supplier direct model of the NRI rural group.  

Neil Nolan, general manager of NAS Agribusiness in Naracoorte, said the need for more competitive buying and greater product accessibility was instrumental in his decision to join the independent network a few months ago.  

“NAS Agribusiness has been an unaligned independent for almost 20 years,” said Neil. “We survived OK sourcing wholesale but identified many advantages of aligning with a recognised, professional group to take our business forward.”  

“After a recent management reshuffle, we chose to take back some control and become part of something bigger, trading under a retail banner that’s recognised and respected.  

“Through NRI we are buying direct from suppliers – as opposed to wholesales – which means we’ve had to place more emphasis on accurate forecasting and timely procurement to meet our own and our client’s needs. With better access to market intelligence through the NRI network and direct supplier feedback, these decisions can now be made with greater confidence.”  

An experienced agronomist and spray contractor of 20 years, Neil said the decision to join NRI was also an opportunity to rebrand NAS’s operations and gain access to more premium brands, particularly farm chemicals and animal health lines.  

“Many farmers want to buy established familiar brands but at a fair price so it makes sense to stock them; maintaining market value, rather than just selling on price while also supporting those companies that have invested in their respective sectors.  

“So joining NRI has definitely strengthened our business in many ways,” he said.  


Diversification  

NAS Agribusiness was established in 1998 by two local, highly respected fertiliser spreading contractors, Gericke Bulk Handling and CJ and RL Crossling as a Pivot Fertiliser agency, based in Naracoorte with the aim of servicing farmers in the Southeast district and Victoria’s western Wimmera region.  

Neil said NAS had since expanded its footprint, servicing the upper Southeast, Murraylands, and upper Fleurieu Peninsula regions and has diversified its range beyond fertilisers and associated testing services to include seed, chemicals and merchandise - all backed by agronomic advice and technical service.  

“The move into ag chem began in 2003 with the aim of providing a one- stop shop for local crop and livestock producers,” said Neil.  

Neil said NAS had already been providing agronomic advice as a complementary service to selected fertiliser customers.  

“I’d been doing fee-for-service consulting in horticulture, mainly for potato and onion growers.  

“So adding this to our diverse fertiliser business, including soil and tissue test interpretation and recommendations combined with prescription blending through our Naracoorte depot, meant we were already adept in the agronomic and technical field.  

“It wasn’t a big deal to add farm chemicals and animal health into the service mix.”  Neil said NAS also enters into crop and pasture seed production contracts each year, partnered with major supply companies and selected growers.  

The seed operations are managed by Craig Altmann, also an agronomist, adding to the depth of agronomic expertise in the business.  

Located in one of the State’s most reliable regions, NAS has a diverse clientele spanning high value horticultural crops, irrigated seed and fodder production, broadacre cropping across all rainfall zones and a large pasture-fed livestock industry.  

“We recently appointed Fred Stephan, a bright young post-grad agronomist with a farming background to our Naracoorte branch, who with the support of Mitch Hartree, our well respected Merchandise Manager and Brett Foster handling logistics, ensures we deliver the best possible service and no grower gets left behind as we continue to grow.  

“We’ve also developed a contract agronomic package which we offer to our Murraylands clients to help build upon the basic services supplied out of our Murray Bridge warehouse under David Miegel and ensure consistent growth in the area.”  


Better cultivars  

Neil believes there is tremendous scope to improve productivity from local pastures simply by promoting and selling better cultivars at the time of establishment and renovation; clovers, grasses, medics and the like.  

“Many producers are still growing traditional varieties which are not always the most productive.  

“Some new strains of ryegrass for example offer double the production levels of Victorian ryegrass, the most widely grown yet often poorest performer in the paddock. Likewise, new clover cultivars can deliver increased early vigour and superior insect and disease resistance.  

“Our role is to help growers build a stronger base for their pastures. Not only can we sell them more inputs that way – but our clients can make more money from those inputs.”

According to Neil, another big  opportunity for NAS is the development of precision agriculture as it applies to pasture, fodder and livestock production.  

“Clearly the cropping industry has taken the lead with precision ag. It’s already delivering many productivity and environmental benefits in grain growing regions."

“However, the grazing industries are yet to go down this road. Yet the principles of precision ag – and the potential cost savings and productivity gains for fodder and livestock producers – are just as tangible and compelling.
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“We could be market leaders in this  field, developing such practices as variable rate mapping technology to apply soil amendments and fertilisers, implementing new technologies such as identifying the strains of rhizobia present in established pastures and assessing their level of performance. We could then offer agronomically-based guidance where necessary to better meet pasture and productivity needs."

“So we plan to host a series of grower forums to promote and sell the long term merits of the whole concept.”  

As a reseller, Neil said the value of having a few products on an exclusive distribution basis shouldn’t be underestimated.  

“For example, we have the sole rights to the range of Advantage Feeders which continues to attract new customers to our store.  

“This flow of foot traffic is a great opportunity to raise the awareness of the products and services NAS has on offer and often leads to new opportunities, both for NAS and the customer.”  

Neil is convinced that NAS is on the cusp of a new period of growth in the years ahead.  

“The potential in the pasture market alone is considerable. Demand for inputs like fertiliser, fencing, stock yards, feeders, stock watering infrastructure and pasture renovation is being driven by record livestock prices, particularly for cattle.  

“We’ve also just enjoyed the wettest winter in recent memory with the prospect of a great spring flush ahead.  

“Confidence is high and graziers are cashed up so we are doing all we can to meet their growing needs.  “We’re banking on annual sales growth of at least 10% for the foreseeable future.” 

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