03 Feb Grasshopper Fertilizer Delivers Consistent Growth
Interview published in the January 2012 issue of Growing Georgia.
By Senior Editor Barbara Keiker
Growing Georgia Interview
Since its founding in 2005 by a group of career farmers and ranchers, Grasshopper Fertilizer has consistently experienced double-digit annual sales growth. The company grew 50 percent to 100 percent annually for the first five years and in 2011 during a widespread drought, Grasshopper Fertilizer managed to grow by 25 percent.
“The market is just thirsty for the type of product we offer,” said GW Sharp, owner of Grasshopper Fertilizer. “Our biggest source of growth is farmers sharing their positive experiences with each other. I think we could shut off all advertising and marketing in 2012 and still grow.”
According to Sharp, Grasshopper Fertilizer offers higher quality, price competitive specialty ag products including fertilizer, root stimulant and micronutrient blends. Its foliar fertilizer blends are the company’s bread and butter. They offer 100 percent absorption into the leaf compared to absorption rates of 20 percent to 80 percent for many fertilizers. Grasshopper Fertilizers are used on the top row crops including corm, soybeans, cotton and peanuts as well as hay, range and pastures.
“It’s a high-quality product that offers lower use rates and can be mixed and applied with herbicides and fungicides. That also saves the farmer time and money,” Sharp said.
Grasshopper Fertilizer is available through 75 retail outlets including sales reps, feed stores and fertilizer outlets throughout the southeastern U.S. The company also offers wholesale distribution throughout the U.S. and internationally in Canada, South America and Africa.
The right blend
Grasshopper Fertilizer products offer the right blend of high quality chemical ingredients to achieve 100 percent absorption. According to Sharp, the company’s leadership team started with what had worked best in their experience as farmers and ranchers and then created blends by adding root stimulants and micronutrients.
“We’re constantly refining and improving our proprietary formulas. We’re not science majors but we have worked with several university labs and co-ops,” Sharp said.
It’s especially important to get the right quality of chemicals, according to Sharp. For example, not all types of nitrogen can be absorbed into the leaf. After designing a proprietary blend and beginning its manufacture, the company then enlists the services of a contract manufacturer.
Grasshopper Fertilizer has participated in trials at several agricultural shows including the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Ga. The trials are used to demonstrate the performance of new seeds, fertilizers, equipment and similar types of ag products.
“We had some of the largest yield increases in soybeans, peanuts and cotton that they’d ever seen at the Sunbelt field day,” Sharp said. “The yield increases were two to four times the cost of the product.”
Word of mouth created by successful trials and customer experiences has accelerated sales of the company’s products. According to Sharp, one satisfied farmer telling friends and neighbors about his experience is much better than any magazine advertisement.
“We’re a young company competing with absolute giants in the ag chemical industry,” Sharp said. “So positive word of mouth is especially important.”
In addition to positive word of mouth, having a memorable name has helped Grasshopper Fertilizer stand out. Hay production was the company’s first target market and the company name referred to its ability to “get grass hopping.” Now the Grasshopper name helps the company stand out from others in the industry.