A strong rural equipment market over the last 5 years or so means new entrants into the market — and new distribution methods.

New models in the UTV and zero-turn-mower segments means you have new avenues to expand. New technologies, like robotic mowers and remote-controlled slope mowers, also means expansion opportunities, as long as you are committed to learning and servicing these intelligent machines. And, new distribution methods means you need to be vigilant about evolving as a dealership.

For instance, pay attention to what Venture Products, the maker of the Ventrac tractor, is doing. They’ve launched a new line called Tilmor, a line of agricultural equipment to meet the needs of small acreage farmers and vegetable growers both domestically and around the globe. According to the company, small farmers make up a large proportion of growers around the world, but often have challenges getting tools and equipment that are readily available, affordable, and appropriately sized for smaller acreages.

"We also found that in the domestic market, there is a small and geographically scattered opportunity with mid-size vegetable growers that could use a product like this," says Lydell Steiner, Tilmor project coordinator.

Here is how Tilmor is part of the changing dynamic of our market. The products are going to be sold online at www.Tilmor.com. “To be competitive with serving this market, we see it necessary to sell these specialty tools directly to the customer as they are already accustomed to researching, and purchasing highly specialized tools this way,” Steiner says.

The website now features a finger weeder and basket weeder attachments they manufacture. The products will be shipped direct to the customer via UPS. The company plans to manufacture a simple 2WD row crop tractor, sold online and delivered through a trucking partner, direct to the purchaser.

A simple, 2WD row crop tractor from Venture Products' new brand, Tilmor, will be sold online in 2019.

“It’s a traditional straight frame tractor with visibility under the mid-mount for attaching tools and implements,” says Steiner.

Steiner comments about a possible tie-in to dealers. “Our goal is for the tractor to be able to be serviced by the individual. We are definitely interested in designing for simplicity, but we are well aware that every end user has different strengths and weaknesses,” he says. “Tilmor looks forward to partnering with service centers and individuals to help represent the Tilmor brand in the future.”

Steiner shares this about why the company chose to pursue this new brand and new distribution model as opposed to adding to the Ventrac line and using Ventrac dealers. “The Tilmor line is completely different than the Ventrac line. If it was ‘kind of different,’ there would have been no reason to create a new brand,” he says.

So, dealers, this direct-to-consumer method for larger ag equipment may leave you out on the front end. However, the rural lifestyle customer is all about the experience of using the equipment, not necessarily about understanding the mechanics.

You choose what you are willing to take on in your service department, but just keep aware that the traditional model of sales and service continues to evolve.