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Agribusiness firm noted for growth eyes improvement

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Wade Barnes of Farmers Edge shows some of the rapidly growing firm’s agricultural satellite imagery, which is its bread and butter.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Wade Barnes of Farmers Edge shows some of the rapidly growing firm’s agricultural satellite imagery, which is its bread and butter. Photo Store

It grew its revenues by a staggering 2,573 per cent over the last five years, but the co-founder of a Winnipeg agribusiness thinks there's room for improvement.

Farmers Edge Precision Consulting Inc. heads a list of 13 Manitoba companies that made Profit Magazine's 2013 list of Canada's fastest-growing companies.

The agronomic-technology company, which uses satellite imagery to determine what crops farmers should plant and what fertilizer and crop-protection products they should use, ranked 18th on this year's list of Top 500 fastest-growing companies.

But Farmers Edge co-founder Wade Barnes said they've already set their sights even higher for 2014.

"We're hoping next year we'll be at the top of the Profit 500 list. I don't know if any Manitoba company has ever done that."

Barnes said although the eight-year-old firm has enjoyed tremendous revenue growth over the last five years, it has a number of new initiatives in the works that could position it for even stronger growth over the next few years.

That includes a long-term deal with Canada's largest grain handler -- Viterra Inc. -- that would see its consulting and lab services offered through Viterra's extensive network of retail stores in Canada and Australia. Although Viterra's retail operations have since been tentatively sold to Calgary-based Agrium Inc., Barnes said Agrium is expected to honour the earlier deal once its acquisition of Viterra's retail network becomes official.

When that happens, that will give Farmers Edge access to thousands of potential new customers.

Barnes said Farmers Edge also continues to grow its sales in other international markets, including the United States and eastern Europe. It's also expanding its service offering to include food traceability and sustainability services.

"Food companies want traceability from the gate to the plate, and we're well-positioned to do that."

Ian Portsmouth, Profit Magazine's publisher and editor-in-chief, said this is easily Manitoba's strongest showing in its annual fastest-growing-companies competition,. And that's mainly due to the list being expanded to 500 companies this year from 200 in 2012.

"There may have been four in one year," he said of Manitoba's previous showings. But there were only two last year.

While 13 out of 500 is a good showing for the province, Portsmouth is convinced it could do even better.

"I think there are more of these hidden gems out there (in Manitoba). They just need to declare their candidacy. We can't rank them unless they declare their candidacy."

Barnes said this was the second time Farmers Edge entered Profit's competition. In 2011, it finished 11th on a list of 200.

He said it enters the competition to boost the company's profile and to give it some added ammunition in negotiations with lenders.

"I think it also sends a message to our employees... that we are doing well and are growing faster than a lot of other companies," he added. He noted about half of the company's employees are shareholders of the company, which he and Curtis MacKinnon co-founded in 2005.

Marina Barnes, the company's director of marketing, said Farmers Edge has more than 100 employees, including 41 in Manitoba. In addition to Winnipeg, it has offices in Saskatchewan, Alberta and the United States.

The fastest-growing company on this year's Profit 500 list was Vancouver-based Avigilon Corp, with five-year growth of 49,908 per cent.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

The province's biggest growth profiles

P500 rank Manitoba rank Company Location 5-year growth (%) Years on list
18 1 Farmers Edge Precision Consulting Inc. Winnipeg 2,573 2
112 2 People Corp. Winnipeg 606 1
156 3 M&L General Contracting Ltd. Winnipeg 413 2
228 4 Tank Traders (Vomar Industries Inc.) La Salle 274 1
261 5 Hemp Oil Canada Inc. Ste. Agathe 221 1
272 6 High Speed Crow Inc. East Selkirk 212 1
335 7 Bison Fire Protection Inc. Winnipeg 150 1
338 8 Bonafide Carpentry Services Ltd. Winnipeg 149 2
372 9 Boyd Group Income Fund Winnipeg 120 1
382 10 Broadview Networks Inc. Winnipeg 115 5
392 11 Oreck Canada (the Axe Houghton Group Inc.) Winnipeg 111 5
393 12 Alternative Landscaping Ltd. Winnipeg 111 1
446 `13 Koch Stainless Products Ltd. Winnipeg 80 1

 

-- source: Profit Magazine

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 4, 2013 B4

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Updated on Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 8:32 AM CDT: fixes table, replaces photo

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