Meet the AGvisor Alvin Ulrich

Growing crops in Western Canada comes with it’s own set of unique challenges. The climate and geography means certain crops are favoured over others. Any farmer in Western Canada is very familiar with crops like wheat and barley and canola. After years and years of growing the same crop rotations, things can get a little tedious and repetitive. The volatility of the marketplace can also make growing a typical rotation less profitable than previous seasons. For these reasons, farmers in Western Canada are continually expressing more and more interest in experimenting with new crop varieties, and attempting some vertical integration in their business strategies. Fibre crops are something folks in Western Canada are hearing more and more about, and we have experts like Alvin Ulrich to thank for this rise in popularity. 

The Fiber Crop Expert You Need

Alvin Ulrich is an AGvisor who specializes in fibre producing crops like flax and hemp. How can a farmer utilize flax straw to make fibre and shive for additional revenue? What can be done with hemp stalks, fibre, and hurds? If a farmer has questions about how to handle or process these materials, and most importantly, make extra money in doing so, Alvin Ulrich is the person to speak with.

“There’s lots of opportunity in flax and hemp fibre, but there’s lots of challenges, and it’s a subject area very few people know much about. It’s, in some ways, even more complicated than grain growing, but it’s a huge industry around the world, and we have lots of potential to participate in that industry.”   -Alvin Ulrich

Integrating Fibre Production into Western Canadian Agriculture

While flax fibre holds the promise of being a great choice for fibre production, Alvin recognizes that there are some hurdles to overcome, and in the meantime hemp production has really taken off in popularity especially in Western Canada. Alvin is happy to help farmers figure out how to grow hemp profitably.

There is year-round interest from farmers about all things to do with hemp production, especially because fibre production tends to mean some vertical integration is required. Sometimes it takes a few years to prepare to grow these fibre crops. Alvin often fields questions about business planning, raising money to develop and build processing plants, and potential markets to consider. Once farmers have moved into the practical phase of growing fibre crops, Alvin is right there along with them providing knowledge and insight. The summer season means lots of questions surrounding what kind of fibre crops to grow, and how to do so successfully. Once the crop is in the ground, questions start to revolve around processing and marketing. Who’s going to buy this, and what qualities are they looking for? These are the kinds of answers Alvin can provide to growers, now. 

“How do experts get paid for the time they take to talk to you about something?  AGvisorPRO gives experts an opportunity to do that, to monetize the knowledge you have.”  -Alvin Ulrich

When you sit down and talk with Alvin about fibre crop production, the word you will frequently hear repeated is potential. Obviously potential is a concept farmers are quite familiar with, yet Alvin’s view of potential seems to be from a high vantage point. His background in economics is clear when these new ideas are being discussed. Like any person who grew up in this sector, Alvin recognizes the critical importance of what happens after the crop has been successfully grown and harvested. The marketplace often favours those who can provide to it a processed and finished product, rather than a raw material. Margins being what they are, it can make a lot of long term sense for growers to start investing in processing infrastructure, so they can take control of the supply chain and reap the rewards.

Alvin also sees the intense interest, but general lack of understanding surrounding the production of fibre crops. He says it’s quite typical for him to give “half hour” tours of processing plants that end up lasting for half a day. Alvin says he often gets comments like “That was so fascinating, I learned so much, Now I know why you say what you say, because I can see and touch and feel the fibre and the straw.” At the end of the day, Alvin can rest easy and smile at those interactions, because he knows he’s “hooked” another grower into learning more about the potential in fiber production. 

AGvisorPRO Creates Potential for Experts and Farmers Alike

Though Alvin’s expertise is specific to a particular facet of agriculture, his situation is illustrative of the rest of this sector. There are all kinds of experts just like Alvin, with amazing levels of expertise and knowledge in a particular area, who would gladly answer all kinds of questions, if only curious people could find them and connect. AGvisorPRO is a new approach to leveraging the knowledge potential of this industry. 

The fact is, it’s fairly common for people seeking advice to simply need a small question answered, but who do you call? Government? Ag Rep? These are the typical channels for advice, yet we know that there’s so much brain trust in agriculture’s private sector too. Chances are there’s a private expert somewhere with as much or more knowledge than those typical channels provide. But how do you find these private experts?  And if you find them, how do you ask a small question while still compensating them for their time? An expert answering 10 minute phone calls all day can quickly find their day completely eaten up by non-revenue generating activities.

AGvisorPRO takes all these old pitfalls and all this new potential, and provides farmers with a new way of finding advice while also giving experts a way to monetize their knowledge and experience. 

It’s All in the Platform

AGvisorPRO is a platform that facilitates a face-to-face connection between experts and those seeking advice. We’ve designed our system to help you sort through our network of AGvisors to find the right person to answer your questions. You can have an expert right there in your field, and the expert never has to leave their desk. AGvisorPRO not only overcomes the challenges of our new remote-working reality, it improves on what we had before. AGvisorPRO erases locality as the biggest limiting factor in agriculture.