Issue Spring 11
An emphasis on product uniformity and flexibility in product volume are two of Ferti Technologies’ competitive advantages. The St. Michel, Quebec-based company produces fertilizer products for golf courses, lawn care companies, lawn and garden retailers, and vegetable and fruit growers. Products are distributed throughout Canada and the United States and shipped to Europe, South America, Korea and New Zealand, according to founder and owner Marc Vaillancourt.
The company, founded by Vaillancourt in 1987 as Fertichem, recently changed its name to Ferti Technologies to reflect its emphasis on using an organic base in most of its products. “The suffix ‘chem’ no longer fits us,” he adds.
In addition to producing products under its Envirosol and Nutrite brands, Ferti has the ability to produce private-label items for customers as well as ship in smaller volumes than many of its competitors.
“The reason why people like to do business with us is we don’t ask for large volumes for a private label,” Vaillancourt explains. “A lot of companies ask customers to buy hundreds of tons for private labels; we go by truckload.”
The company has the ability to offer private-label quantities as small as 20 tons, he adds.
Ferti Technologies’ size also allows it to offer products on a faster timetable than many comparable larger companies. “I think we’re pretty flexible,” Vice President Hugo Provencher says. “Because of our structure and dedication to customer service, we can turn around our products quickly.”
All of Ferti Technologies’ products are manufactured in five plants on a 20-acre site in St. Michel. Each plant produces a specific kind of product, including four different granular sizes, soluble and liquid fertilizers.
The company sources raw materials such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potash from a number of suppliers in Canada, the United States and Europe. Materials are blended in ribbon, vertical and rotary mixers and then bagged using bags that are also sourced from outside vendors, Vaillancourt says.
As the company’s suppliers are located in different parts of the world, Ferti works to schedule deliveries and productions around each vendor’s lead time requirements. The company generally maintains an inventory of up to 2,200 tons of raw materials, Provencher says.
Ferti operates five production lines, with product lines usually changed four to five times a day. The company is able to produce up to 200 tons per day of one product, on the main line. Equipment is routinely upgraded and replaced each year.
Guiding Ferti’s manufacturing process is a team of five agronomists who make product and blend recommendations to customers to suit their particular needs, Vaillancourt says.
Agronomists also offer services including insect and disease diagonsis, weed identification, tree and shrub species identification, and other horticultural advice, according to the company.
While each customer and market served by the company has different requirements, there is one common thread to Ferti Technologies’ fertilizer products.
“Every product, before it goes into the plant, is screened to make sure it meets a uniform size,” Vaillancourt says. “Our product is more uniform than others because of our screening systems. We give customers a better product, even in small quantities.”
Foremen oversee productivity and quality on the floor and report back regularly to management. The company also maintains an onsite quality control laboratory, he adds.
While Vaillancourt says he is proud of the flexibility and attention to customers’ needs that Ferti Technologies’ small size affords it, he feels there is room for growth. The company seeks to maintain a 10 percent yearly growth rate.
“We try to be ahead in the market, even as a small company,” he says.
Key to Ferti Technologies’ current growth plans is an expansion of its manufacturing operations. The company will operate a new plant in the United States to expand its business in 2011.
Much of the company’s existing business in the United States is through sales of Nutrite products. Vaillancourt says he also looks to expand private-label business there.
“We want to continue to progress in the U.S. market,” Vaillancourt adds. “That’s where much of our growth has been in the last three to four years.”