New e-commerce Web site eases comparison shopping

If you like to learn as much as you can about a product before buying, Kip Pendleton can provide you with a quick and convenient source of product knowledge to supplement the information from your local dealer.

Pendleton is president of DirectAg.com, an electronic business that lets you compare, purchase and finance brand-name- services on-line through its Web site. It is designed to save you time in two ways.

First, it allows you to buy direct from the manufacturer at a discount. Second, it lets you quickly compare competitive products at any time of the day or night.

Push-button comparisons. "Today, if you want to compare products, you put the catalogs out on your kitchen table and you take a look at them," Pendleton says. "One of the neat things that the Internet allows you to do is search and compare by product attribute, look at a full range of options and access the best solution for your farm."

For example, DirectAg lets you compare and contrast specific seed products by looking either by trait, company or maturity zone. And it will show you the list of alternatives available along with their prices.

Currently that list of options includes only those companies that have agreed to be a part of DirectAg. Such companies total about a dozen and include Cargill and AgriBioTech.

However, Pendleton and his group are in discussions with more than 63 other companies representing the product categories of seed, crop protection, animal health and machinery, and financial services for future inclusion.

Participating companies do not pay to be featured on the Web site. They simply agree to make DirectAg a dealer or distributor representative for their company. For each sale, DirectAg receives a percentage of the purchase price as compensation.

"So we act exactly like a local dealer or distributor," Pendleton says. "We are paid for our services only if someone buys product from our site."

How to buy. To sign on to the site, you'll need access to the Internet. Once you're connected, buying a product entails these four steps: 1) type in www.DirectAg.com; 2) select the product category you are interested in; 3) select your method of purchase (credit card or operating loan); and 4) select your preferred method of delivery.

All products will be delivered to the farm. Turnaround time varies by product.

Only the company you buy product from will have access to your data. And the same credit card guarantees that currently protect your card against theft or misuse apply to use of the card over the Internet.

Get news, too. DirectAg will be providing other information services free of charge: * Agricultural news

* The Internet's first digital agronomist, provided by the Agri-Growth Group, an independent agronomic education, research and service company. It supplies agronomic advice on request, hosts forums covering crop-related issues and provides educational and diagnostic materials on-line.

* Marketing information

* Weather information, provided by AWIS

* Ability to build a confidential personal profile, called "My DirectAg," to help you quickly access the information you are seeking and track your orders for quick reference during later visits to the site. It also allows you to customize the above information to meet your needs.

For more information, visit DirectAg.com or write DirectAg. com, Dept. FIN, 336 Robert St. N., Suite 1506, St. Paul, MN 55101, 651/312-1760.