California retailer puts energy into ag market

August 7, 2017 By    

An EnviroPro service truck helps to install an LP gas irrigation power unit, while a bobtail prepares to fill the site’s tanks. Photo courtesy of EnviroPro Energy

When Joe Silva launched EnviroPro as a propane retailer and natural gas provider in 2012, propane seemed to him an obvious fuel source for his fleet.

The northern California-based retailer runs seven of its vehicles on autogas and one shop truck on gasoline. Six of the seven vehicles on autogas are Fords equipped with the Roush CleanTech system, including two bobtails, and the seventh vehicle, also a bobtail, is a GM C-7500 that runs on autogas.

“We’re propane guys using propane trucks,” Silva says. “Here’s why I went that route: It’s cheaper and I own a propane company, so why not?”

Having an all-propane fleet also helps EnviroPro attract and retain customers, particularly in the agricultural market.

“How could I possibly convince a farmer that propane is a better irrigation alternative if the trucks I deliver the fuel to his farm with run on diesel?” Silva asks. “It’s possible, but I would be disingenuous if I pitch that to him.”

EnviroPro focuses about 80 percent of its business on the agricultural market due to high demand for propane-powered irrigation in northern California. The region also features a healthy, growing agricultural market with “endless needs for propane,” according to Silva.

The company got its start in the agricultural market through a partnership with DePue Warehouse, a rice growing business that allowed Silva to lease a part of its facility upon launching his business. Silva admits it was an unusual partnership for a startup, but it provided him with a facility and DePue Warehouse with fuel and service.

EnviroPro became a seller of propane-powered engines and equipment for the agricultural market after its first year in business. Silva noticed that his propane customers had been experiencing conflicts with their engine and equipment dealers, which in turn would affect whether customers would want to keep their equipment running on propane.

“I felt like a marriage counselor between our farming customers and their equipment manufacturers,” he says.

Silva grew up on a farm and knew how to service farming equipment, so he decided to become a farm equipment vendor for his customers. He saw this as a prime opportunity to acquire additional revenue.

“I saw that I could make a profit on the engine and the fuel,” Silva adds. “Anything we could do to generate more cash flow, like selling engines, sounded good to us.”

EnviroPro’s focus on serving the agricultural market has paid off the past five years, as it’s provided the company with about 2 million gallons in annual sales. Although the agricultural market doesn’t provide as strong of margins as the residential market, it provides more steady profits and keeps employees busy in the slow summer months.

“Our goal is to be busy year-round,” Silva explains. “I actually need to take more time to grow our residential market now. We’re a strange little propane company – a tiny engine dealer and propane company wrapped into one.”

Founded: 2012
Founder: Joe Silva
Owner: Joe Silva
Headquarters: Williams, California
Propane sales: 2 million annual gallons
Customers: About 500
Employees: 6
Bobtails: 3

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About the Author:

Megan Smalley was an associate editor at LP Gas magazine.

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