The following is an edited transcript of Tom Martin’s interview with John Fargher, co-founder and chief operations officer of Australia-based AgriWebb.
To listen to our entire conversation with John, click on the player.
Tom: John Fargher is chief operations officer for Australia-based AgriWebb. The company is among 10 startups selected from a field of more than 180 applicants to take part in The Pearse Lyons Accelerator program. We thank you for joining us, John.
John: Thank you for having us.
Tom: What is AgriWebb? How did it get started?
John: AgriWebb is a farm management and herd management software. We’re specifically focusing on the livestock industry, particularly red meats, so sheep and cattle producers, based down in Australia.
I’m originally a fifth generation livestock producer myself, so I identified the problem on our own family farm, which is a simple one: farmers and ranchers running their businesses off pencil and paper. They’re recording their data down in that notepad. So, we built an app to digitize those farm records. We can now track all the inputs and all the outputs across that business and then facilitate data-driven decisions through reports and insights.
Tom: Does this enable you to carry a device throughout the operations and record data and so forth?
John: That’s absolutely right. We’ve built an app that you can run on your mobile device. It works right in your pasture, in the field. You can be recording all of your business information. And then when it hits that connection, it’s going to sync to the cloud. And through the portal, you can actually then start doing some insights and some reporting. We present that data back to make those data-driven decisions, increase the efficiency and productivity of that business.
Tom: You know, a number of the folks who have come in for an interview for these podcasts have mentioned in one way or another how important data has become in farming. And it seems to me as though you’re catering to that interest.
John: Yeah. That’s right. We’re looking at these businesses, some of them multimillion dollar businesses. And they are run through archaic methods. You know, “Why are you making these decisions? Well, ‘cause dad and grandpa did it that way.” And now, there’s a desire and a need for these businesses to do more with less, increase those efficiencies and start making data-driven decisions to really refine the process, track those performances and then make decisions based on what’s performing. We look at all other industries that have benefited from the use of data and through the use of these process improvements. And that’s what we’re doing in this space.
Tom: A number of the people who we have spoken with have mentioned the rise of “big data” and how it has become so important in agriculture. Would you agree with that, and is that really what AgriWebb addresses?
John: Yeah. Absolutely. For us, there are two aspects to that. The first one is the data collection and management at the farm level to help that producer manage their business, make those data-driven decisions, track inputs and outputs, and drive their business forward with software results.
The second component is across the supply chain. The data now shows that the consumer is driving a lot more demand for traceability in their food for security, health reasons, health risks. So, this information we’re collecting, sure, it’s useful for a farmer to help their business, but it’s also useful because it’s been collected on-farm. That data can then go through the supply chain into the processing so the meat processors can really secure that traceable supply chain.
Tom: Will that information in some way be made available on the consumer end?
John: I think in time there’s a huge opportunity for that. We’ve got to get through a few stages. But it’s about linking it from farm to that next stage and then really having that end-to-end solution, which may be made up of other products and solutions along the way. But I think that’s where the industry is going to go. And I think that that’s what the consumer is going to demand.
Tom: How does this systematic collection of data change a farm’s operation?
John: It’s all traditional decision-making, typically. It’s decisions made because that’s the way dad it or that’s the way grandpa did it. So, what we’re doing is decisions made off what’s performing and what’s not: the inputs, the outputs, looking at yields, looking at cost. The decisions now are run purely on what the data is telling them. It’s a big shift from the day-to-day activities to actually relying on these tools and then having trust in these tools to deliver a better result.
Tom: So, it really tightens the efficiency?
Tom: How is the industry responding to your product?
John: It’s a very, very exciting time to be in the ag-tech space. There’s a shift in demand, and people are starting to look for tools that can help their businesses. There’s also a shift from these younger generations coming back in. They may have had other careers in other areas, and they’re now driven back to agriculture. So, they’re looking for tools that exist in other industries to help with their businesses.
We see a huge increase in awareness of the technology, and a prime example is, our best ROI on our marketing and sales is through digital and social media. So, people are looking for it. It’s a perfect age bracket between the sort of 30- to 50-year-old. So, I think the timing is perfect for these solutions.
Tom: What was it like for you to learn that AgriWebb is one of only 10 out of 180 finalists in The Pearse Lyons Accelerator program?
John: Well, we’re obviously very, very excited to be a part of this program. You know, we’re the only company out of Australia to be selected. On a global stage, it gives us great awareness. It opens up opportunities to look at new territories, look at what’s happening out there in the market, understand how other producers are running their business. So, for us, it’s going to be a big step in helping us shift, and develop, and really look to expand.
Tom: Since you grew up in the business looking at the need for this data and now your own company is producing it, that must be enormously satisfying.
John: Yeah, it is. It’s very, very exciting to see our own family business developing and evolving and also now to see some of our customers that have been with us for 12 or so months and the results that I’m seeing. They’re getting an increase in productivity by up to 18 percent. To see those results and deliver those results for our customers is very rewarding.
We’re all about trust and building relationships with our customers. That’s proven by the fact that we haven’t had any customers leave us through the journey. And so, I think it’s about building trust and lasting relationships and showing that we can deliver some good results for them.
Tom: John Fargher is chief operations officer for Australia-based AgriWebb. We thank you for joining us.
John: Thank you so much.
John Fargher spoke at ONE: The Alltech Ideas Conference (ONE17). To hear more talks from the conference, sign up for the Alltech Idea Lab. For access, click on the button below.