Australian agtech is helping farmers worldwide to increase productivity and ensure food security.
Founded in 2014, agtech company AgriWebb has driven digital innovation globally in farm record keeping. The company’s farm management software empowers producers to update records in the field, on the go, through their mobile device.
But more than encouraging timely, accurate record keeping, AgriWebb helps farmers leverage the data they record for powerful, profitable insights, leading to better-informed management decisions and higher productivity.
At the same time, the software facilitates supply chain transparency, digitises animal health and nutrition supply chains, and streamlines farm audits that guarantee Australian food safety.
Producer-led innovation with global application
Agriculture is the least digitised industry in the world. On top of that, Australia’s agricultural sector is one of the least subsidised globally, so it has a long history of developing technologies to respond to challenging physical environments. The most successful Australian innovations are often those developed by producers themselves who understand innately the challenges faced by their industry.
AgriWebb was borne out of challenges Justin Webb faced during a generational shift in the management decisions of his family’s 150-year-old sheep and cattle farm. Webb is a Co-founder of AgriWebb and its Executive Chairman.
He realised that keeping records through farm notebooks was inefficient, unreliable and didn’t make the most of the recorded data. With co-founders Kevin Baum and John Fargher, Webb set out to create a tech solution that would benefit farmers throughout the agricultural industry.
‘Farmers deserve a technology that’s grounded in practical use and immediate farm benefit. With that “live for the farmer” value, we set out to build a tool with global application,’ Webb says.
‘We realised the software has the potential to not only transform sustainable efficiency in primary production but also digitise the ecosystem of service and advice delivery for all the partners that surround the farmer. That’s tens of billions in operational production efficiencies to be unlocked.’
Developing the solution in Australia meant AgriWebb could take advantage of the country’s unique attributes to create a solution that can be used worldwide. For instance, Australia’s diverse soil types and climatic zones mean solutions can be tested and refined in conditions that mimic environmental conditions in different regions and countries.
Today, AgriWebb software aids in the management of over 10 million animals across 4,000 farms worldwide. Users have seen livestock production performance increase by up to 20 per cent.
A tech solution for operations of every kind
The world’s livestock farmers must increase productivity to feed a population hitting 9.7 billion by 2050. They also face increased reporting requirements and tighter profit margins – meaning they have to do more with less.
With farm management software central to tackling these issues, AgriWebb has been taken up by farmers in a diverse array of regions, including South Africa, Brazil and the UK.
In the UK, on a 134-acre farm in Carmarthenshire, South West Wales, James Smith finds the software takes the stress out of record keeping.
‘One of the biggest benefits is my time with my family in the evening,’ he says. ‘I’m not sitting around with scraps of paper trying to find information to fill in books.’
It also means more accurate inventory, saving money on expensive inputs such as animal treatments. ‘Before AgriWebb, I would have winged it and overspent, overstocked, and had drugs and medication sitting around that I didn’t need,’ Smith admits.
At the other end of the scale, on an 18,000-acre corporate farm in the Central West of New South Wales, Malcolm Brady says the software is invaluable for managing staff and reporting to the operation’s many stakeholders.
‘The shareholders really look forward to the quarterly meetings and seeing the numbers,’ he says. ‘It’s not “airy-fairy”; it’s the proper figures. If it says we’ve got 8,401 on today, we know we can prove that in the paddocks.’
Farm audits, central to ensuring food security through the supply chain, have also become a straightforward process. ‘As soon as you tell auditors you’ve got AgriWebb, they say, “Great, this is an hour’s job, not half a day,” Brady says.
A world leader attracting global investment
The wider agtech community has taken note of AgriWebb’s innovative solution. In 2018, AgriWebb attracted $14 million in investment from the Wheatsheaf Group, a leading developer of agtech businesses.
Anthony James, COO of Wheatsheaf Group, the agtech investment arm of the $55bn Grosvenor Group, says, ‘At Wheatsheaf we take an innovation-led approach to identifying, investing in and helping to develop product or service-led companies that have the potential to make a material difference in improving the efficiency of food production.
‘We see AgriWebb as a global leader in farm management technology and look forward to working with the AgriWebb team to further our mutual goals of improving livestock production around the world.’
Agriculture is a global industry, but the practices aren’t universal: the nuances of nomenclature, units, on-farm operations and even attitudes present a real challenge for agtech companies venturing overseas. AgriWebb has also faced complex regulatory frameworks, which means costly and intricate localisation burdens.
To achieve international scale, AgriWebb worked hard to identify the ‘who, where and why’ of its ideal customer in the UK.
‘From that very specific starting point – think a regional village in central Wales – we found advocates for our product and gave them a platform to create community awareness,’ says Webb. ‘Locals witnessing the positive experiences of other locals were always going to be more powerful than an international reference.
‘From there, AgriWebb worked relentlessly to service and assist its customers to realise success. ‘It may not be the quickest way to acquire customers but in agriculture, the fastest way is not often the best,’ says Webb.
Austrade has supported AgriWebb since 2016. Over the following years, Webb says the engagement has grown to become a ‘hand-in-glove partnership’.
‘Austrade has helped us understand the business landscape, segmentation and route to market for cattle farming in several countries, including France, Brazil, Spain, the UK and the UK. They have assisted with strategic partnerships, provided advice on corporate direction and used their government networks to back our mission. It is a true partnership.’
In the US, AgriWebb is following the same system that has served it well in the UK: spending an enormous amount of time with early customers and advocates, to understand what changes are needed in the market.
‘The US comprises several different farming areas with vastly different systems and operations,’ Webb says. ‘Once we understand the pain points and match those with our product offerings in a localised voice, we can really accelerate the offering.’
AgriWebb has also sought out experienced and connected local talent in the US for this next step in the company’s development.
‘In many ways this is the big stage,’ Webb says. ‘We feel ready to take on the challenge, with the right team, the right stakeholders and the right product. From here we hope an Australian product can reimagine the production industry of the world’s biggest herd.’
AgriWebb’s co-founders (from left to right): John Fargher, Justin Webb and Kevin Baum.
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