A fresh approach to usability and engagement is earning Melbourne startup AgriWebb industry accolades and loyal customers.
Named Startup of the Year at the 2016 iAwards, and taking out the digital disruption award at Tech23 2016, AgriWebb helps farmers transform their operations through more flexible online record-keeping, planning and data analysis.
Co-founder John Fargher says the company has re-defined online farm management through a focus on user experience and continual improvement based on customer feedback.
“There is a lot of interest in the agtech space: a shift in attention on how innovation can drive agriculture forward in this country, because the mining boom is on it’s way out,” Fargher says.
“Where others have failed is by building a tool they think farmers will find sexy, but it doesn’t do what they want, whereas we’re focused on building a tool people will use,” he says.
“That in turn drives a lot of word of mouth. At this point we haven’t had one customer churn yet.”
AgriWebb’s approach has also made them attractive to investors. Leading agtech investment platform AgFunder recently named them in the top five most innovative international pre-series A startups.
Innovative design engages users
AgriWebb’s system has a simple drag-and-drop interface, based on an accurate property map, which allows users to easily record the full spectrum of daily farming activities in real-time as they work.
Up-to-date data is then available in the cloud to access anytime for improved planning and management decisions.
“We’re not just building a piece of software, we’re trying to drive disruption, with farmers making decisions based on data, and looking to use that across other parts of the horizontal and vertical supply chain,” Fargher says.
“Having the information available in real-time is staggering for some people in the industry. There are so many efficiencies to be gained in terms of knowing stock numbers, what the animals are eating, paddock density, cropping inputs and chemical use.”
AgriWebb plans to build out features including an operational calendar that includes best practice tips, notifications, detailed trends and forecasts using predictive analytics.
From a Melbourne start to Australia-wide success
Fargher saysthat since launching a free version in mid-2015, AgriWebb now has hundreds of paid, happy subscribers. He estimates around 700 farmers, farm employees and advisors use the app regularly to manage about 1.8 million hectares of agricultural land Australia-wide.
He said launching the startup out of Melbourne was critical to its growth, through strategic connections, advice and investment opportunities.
“It gave us access to a higher volume of progressive farmers that were interested in taking on this technology. We also attended a few agtech meet-ups and other networks,” Fargher says.
“I’ve been surprised by the amount of ideas and groups out there collaborating and sharing, there’s a whole number of industries based here in Melbourne that are useful in terms of networking and potential partnerships.”
Blending agricultural and technological expertise
Two of AgriWebb’s three co-founders grew up on a family farm, while the third is an expert in technology commercialisation with global experience. It’s a mix the company intentionally cultivates.
Their fully Australian-based, top-tier software developers attend the regular online and face-to-face training sessions the company runs for customers, to get feedback directly from farmers.
“Everyone goes at least once a month so that they understand the problems farmers are trying to solve, so we’re always building the tools that people actually want.”
Fargher says a growing user base was essential, as future plans included developing new information products based on the aggregated data being collected.
“Our focus on engagement is about ensuring the farmers are using it, because if they’re not using it they don’t have a product, and without data going into the system our long-term business model falls down,” he says.
Current signs point to continued success, with AgriWebb gaining up to 60 new customers monthly and recently closing out a successful second round of funding.