Digital ag startup getting noticed

At one time farming and the digital revolution didn’t seem natural partners — at least to people outside agriculture.

But the revolution has not only profoundly changed agriculture already, but now venture capitalists and other sources of non-agricultural money see it as a “hot” sector of the economy.

That’s why it is a not a shock to see a company like Saskatoon-based FarmLead on a list of “2015 Top 15 Canadian Startups,” and invited to the Metabridge exclusive venture capitalist retreat in British Columbia’s Okanagan region June 11-12.

Founder Brennan Turner thinks it’s a vindication for his belief that there is still much room to im-prove crop marketing and make it simple by embracing digital technology.

“Agriculture is getting a better name, more recognizable,” said Turner, whose FarmLead and SeedLead online marketplaces allow buyers and sellers of grain and seed grain to make bids and offers and directly negotiate sales. Buyers are vetted before being let into the system and sales are insured.

The company is now focused on North America, but hopes to find overseas connections and partners to expand into those marketplaces.

Turner said his company is attracting more farmer-sellers and grain buyers because it is “listening to the market.”

That means making it easy to transact grain sales from either desk-top computer or the company’s mobile app and eliminating the elements of grain marketing that get in the way of either side of a deal being closed.

“We’ve been pinpointing exactly what issues are around the trade and adapting to them so that the system becomes easier to use, more people are inclined to use it, and at the end of the day the transaction is secure, farmers are going to be paid, and buyers are getting . . . the grain they are looking for,” said Turner.

“Everyone can list prices and post text messages, but with our system it allows a direct engagement to happen.”

Turner said he’s keen to be meeting with the venture capitalists and Silicon Valley thinkers at the Metabridge event to get ideas and make connections with possible future business partners.

“Being able to pick their brains and potentially have a relationship with them to do more things within our platform, add more features, bring on new tools …. It allows us to accelerate our growth,” said Turner.

Contact ed.white@producer.com

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