The user-friendly program is designed to provide transparent and up-to-the-minute pricing information to farmers
Alberta grain and livestock producer Lynn Dargis has always considered herself a go-getter — a person who welcomes a challenge and doesn’t back down when it’s time to find a solution.
So when Dargis became frustrated with her inability to acquire local grain bids in a quick and efficient manner, she decided to do something about it.
Her solution is Farmbucks, a user-friendly digital app designed to provide transparent and up-to-the-minute pricing information to grain and oilseed producers across Western Canada.
The app has been in development for about a year and was launched on Jan. 25.
Farmers can download the app on Google Play or through the iPhone App Store.
“Basically, it’s a single platform where farmers can search, view and compare grain prices by looking at all the bids in their area,” said Dargis, who runs a 2,000 head feedlot and a 4,400 acre grain farm near St. Paul, Alta.
“Sometimes there can be some really big price differences, even in my area, from one elevator to the next … so if you’re not checking every elevator, it can be a really big missed opportunity.”
The idea of building a comparative grain pricing app stemmed from Dargis’s own experience as a grain marketer.
With lots of balls already in the air, Dargis became frustrated by her inability to find comprehensive, transparent and easily accessible pricing signals from grain buyers.
Websites operated by different grain companies required different log-ins and passwords.
And almost every grain buyer provided different pricing information.
Some elevators provided information on protein premiums and grade discounts while others didn’t.
On top of everything else, Dargis also found that she was often looking for grain bids from the seat of a tractor or a combine.
“I was frustrated by how I was trying to source my grain prices,” Dargis said.
“So I went out to see if anyone else had built a good pricing platform, but I didn’t find anything that was similar to what I was looking for.”
That ‘s when Dargis’s entrepreneurial instinct kicked in.
She started talking to elevator companies, describing her vision and seeking their permission to publish bids.
Some grain companies bought into the idea quickly. Others required more convincing.
After gaining approvals from a few major players, she went out and found a team of programmers to build her app.
Dargis said she expected to have the participation of about 50 percent of the licensed grain elevators in Western Canada in time for her Jan. 25 launch date, including some of the country’s biggest handlers.
Grain growers aren’t the only ones who will benefit, she said.
Elevator companies that participate will also be able to reach a wider audience and attract new clients, she said.
Dargis describes Farmbucks.com as the Expedia of grain prices.
Using a smartphone or a computer, growers will enter their location and select the geographical radius in which they are willing to sell.
The prices of participating elevators will populate automatically and will be displayed according to price.
Future functionality will allow freight costs to be deducted from every bid, meaning growers can compare bottom line returns.
The app also allows users to apply grade discounts and price premiums offered by different buyers.
As it stands, only a handful of companies offer transparent on-line information on grade discounts and price spreads for a product like spring wheat, Dargis said.
With the app, growers who are selling a No. 1 hard red spring wheat with 13 percent protein will be able to access bids from different companies based on those specs.
“It can be pretty confusing because every company seems to have different base grade and protein level listed on their websites,” Dargis said.
“I wanted to put all the buyers on the same playing field … so if you’re a farmer who has a No. 1 CWRS 13 percent protein wheat, the app will allow you to compare apples to apples.”
The app will also provide prices on current cash values and for deferred deliveries.
Dargis said she’s excited to be part of an initiative that could improve farm profits across Western Canada.
As the app gains momentum and users, more elevator companies are likely to sign on, she added.
She declined to say how much time and money has been invested.
Growers will have an opportunity to test drive the app for 30 days before deciding whether to subscribe to the service.
Following the 30-day trial, growers can buy a one-year subscription priced at $120 — a nominal fee considering how much can be made or lost in a single grain transaction, Dargis said.
“I think it was only a matter of time before something like this was developed. But the time is now and it’s needed,” Dargis said.
“It’s just another tool to help us become more efficient and take advantage of the pricing opportunities that are out there.”
To learn more about the app, growers can visit www.farmbucks.com.