Emma Weston is the CEO and a co-founder at AgriDigital, an AgTech meets FinTech company. They digitise and de-risk global Agri supply-chains with a current focus on the grain and cotton industries.
When did you found AgriDigital and how big are you now?
Emma: I’ve got two co-founders, Bob McKay and Ben Reed. We’ve actually all worked together for a really long time. There’s lots of gray hair on the team and the main focus of our domain is agriculture and green supply chains. That’s what we know really well, but throughout our history we’ve been building our own companies and our own tech and we’ve also been building out supply chain finance businesses.
We came together again in 2015 as a trio and founded AgriDigital. The mission, to build a single source of truth platform that was going to deliver simple, secure, and cost effective core supply chain operations technology to the SME sector in the supply chain.
And at the same time crucially provide access to working capital. That was the mission that brought us together. We had a small core team, with a couple of developers that we’d worked with previously, in previous businesses. And we’re now at just a little over 40 people with operations in Australia and a team of 10 people in Manila in the Philippines. We’re also now branching into North America, both the USA and Canada.
What Opportunities Are You Seeing In The US Market For AgriDigital?
Emma: Massive, just in terms of scale for us. To give everyone an idea, our target market is farmers and buyers, traders, and consumers of grain commodities. Our customers would be a dairy or a feedlot or a mill as an example, but also storage and logistics companies.
We are very much a whole of supply chain tech in terms of our offering and the market in the US and Canada. Well, let’s just take North America. It has a combined market almost 15 times the size of the Australian market, and that’s just by an economic value, but in terms of number of participants, it’s around about 25 times the size, so in terms of the number of users it’s a massive market as well.
How did your make the move into the US. What were some of the challenges that you faced?
Emma: It’s been pretty challenging this year, that’s for sure. Location was critical. What is the best location in a massive market, where should we launch? How do we get the talent needed for our business? How do we easily access to our customer base? Our farmering customers in the US and Canada are spread across the country, which makes it difficult.
It’s not possible to have an office footprint that’s going to serve everyone. Location was a big challenge to begin with. Covid-19 has forced a change in our thinking. We recognise now our focus should not be on location, but on talent. Where is the talent and how do we tool up the talent and bring them on and use our culture as a bonding tool to ensure that we can all work together, even if we’re not in the same location.
So that’s been an initial challenge, also just maintaining and seeding a culture, if that makes sense. How do you take what you’ve built in Australia and take that across from a team perspective. Most of the challenges have been internal as opposed to the challenges of the market or the challenges of the customer, all the product, which we really do have a good handle on.
Emma Weston on the FinTech Australia Podcast.
How do you position blockchain with a Farmer? Even people in the FinTech industry often struggle to wrap their heads around blockchain and what it actually is.
Emma: I think it’s a really interesting question as to whether we have deliberately tried to position anything at all, or whether we have allowed the product and the problem to speak for itself. Increasingly we have worked with our audience to understand that blockchain is not a silver bullet. It’s not a solution in total. It’s part of a toolkit that we need in order to be able to attack these really big problems around integrity and trust within our food and agricultural system.
Also, so we can deal with quite operational matters, such as back office efficiencies, trading book or position reconciliation in real time, payments and so forth. So we’ve really focused on three areas or three buckets as we call them.
One of those is around payment and transaction security and talking about that with farmers and others. Another one is around network and market efficiency. So the value that we all get by starting to come onto a common platform and common piece of infrastructure. And the third area is around the transparency and providence piece.
You’ve got a new Product WayPath.
Emma: You are being very kind giving me an opening here Dexter. We do have some good news to share, a new product Waypath launching on 26 June. It’s a global product targeting farmers, not just in Australia and North America. It enables farmers to become their own trader, their own elevator or storage operator and to be able to enter the supply chain and manage their commodities into the supply chain in their own right.
We’re really excited to be offering WayPath. It is a way to connect the digitalization on the farm with the digitization in the supply chain. We’re basically providing a product that is the last link between farm digitization and supply chain digitization. It’s going to be really, really big for farmers. We’ve got heaps of interest and engagement by our early adopter group.
It really is just the beginning. It’s initial focus is our supply chain, but we have plans for Waypath to deliver our supply chain finance in the future. So we’ll be bringing finance at the click of a button to farmers globally.