By Doug Fitch - Agworld
When I speak to growers and ask them why they have decided to follow in their fathers footsteps and run their own farming business, or in some cases even start their own farming business, they naturally cite quite a variety of reasons. The one common theme between all growers however is their ‘desire to be independent’, choosing to work for themselves rather than being part of a larger organisation that tells them how to operate and conduct business.
As I engage in conversations with my own farming family, who are ecstatic with the start of the current winter crop season after having received 300mm (about 12 inches) of rainfall YTD just in case you are wondering, I fully understand and echo this sentiment. It’s clear, independence is a requirement for being able to make our own decisions without having to filter them through other people first. In other words, it is clear who runs what across the family operation, setting direction that needs to be followed.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t collaborate with other people - we all do at certain junctions of our life - but it does mean that we add the same amount of value back as we take from each transaction. As an example, if an ag retailer delivers all your crop inputs to the farm, you pay the invoices. If you didn’t, this would leave a debt between you. In this scenario, you would require the ag retailer support while the debt was held, which would give them a level of hold over you. If you then decided to buy inputs elsewhere, the first ag retailer would likely withdraw their funding - which means they control the decisions you make, and you have lost your independence.
For me, the principles and value of independence are crucial to everything I do, these are non-negotiables which underpin the vision and mission of what I do. I have replicated this in the way Agworld was structured since the day I started it with my co-founders. We have always kept our clients, growers and their service providers, in the centre of our business and their needs and concerns have always guided us in our decision making processes. Owning their farm and agronomic data and having an independent platform as custodians of that data with no conflict of interest is what the industry wants and needs. Having a custodian with a financial, social or intellectual dependence on any other party would destroy the guiding principle of any farm data ecosystem.
When I started to explore options to further capitalise Agworld 18 months ago, I was in the fortunate position that I could be very selective in which direction I wanted Agworld to go, due to our size, annual growth, and the strength of our platform. At the same time, I had seen a lot of other players in our space acquired by 'big ag' companies who had a vested interest in the agricultural industry, such as a chemical supplier, seed company or a bank. I knew right from the outset that we did not want to move Agworld in this direction, as it would saddle us with a ‘debt’ that would overtime undoubtedly force us to go against our core principles of acting in the growers’ best interest.
The acquisition of Agworld by Semios took over 1 year to finalise, as a lot of due diligence was performed in both directions. At Agworld, we needed to be sure that Semios held growers in the same high regard as us. It became very clear that they had no vested interests that went against the interests of our growers. They were and are independent for all the same reasons we are.
Once we had established that both our company cultures, values and missions were truly aligned, it was obvious that independence through their ownership was a natural outcome. It meant that all growers’ data would therefore remain under custody of an entity without ‘debt’ to any ‘big ag’ player, which is awesome. We were then able to start exploring the synergies of being part of the Semios family of companies. I firmly believe that our collective technologies will increase the range of unparalleled benefits to growers and their service providers, and I look forward to discussing these opportunities in more depth in the near future.
In each country we are local, but we think globally to deliver the innovation needed to meet new and challenging market dynamics placed upon the grower and their service providers. As CEO of the Agworld business, my team and I will continue to lead the industry in best practices for the use of data, ensuring that those who own it and control it and benefit from it. But for now, my message to growers and everyone else is: we know you value the principle of independence, just as we do. By remaining independent we will continue to create with your help more products and services that will ultimately help you to remain profitable and therefore independent!