By Lisa McLean for AgInnovation Ontario
Grain marketing and knowing when timing is best to make a sale can be one of the hardest tasks on a farmer’s to do list. But what if farmers with grain to sell had access to hundreds of buyers?
That’s the thinking behind FarmLead, an award-winning online platform that connects grain buyers and sellers, 24 hours a day. The Ottawa-based company boasts over 3,200 farmers and more than 300 different buyers who actively deal on crops ranging from grains, pulses and oilseeds to straw and hay.
“The value proposition of the company is that farmers need something to get them the best exposure possible for their grain. If a farmer has ten thousand bushels of corn to sell, it should be easy for him or her to access more than the one or two local sale options. As a farmer, you know those other options are out there, but it takes time to find them,” says FarmLead co-founder and chief operating officer Alain Goubau.
At the time FarmLead was founded, Goubau was a global agricultural strategist who hailed from a farm in Eastern Ontario. His co-founder Brennan Turner is a Saskatchewan farm kid who studied economics at Yale and worked as a commodities trader and analyst on Wall Street in New York City.
When Turner returned to the family farm in 2013, he directed his skill set to helping farmers sell their grain for a better price.
To use FarmLead, buyers have to undergo a credit check to ensure there’s cash-in-hand for any grain they buy. Farmers post pictures of any crop they have for sale, as well as grading certificates that prove buyers will get what they pay for.
Don’t have a grading certificate? Growers can order a quality test through the site too. There’s also a “chat” function that allows for back-and-forth discussion.
All negotiations through the platform are done anonymously upfront, with the terms of the deal such as price, freight and discounts, being the focus.
Farmers pay a fee of $1 per metric tonne for the first 80 tonnes, and $0.25 per tonne thereafter. That means a deal involving 120 MT will cost a seller $90, for example.
“There’s a lot of technology in farming, but not enough technology that helps the farmer to directly make money,” says Turner. “Once they actually have something in the bin, how do they make money from it? That’s the differentiator — we’re focused on making sure the farmer has a livelihood at the end of the day.”
With 12 staff members and growing, FarmLead received a Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence in 2016.