Ag start-up is pay­ing off

On­line plat­form de­signed to help farm­ers get cash for their crops sooner

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - Weather | In­side - AN­DREA DAVY An­drea.davy@ru­ral­weekly.com.au

THIRTY days af­ter sup­ply­ing it, Naomi Stu­art and her hus­band Luke Gaynor were still wait­ing to be paid al­most $300,000 for their grain.

The cou­ple’s grain trader had stopped tak­ing their calls and a huge cloud of un­cer­tainty set­tled in above them.

“This was a sig­nif­i­cant pay­ment for a small busi­ness – nearly $300,000,” Namoi said.

“The im­pact on the cash flow of our busi­ness and the abil­ity for us to make our loan re­pay­ments and to pay our work­ers be­came a se­ri­ous prob­lem.”

Even­tu­ally, the par­ents-of-three, were paid.

How­ever, Naomi knew she wasn’t alone – the is­sue is wide­spread and not un­com­mon.

With much brain­storm­ing, re­search and in­ves­ti­ga­tion she cre­ated a so­lu­tion: Far­mPay, an on­line plat­form to help grass­roots farm­ers.

Far­mPay links grow­ers, traders and buy­ers to a trans­par­ent sys­tem, speed­ing up sup­ply chain data, and al­low­ing pay­ments to be made sooner to pro­duc­ers.

This week Far­mPay started its pi­lot pro­gram, and al­ready has tongues wag­ging in Wagga Wagga, as well as abroad in China.

De­vel­op­ing Far­mPay re­quired Naomi to take the gi­ant leap away from her high-pow­ered ca­reer as a char­tered ac­coun­tant into un­known ter­ri­tory as an en­tre­pre­neur.

It was daunt­ing and scary, but a step she would like to see more re­gional women pur­sue.

It was about two years ago, when her fam­ily was wait­ing on that $300,000 grain pay­ment, that Naomi started to think, surely, ‘there is a bet­ter way’.

“I was think­ing, there has got to be a bet­ter way to pro­vide trans­parency over the grain sup­ply chain and a way to speed up pay­ments to farm­ers,” she said.

“30-day pay­ment terms mean your grain often leaves the farm gate and it could be on a ship to China or con­sumed in a feed­lot by the next day, which makes it very dif­fi­cult to get your grain back.

“And, over the past few years there have been a num­ber of grain traders who have ac­tu­ally gone into liq­ui­da­tion, leav­ing farm­ers col­lec­tively mil­lions of dol­lars out of pocket.”

Trans­parency, trust and ef­fi­ciency are key words Naomi used to de­scribe the Far­mPay sys­tem.

“Grain traders and grow­ers can sign up to our plat­form, which en­ables them to eas­ily man­age their con­tract in one lo­ca­tion.

“We then track grain as it leaves the farm gate. Then, when it’s de­liv­ered to the grain buyer, we trans­fer the crit­i­cal data on qual­ity and quan­tity back to the traders.

“So what that means is the process that can nor­mally take days or weeks to rec­on­cile all hap­pens in real time as the grain is de­liv­ered.”

Ob­vi­ously, it’s been a long road to es­tab­lish Far­mPay from an idea to an in­ter­ac­tive site, but Naomi stressed the hardest part was tak­ing the first step.

“The hardest de­ci­sion I made was to leave my cor­po­rate ca­reer. I was work­ing in Wagga as the chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of a large re­gional ac­count­ing prac­tice,” she said.

“But I knew I was solv­ing a prob­lem, be­cause I had ex­pe­ri­enced it.

“It’s ex­tremely ben­e­fi­cial to un­der­stand what con­ces­sions you are able to get for your small busi­ness, be­cause ev­ery­thing counts.

“We have al­ready acted on things like the R&D tax write-off, the in­stant-as­set write-off, and there are also other gov­ern­ment grants avail­able.”

Naomi said the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment web­site busi­ness.gov.au was a good place to start.

With Far­mPay soon to be up and run­ning within the grain in­dus­try, Namoi is set­ting her sights on the global agri­cul­ture sec­tor.

“The more we got out and talked to farm­ers in dif­fer­ent ar­eas, the more we re­alised that this prob­lem ex­ists across all com­modi­ties,” she said.

“We have built our plat­form with the abil­ity to scale into other com­modi­ties.”

❝ The process that can nor­mally take days or weeks to rec­on­cile all hap­pens in real time as the grain is de­liv­ered... — Namoi Stu­art

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

Far­mPay founder Namoi Stu­art, a grain farmer and char­tered ac­coun­tant.

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