Equipment loan website eyes growth
Farm gear sitting idle could be earning cash, according to a couple who have won support for their peer-to-peer platform startup.
Necessity is the mother of invention but in Scott Cameron and Alexandra Tully’s case it was necessity, mum and dad, and a missing rotary hoe that set them on the path of innovation.
Cameron and Tully had just moved house in Palmerston North when they came up with the idea for their farmer-to-farmer sharing service, Gear Hub.
They needed the rotary hoe and other bits and pieces to do landscaping, but the hire place was an hour round-trip away and they didn’t know anyone in their new area to borrow from.
Sharing the frustrations with their rural parents, Cameron and Tully learnt they had the same problem. They were finding it difficult to get contractors out for small farm jobs and the equipment they had was outdated and inadequate.
The pair has this month launched Gear Hub in Manawatu¯ and has plans to expand into Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa. By mid-2020, they hope to cover all of New Zealand.
‘‘We want to grow pretty quick because the farmers we’re talking to can see a need for items, but also costs are rising on farms. So being able to do it cheaper and have an income through idle machinery – there’s a double benefit,’’ Cameron said.
The project has secured support from the Rural Innovation Lab, which is helping with mentoring and sponsorship.
Rural Innovation Lab chairman Mat Hocken said out of 50 applications, Gear Hub made the top 10 at which point Tully made a pitch to an independent selection panel.
Gear Hub was one of four projects to secure support.
Farmers using the online service create a profile and make listings for items they have available for hire. Items are free to list.
A booking calendar in the site means it is clear if the item is available and for how long.
Borrowers put in a request, which is accepted by the owner, and then payment is made through the website and an invoice is issued. Gear Hub’s fee is 15 per cent of the rental fee.
The owner decides the fee for their equipment and can accept or deny any requests to use it.
‘‘If, for example, it’s a seed drill and they know that they’re putting a crop in, in October, they can block out the full month of October,’’ Cameron said.
Insurance had been a potential barrier, but Cameron said Gear Hub included an option to add insurance costs to an item. ‘‘So you can just click and add, pretty much like a rental car.’’
Tully built Gear Hub’s website, which was now taking listings from farmers, and a Facebook page. In time, the couple also hopes to create an app.
Hocken said he expected Gear Hub to find a growing market with lifestyle blocks. ‘‘There’s probably an expanding niche there.’’
Cameron is a business development officer at Fonterra and Tully is a dietician with her own business, Eat Up, in Palmerston North.