So, what does Hectare Agritech do?
Hectare focusses on eliminating current inefficiencies in farming supply chains. It is the parent company of SellMyLivestock, Graindex and FarmPay. SML is an internet marketplace for trading cattle, sheep and pigs, and Graindex is a trading platform for combinable crops. Think Gumtree but for agriculture. FarmPay is our secure payment system.
What’s behind the business idea?
My farmer friend Dan Luff came up with the original idea of SellMyLivestock, he was fed up with taking his livestock to auction marts, not knowing what price he would get, or if his stock would even sell. We’d just got that going when another farmer friend of mine, Andrew Huxham, came up with the concept of Graindex. Farmers currently have to ring round lots of different merchants to get offered a price for their grain. Graindex puts all these offers in one place!
Was it hard becoming a business owner?
Before becoming one of the founders and CEO of Hectare, I had my own digital agency business. So I kind of knew what it takes to run a business. But, going from being my own boss, to becoming responsible for multiple employees, board members, and shareholders was a little different! I have been lucky to have a lot of advice and help along the way.
How did you recruit your employees?
There’s been a mixture of ways we’ve gained our employees. Some are personal contacts, some were recruited from an agricultural agency, some from tech agencies, and one even approached us on Twitter! We liked her so much we hired her as soon as we could.
Was there a breakthrough moment?
An exciting moment for us was hitting 10,000 users. Then 20,000 and we’re poised to hit 30,000 in the next few weeks. There are approximately 150,000 farmers in the UK, so we can honestly say we have one in five using our platforms.
How is the company doing?
Great! We launched in 2014 with SellMyLivestock, then along came Graindex in 2015, and we just launched FarmPay at the end of 2017. Now its time to expand on all three of these platforms. From now on it’s marketing, marketing and more marketing.
Do you have any regrets?
I wouldn’t necessarily say I have regrets. Of course in hindsight there are maybe some things I would have done differently, but at the time I thought they were the right thing to do, so what’s the point in regretting them?
What makes you stand out from your competitors?
We don’t really have any direct competitors. Two have tried and failed quite quickly. One said, he simply couldn’t catch us. Our main competitors are in fact auction marts, however our business models are totally different, as obviously we are an online platform, whereas they are physical. Being online really reduces our overheads compared to the marts, and therefore we can transfer those savings to our members.
What is your definition of a positive customer experience?
The best outcome for SellMyLivestock is a quick, successful transaction between farmers. And hopefully that means using the site again. I guess the key word here is frictionless so we work hard to make every aspect of the selling and buying processes as simple and quick as possible.
You’re currently reaching out for investors, what do you plan to do when you have raised this funding?
We have so many ideas on how we want Hectare to grow and evolve, there just isn’t enough hours in the day to put all our ideas into practise quickly enough! I don’t want to give too much away, but we will be marketing recently-released FarmPay, and overhauling our apps.
If you could help a business now with a single piece of advice, what would it be?
Patience. We have so many new ideas all the time for Hectare that its easy to get carried away, but sometimes the company or industry just isn’t ready for it yet. So be patient, and think strategically when would be the best time to implement this idea. I guess our mantra is ‘one step at a time’.
Finally, Jamie what is your favourite biscuit?!
Am I supposed to say HobNob? If not, has to be a Bourbon.