Riley Wilson, evokeAG, 30 November 2021
“Farmers love farming,” said Lucy Anderton, a broadacre mixed farmer near Albany, Western Australia, agricultural economist and Founder of myFARMSMART. Her goal is to help farmers have more fun. “We all love farming. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, that’s all we’ll ever talk about because we love it so much.”
Love and frustration in equal measure, she explained. Her complex Excel spreadsheets were never quite efficient enough for time-sensitive farm modelling, so she created myFARMSMART: a more efficient and adaptable avenue for managing risk and opportunity on farms.
It uses integrated science-based algorithms with individual farm data to create a predictive tool to manage change and increase profitability.
“Farmers make a lot of decisions using gut feel and intuition. Research tells us they do that, and they build that over 20 to 30 years of seasons, and as each season goes by, their gut feeling and intuition improves. myFARMSMART brings all that intuition and gut feel in one place and puts it in a very clear and easy-to-understand framework and then allows farmers to read it and to make quicker decisions. Young farmers will be able to make much better-quality decisions because they won’t have to do 10 years of apprenticeships.”
Timely and tried: A calculated approach to farming data
Lucy developed “the giant calculator” partly in response to the questions raised in her own farming experience, where her husband would ask for predictions based on collected data.
“I could never answer his questions quickly enough,” Lucy explained. “I saw the need for a tool that was time-effective and efficient but also took into consideration the complexities of the farming system, because there are lots of different variables.”
She collaborated with two grower groups in WA’s Eastern Wheatbelt, where low rainfall environments create great risk. In partnership with the Merredin & Districts Farm Improvement Group and the Far Eastern Agricultural Research Group, Lucy developed a tool to help manage their risk. Three years on, that tool evolved into myFARMSMART – and was selected to participate in the evokeAG. 2021 Startup Network Program.
The subscription-based, web-hosted platform enables users to compare farming scenarios, year on year, as well as climate changes and pasture growth rates.
Used on a farm-by-farm basis, the tool utilises in-built data from regional scientific organisations – including the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and the Bureau of Meteorology – as well as the farmer’s own data to provide detailed modelling. The user can compare, change and predict impact without real-world risk to their bottom line. It takes about four hours to set up.
“As growers use it, they can start understanding where the weaknesses in their systems are, start monitoring it going forward, and then improve that, measuring from one year to the next,” she explained. “They’ll be able to build up their historical data and be able to compare one year to the next.”
Management software aids farmer’s intuition
Lucy sees the tool supporting farmers’ innate intuition, allowing a whole-farm understanding of seasonal change, often acquired over decades on the job. It allows incoming, young farmers to better understand historical decisions, and best utilise that data to create a sustainable business and communicate intergenerationally about the future of the farm.
“I’ve got a family using it specifically for that reason, with the younger generation coming in,” said Lucy. “The two sons working together can now really understand the decisions that their father makes.”
Launched in August 2020, the system is already operating on 10 West Australian farms, which use myFARMSMART to monitor wheat, barley, canola, oats, hay, and pastured sheep – and Lucy is eager to add more farm businesses.
There are plans to incorporate a variety of other systems, including Xero accounting software, as well as the option to integrate myFARMSMART into existing software a farm may be using. It’s a clean interface, with an easy-to-operate calculator-like functionality that users can adapt to reflect their own farm structure.
“It’s definitely got the capacity to integrate data into it, and it will have the capability to integrate itself into other applications. I see that as the future. Farmers are demanding that, and I’m well aware of that being a farmer myself. We’re all using a lot of applications, and that’s what myFARMSMART will offer: a streamlined cashbook, budgeting, strategic planning for farmers and in-season tactical decision-making.”
‘Confidence and resilience’: Goals for WA agritech startup
Lucy’s long-term goal is to scale myFARMSMART to use across Australia. She’s keen to integrate carbon calculations, data on farming beef and then look at global markets like North America and Africa.
“We’ll continue adding new enterprises, maybe even dairy, but we’ll continue adding calculations like carbon to really help farmers make more informed decisions for them and their banks and their families,” she said.
The end result is a more resilient industry, Lucy said, and more time for the good stuff.
“[This tool] reduces the angst around whether they’re doing the right thing or not. It really gives them so much more confidence in their decision-making, and when you’ve got more confidence, you have more fun.”
myFARMSMART is open to hearing from interested investors in the agribusiness and agritech spaces. Learn more about this commercial opportunity for this high-tech farm management business opportunity here.
This article first appeared on evokeAG on 30 November 2021. Written by Riley Wilson.