From startup to scale-up: AgriDigital's FS6 journey and the importance of story

Almost four weeks ago in mid-June, I found myself under the bright lights of the stage in the Clif Bar Auditorium. I was about to kick off the Food System 6 Forum for 2018. A quick aside, for those of you who are not hard-core cyclists, rock climbers or ultra-runners; you may not have heard of the phenomenon that is Clif Bar. The origin story begins with the founder, Gary Erikson slogging it out on a 175-mile bike ride with a mate. They were gnawing on cardboard tasting energy bars to keep them going. Suddenly, Greg had an epiphany: he was going to make the world’s best tasting energy bar that was not only good to eat but good for the planet. For 2 years he worked in his mum’s kitchen perfecting the recipe and finally the Clif Bar, named after his dad Clifford, was born. That was almost 30 years ago; today Clif Bar has around 30% of the global health bar market, employs 1,100 people and reportedly turns around US$1 billion annually.

The story of Gary Erikson and his founding of Clif Bar is one of those magic ‘aha’ moments that seems so perfect in retrospect and yet so many of us have those types of stories in us. Of course, not all our aha moments lead to the creation of a multi-billion-dollar empire but each of us has at least one deeply personal story that underscores why we do what we do. For the past four months as part of the FS6 accelerator programme, I have explored my story, our team story and how they relate to our vision at AgriDigital: to make agricultural supply chains simple, easy and secure — from farmer to consumer.

Our vision and personal stories help us at AgriDigital answer on a daily basis “why”. Why do we care about building the best supply chain tech? Why do we care about payment security, about ensuring that our users can get easy access to finance to support and grow their businesses no matter their size and why do we want to ensure that all of us, as consumers, know where our food has come from?

 

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On a mild evening on 11 June at Paicenes Ranch in California, I shared my personal story with some of America’s top investors, thought leaders and participants in the agrifood system. I did this alongside the other FS6 cohort members who range from satellite imagery tech to consumer-packaged food companies as well as not for profits working with local communities and schools to ensure equal access to good food. The power of sharing our stories was obvious — there were even a few tears!

 

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Three days later, I was right where this post began: blinking under those bright lights, walking out on stage in front of a crowd of some 200 people who wanted to hear about the future of the global agricultural and food system. Smile, eye contact, deep breath and I was on.

The next five minutes went by so fast that it was hard to remember if I had hit all the points I wanted to make. I have done a number of pitches, presentations and panels (the “3Ps”) over time and I have become incredibly comfortable doing this — not something I would have imagined for myself three years ago before Bob, Ben and I started on our journey as founders of AgriDigital. In the beginning it was all about what we were going to do; now it is about what we are doing and importantly what next.

As an agtech start up, AgriDigital has received great support in Australia, overseas and from our community of users. More than 2.7 million tonnes of grain has been transacted using AgriDigital at a value of well north of A$500 million; our user base has grown to 1,700 and all in two years. We are incredibly proud of those stats; but it is just the beginning. Our challenge is now to move from start up to scale up.

As I shared with the audience at the FS6 Forum, this new financial year we will continue to grow our presence in Australia and we will also be launching AgriDigital in North America. Our focus continues to be building out the best tech for the grains supply chain from farmer to consumer. We know that our customers’ success is our success and so we are driven to make the supply chain simple, easy and secure for everyone. Scaling up for us means not only global expansion but also growing the reach of the AgriDigital platform: farmer-focussed solutions as well as more complete end-to-end commodity management for traders and site operators and embedded traceability.

Our FS6 journey has helped us hone our vision and our roadmap. Taking time out to be in the US regularly whilst the team (the majority are based in Sydney, Australia) have been hard at work launching new platform features and building out better ways for us to connect with our users has not been easy, but it has been worth it. The AgriDigital story is still being written, we have a long way to go to achieve our vision — we know this, we are excited by the challenge and we will deliver.