Creating a list for the entrepreneur’s hall of fame would likely include names like Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk near the top. In all likelihood you’ll probably never see anyone on that list who calls themself a farmer.
Yet if you really think about it, many farmers are more entrepreneurial than 100 famous names that you might come up with. Every season is one of total uncertainty. It’s like launching a new startup every year. At least a tech startup can count on Amazon Web Services being more reliable than Mother Nature.
For Kim Keller, as hard as she tries there’s no taking the farm out of her. As the co-founder of Farm at Hand, an iOS app that allows farmers to control and track everything from seed to scale, she’s also proving to be well suited for the tech startup business.
Born and raised on a farm in Gronlid, Saskatchewan (with a population of about 60), Keller knows how to get her hands dirty, while talking her clients language. She’s also right at home wheeling around heavy machinery, the likes most city slickers will never see.
Himanshu Singh is Keller’s co-founder, and provided the genesis of an idea by simply commenting “there has to be an app for that,” after hearing Keller list off some of the daily frustrations and challenges of life on the farm. It turned out that working a 10,000 acre family farm also proves to be the best place to test their application. As a free mobile agriculture management application, Farm at Hand is allowing farmers to manage everything about their business from seed to sale. They can keep up to date about what’s happening in the field, what’s in their bins, the status of contracts, deliveries and even equipment management.
Metrics matter on the farm too. Farmers can track seed types and varieties, application rates for seeding,spraying and fertilizing, chemical types and rates and fertilizer types and rates. Most importantly, farmers can also track crop yields, quality, contracted amounts and prices.
According to Keller, “it’s about saving people from inadvertently applying the wrong spray, at the wrong time because handwritten notes are laid out on the kitchen table; re-spraying is like watching real dollars just evaporate. Or by not keeping track of which grain is in which bin can cost you thousands of dollars, because it’s sold at way less than market value.”
Farm at Hand is currently only offered on iOS. Since launching in April 2012 they’ve added just under 10,000 registered accounts and have approximately 2.7 million acres being managed world wide. The majority of their customers are in Canada and the USA, but the company has recently seen adoption in UK, Australia and South Africa. The app is free with agricultural business vendors, who pay for things like content advertising and data exchange with their customers.
Farm at Hand is currently developing regionalized versions of the program to better meet the needs of markets beyond North America. To help accelerate this process (and the business) Singh and Keller are the second team joining the Fall cohort of Vancouver’s GrowLab. If capturing and sharing what’s on your plate can be worth billions (think: Instagram), imagine the value of improving the process of what actually shows up on your plate.