What happens when you combine a notebook, hundreds of hours sitting in a tractor and staff members that are kilometres apart? A software concept, of course.
Andrew Humphries, like many other Kiwis, has spent his share of cropping seasons in Australia. Sitting in his tractor for hours on end, Andrew’s frustrations arose when the transfer between the day shift and night shift of cropping drivers came. “There could be a team of up to 10 tractors running at once on farm. A lot of the drivers had come from Ireland or places similar, and had no cropping experience. They just had a lesson and jumped in a tractor,” says Andrew.
When doing jobs such as spraying, getting the location of the correct paddock wrong could be an extremely costly exercise. So Andrew started jotting down all information he wished he could have at his fingertips to share with the rest of the cropping team. Soon enough he had pages and pages full of notes and scribbles. It was these notes and scribbles that were transformed into a fully functional farm logistics management programme, Agri-Track.
Agri-Track allows all members of a cropping team to have access to a real time view of where everyone is on farm. What ground they have covered and tasks to complete. The hardware is being built in Dunedin including a component allowing for internet access – even in remote areas of Australia.
Andrew enjoys reminiscing about the days before Agri-Track became a reality, “I’d take my notebook with me and write down all of the inefficiencies and problems caused with having so many casual workers.”
The long road to success
After venturing home with a tidy amount of pocket money from the cropping season, Andrew created a brief and a mock up of his software idea, then after a bit of strategic Googling, found some developers. Initially the software was called “Agri App” and with all his money invested in it, Andrew headed back to Australia.
Without telling his Australian boss what he had been working on, Andrew showed up to work with two tablets. He showed his boss some of the features and convinced him to trial it. After one go at using the app, the deal was done! Andrew’s boss rang his wife, who was away in Perth at the time, and told her on the spot “buy seven more tablets”. The very next day Andrew installed the software on the new tablets and the rest of the team were using Agri App too.
By the time Andrew jumped back across the Tasman, a lot of his family and friends had heard about the product he had created. The investors gained traction steadily and what is now called Agri-Track continued to grow.
The next step for Andrew was to get more customers. To do this he decided on a make or break mission back to Australia. Andrew headed back across the ditch with nothing more than a backpack. Paying for a rental car on a credit card he was praying to pay off later, Andrew brought a tent and lived out of the local camping ground for the next three months. With just his software and a bit of smooth talking, Andrew sold $150,000 worth of product out of that tent.
While this seems huge, an even bigger shift was about to take place for Agri-Track and it’s all thanks to Sprout Agritech. Andrew’s sister sent him a story about Sprout and after doing some research, found that his business ticked every box of this entrepreneurial start up assistance. “Sprout has been the best thing ever for this business. The application template was originally only 3 pages long, but I submitted 13 pages. It’s great to have the support, we can show some of our investors that we’re not just sitting in Dunedin playing with software. We have some people with real business start up knowledge behind us.”
In the next twelve months Agri-Track want to expand to 10 staff members and create a distribution hub in Australia with five dedicated sales people. “The sales pitch is pretty straight forward,” explains Andrew. “We literally drop the product off at farms and let farmers trial it for free. They ring up the next day asking where to send their money to.”