Food Safety Resources puts an end to paper/pen approaches

LOS ANGELES, June 7, 2016 — Growing up on a farm, Travis Carini watched as technology transformed the world around him, while paperwork keeps being done by hand, while life on the farm remained labor-intensive and stuck in the past. “In the farming industry, handling safety documents has never been easy. The gap between what was possible with technology and what was actually being applied to agriculture was huge” he says.

AgFunder tells us “the opportunities to improve farming efficiency are seemingly endless, which is why there are an increasing number of options on the market for farmers. But with that opportunity, comes a range of challenges for the industry as it develops.

One clear challenge is adoption and how to make the data collected relevant and useful for the farmer you are targeting. For many agricultural operations, acquiring and using a software system like many of those on the market will be a big adjustment from the Excel spreadsheets and paper/pen approaches that many farmers still rely on. So not only do AgTech companies need to convince a farmer to make the switch, but they also need to make sure that the user interface is easily usable and that the farmer will see an obvious return on investment in a relatively short timeframe.

Some farmers might be relatively tech-savvy and want a system that is quite advanced, whereas others are really starting from scratch. So how will companies appeal to the wide spectra of technology ability, operation size, and type of farming operation in the industry? The size of the agricultural operations using the technology is also important. Many of the options out there today target the very large operations in the US, which will likely be much more complex, with more equipment and teams than smaller operations. So how does a technology address the needs of both big and small operations?”

These are questions Travis Carini and Jennifer Harmon, Co-Founders of Food Safety Resources, have answers for. They met while working side-by-side at Giumarra Companies and decided to launch, in April 2016, the first-ever fully automated food safety software. This cloud-based, Website and Mobile App software – Food Safety Resources (FSR) – provides growers and packers a complete, robust tool to efficiently and easily handle food safety compliance, documents, training materials and information on all platforms.

First of its kind, FSR allows farmers to maintain accurate records of all their food activities, monitor activities in real-time – with date stamped logs for authenticity – and run reports by date range, assess risk and put safeguards in place to prevent possible product contamination etc.

“We did not have to pivot from our initial idea – based on a total transparency for the farmer – and we quickly went all the way to proof of concept. Our pricing evolved however as we were facing farms of very different size. It has been difficult to identify a good price structure. It took us time to find the right range, linked with the users needs and the specificities of their business. We had to do a lot of tests, talk to clients, compare our pricing to other software companies…” says Travis.

While setting a good price structure might have been one of the hardest things for the company to overcome, Travis Carini and Jennifer Harmon stayed focused at all time and kept believing in their idea. “My father has been by far my biggest inspiration. He is a successful entrepreneur and he became one through hardwork and patience. He taught me patience from an early age. I also learned discipline and hard work and to appreciate it” shares Travis.

While only two months old, FSR already counts more than a dozen clients and signed, a few days ago, a strategic agreement with Xgenex in order to implement solutions that ensure compliance with the new requirements of FSMA.

Nearly all the farmers using Food Safety Resources are located in Georgia, California and Michigan, but the company sees the whole world as a potential customer base. Their vision for the future? “Build a business that has a massive impact on agriculture and invent the future of farming. By building partnerships within the farm network it would be possible to propose a vertically integrated offer, from food safety management to produce financing and harvest optimization through the use of Bid Data” says Travis. Within a year, FSR plans on launching a spanish version of its software and to extend its offer to South America and Australia.

Despite a long way to go, FSR’s founders are very optimistic about the future for agriculture and emphasize its clear benefits to farmers.

“You have to walk before you run” Travis Carini said.

Source: AgFunder

What makes your business not-so-unique?

Nowadays, having a “unique business” has become a fundamental point in the differentiation strategy of successful companies. It is a top priority to getting noticed and some can go so far as to say “there is no bad advertisement, only advertisement”.

If a business is to survive and thrive making an effort to be unique is a must. 15 Entrepreneurs recently have been asked by Hearpreneur “What makes your business unique?” and it would appear they have 15 different ways of being unique. Their Business Model is unique, their product is so innovative it is unique, they are addressing an old problem or using an old product in a new unique way… So, how could we differentiate any of these so called unique businesses from the next Google?

When Airbnb launched its concept in August 2008, staying on someone’s air mattress sounded weird, and let’s admit it, crazy. Maybe that’s part of the answer: pay attention to the crazy ones – you’ll find gold there.

Are AgTech entrepreneurs meant to feed the World ?

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Step backwards – “While many fight the good fight, […] few realize that one of the biggest restrictions of food production is a lack of access to the economic resources needed to plant and harvest” says Pablo Borquez Schwarzbeck.

By receiving over $2.36 billion of investment in 2014 and surpassing expectations to reach $4.6 billion in 2015, AgTech investment grew 166% in 2014 and 92% for 2015, according to a February 2016 report from AgFunder. Why such enthusiasm now? “We continue to believe that agriculture industry is proving to be an excellent first market for many of the most exciting technology developments, because there are still so many problems to solve,” said Rob Leclerc, AgFunder CEO, in the report. For instance, projections in food demand by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggest that crop production demand will double by 2050 even though food production is already currently insufficient.
At the same time, a confluence of technology advances is creating opportunities to address this market. Tech entrepreneurs and venture capital firms now have the right tools and are working to face this global challenge by leveraging the latest advances in technology.

ProducePay is one of them. Using live data, the company developed a digital marketplace that brings financial independence to farmers and connect them with buyers of fresh produce at a wholesale level. “While many fight the good fight, by investing in means of achieving higher yields or experimenting with indoor or urban farming, few realize that one of the biggest restrictions of food production is a lack of access to the economic resources needed to plant and harvest” explains Borquez Schwarzbeck, CEO and Founder of ProducePay.
The grower typically assumes the risk of growing and shipping its produce: he is paid 45 days after the date of shipment while he doesn’t have the cash flow to wait that long due to peak harvest season. This limited liquidity leaves him at the mercy of advances from its distributors. Borquez Schwarzbeck wants to change this dynamic and “reach that percentage of people [worldwide] who could be farming — but aren’t because they don’t have the means — by providing access to funding [and markets] that give them the ability to grow.”

AgTech entrepreneurs do not want to not just create a new social media app but to answer real concerns. “We have an imperative to meet the challenge of feeding a growing population while preserving precious environmental resources,” says Dane Stangler, vice president of Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation. “Sustainable agricultural technology offers the best way forward – and an enormous opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors alike to contribute to achieving this critical goal.”

Let’s feed 10 billion by 2050!

Source: AgFunder

New USDA rule would increase access to healthy foods

Retailers that accept government food assistance benefits will have to stock a wider variety of healthy foods. This proposed rule was announced on Feb. 16 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service. It follows the 2014 Farm Bill that required USDA to develop regulations to make sure that stores that accept government food assistance benefits—now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP—offer a wider array of healthy food choices, especially fruits and vegetables.

Under former rules, SNAP-authorized retail establishments were required to stock at least three varieties of foods in each of four food groups: dairy products; breads and cereals; meats, poultry and fish; and fruits and vegetables. The new proposed policy lays down more stringent rules: for fruits and vegetables, SNAP retailers would now be required to offer six varieties of qualifying fruits AND eight varieties of qualifying vegetables, along with perishable foods for at least half of these varieties. In total, the proposal calls for SNAP retailers to stock a minimum of 168 food items per store, a significant change that concerns millions of Americans.

For about 45 million low-income individuals, nearly half of whom are children, SNAP is a vital supplement to the monthly food budgets. It plays an important role in reducing both poverty and food insecurity in the United States—especially among children. Over 260,000 retail establishments nationwide are currently authorized to redeem SNAP benefits, and hopefully, it should stay this way. Although these new constraints could limit the stores’ ability to qualify to be SNAP-authorized retail establishments, Kevin Concannon – USDA Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services – said the department would try to ensure that the new rules don’t affect SNAP recipients’ access to retailers.

One has a period of 60 days to weight the pros and cons and comments on the proposed rule. For more information see the Federal Register Notice.

Source: USDA, SNAP

ProducePay Bringing Companies Together

Crown Jewels Produce Trading with Ferrani

Julian De La Cruz (left), International Field Operations Manager, Crown Jewels Produce, and Grower Partner Cristian Correa (right) of Ferrani SPA, Chile

ProducePay has developed relationships with fresh produce growers around the world. This makes makes ProducePay the perfect procurement partner for distributors in the US who are seeking a year-round supply of fresh fruits and vegetables for resale to retail customers. Recently, ProducePay facilitated an introduction of Crown Jewels Produce, in Fresno California and Ferrani SPA in Chile. Click to read more about their new mutually beneficial relationship importing Chilean grapes to the US.

Source: AndNowUKnow

Avocados From Mexico TV Ads Return to Super Bowl

At 2015’s Super Bowl, Avocados From Mexico, the non-profit marketing arm of two avocado associations, ran a high profile television spot for the first time called “First Draft Ever.” Millions of dollars were at stake. At the end of the day, “we sold a lot of avocados,” said Alvaro Luque, the organization’s president. On February 7, they are returning as a prime time advertiser for the 2016 Super Bowl big event with a new TV spot featuring Scott Baio of Happy Days fame. The goal of Avocados From Mexico is multifaceted — to sell avocados of course as well as to increase awareness of avocados and to connect with women and Hispanics. Their Super Bowl advertising proved a success with growth of avocado consumption last year reaching 39% and over 2.2 billion pounds for the Hass variety alone, according to the California Avocado Commission. Around this year’s game, consumers are expected to enjoy over 139 million pounds of avocados according to the Hass Avocado Board — thats a lot of chips, beer and guacamole.

Source: NY Times

Bill Gates Perspective on Future of Farming in Africa

Philanthropist Bill Gates shares his perspective about the future of farming in Africa and how digital technology is leading to financial services innovation that will help farmers feed the world.

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“In fact, since developing countries aren’t stuck with a legacy analog banking system, I believe that for the foreseeable future the boldest ideas in financial services will be coming from upstart companies in poor places instead of the big companies we’ve all heard of.”

– Bill Gates

Click to read full article.