Growing the Pie with Agtech Startup DGE
Growing the pie with agtech DGE. I came in contact with DGE recently and thought their offering was unique. Many in agtech are trying to get in between farmers and grain merchants but it appeared to me that DGE’s offering may be different? Digital grain elevators without a physical component seem absurd to folks that handle physical grain but DGE appears to be adding value to both along with independence? Rare indeed. You decide.
I recently asked these questions to Aaron Secrest of DGE. Interested in sharing your unique position in the grain markets? Email me -> (firstname.lastname@example.org) or DM on Twitter @cullenjwilson
At a minimum check out DGE on their platforms.
GMS audience is ½ farmers and ½ grain merchants, how does DGE offer a solution for both?
DGE is a private platform made up of value driven farmers and grain merchants. Our core focus is providing technology tools and services that help our members overcome their grain marketing challenges. We have found working with both farmers and merchants that their primary challenges are mostly similar. However, their individual priorities and the way each operates vary widely. We have worked really hard to make sure that our software products help tackle the universal grain marketing challenges while our services take a more tactical approach based on each member’s priorities. Doing that certainly has its challenges but we have already delivered a lot of value through the network effects and knowledge sharing gained through this model. It has allowed us to unlock some unique opportunities for our members and also put more intelligence into our software products.
Our observations on the Farmer/Merchandiser Relationship.
We feel farmers really need an independent value authority they can go to when they sell their grain who is not taking a per bushel fee. We work with a lot of merchandisers that work extremely hard for their farmers; they create new contract options, offer free storage, push their bids, advance money, offer new engagement tools like e-signature, ACH, digital tickets and yet they still struggle to buy the grain when they need it the most. Why? We feel the root of this issue primarily lies within the natural conflict of interest that sits between the farmer and the grain merchandiser. It’s not that farmers don’t trust or value their merchandisers. Far from it. However, when making a sell decision there is natural doubt as to whether the merchandiser is looking out for their interests or their employer. This is the same doubt that sits in our heads when buying a car….”I like this car. I like this sales rep. I think this is a fair price but how do I know?” This is the same doubt that sits in our heads when buying a house…..”I like our realtor and I like this house but is the realtor trying to sell us the house no matter the price?” That shadow of doubt is exactly what sits in a farmers head when selling grain and it’s a fair doubt to have. It is something we can all relate to but we believe it creates the most inefficient part of this market. When the market is telling farmers to sell, many are not and in our opinion that is largely because they don’t have an independent value authority to go to.
What is DGE’s USP (unique selling point)?
Independence, neutrality and value creation. Those are our operating principles and we feel they are paramount to our long term success. We have zero interest in being another middleman. We have zero interest in being another proxy agtech company serving the ag conglomerates. We have zero interest in taking the existing pie and trying to find our cut somewhere within. We are interested in creating new value, growing the pie, and delivering real value for our members. That might sound simplistic but we’ve found it strangely unique amongst our peers.
Tell me about being an agtech entrepreneur. What’s necessary to win in the space?
Purpose, passion and empathy…very few agtech companies take the time to truly understand the problems and issues people across agriculture face. Having a deep passion for the people you are trying to help and the ability to put yourself in their shoes can really separate you from the pack.
I think our version of “winning” in the space is probably a lot different from what others in agtech consider “winning.” Our version of winning is building something truly special that unlocks real value for our members and creates the long term transformational change our members seek.
As one farmer told me, “we could care less about buying the next cool app that can make our lives marginally easier, we are interested in DGE because it could create opportunities that puts our farm on a whole new trajectory for generations to come.” I can’t tell you how many other farmers have told us a slightly different version of that same thing. To us, to do that, to create that pathway, is the epitome of winning. It is exactly the change we’re interested in creating and what inspires us every single day.
What’s wrong with the space?
We see a lot of time and money being spent delivering technology to farmers by all the wrong people for all the wrong reasons. Agriculture has always had its fair share of parasites living off the farmer’s back. To date, agtech has proven no different and farmers are aware of it. They know the new app provided by Agribusiness Inc. was never really built for them and will never lead to their success. The reason the majority of farmers do not engage with agtech is not because they lack value in technology. Quite the opposite. The REAL reason they do not engage with agtech is because they know 90% of it was never built to help them in the first place.
Aaron Secrest is co-founder of DGE