Bringing the Farm to the CloudBy Kyle Pollock on February 8th, 2013 /
Jesse Vollmar wanted to make a software platform for his family agribusiness, but what he got was a demand from farmers in his community and around the world.
Growing up on a farm in Caro, Michigan, Jesse’s family had decided to convert their farm acreage to organic. This meant marketing the crops in a completely different way and finding new buyers. As farming involves entrepreneurism unlike any other industry, the Volmers decided to dig into their Michipreneurial spirit and start an agribusiness to help their own farm. In turn, the agribusiness received more farming customers around the community.
The curious customers began to ask when the software would be finished for their own use. This was a surprise to Jesse, and FarmLogs Co-Founder and CTO, Brad Koch, because the software was not originally for farmers, but for the agribusiness management.
“We started talking with them to find out what they were looking for, what they had currently, and found out the software they use is really insufficient, difficult to work with, has a terrible user interface, and they were trapped offline in a non-mobile experience,” said Jesse. “They were spending money to buy the software, couldn’t learn how to use it, spent more money for classes to learn, and then still abandoned it. That was quite a big eye opener for me and Brad.”
This isn’t the first business the two high school and college colleagues have started together. Before FarmLogs, they ran an IT Consulting startup in high school, building custom software for local small businesses. The former business did so well, the two decided to stay close to home and attend Saginaw Valley State University with full ride scholarships, while running the business. Both graduated, with the successful business in hand, but knew they had to shut it down, for bigger plans.
The two spent more time learning how much demand there was for farming software. Once they learned that, they sent an application to the seed accelerator, Y Combinator.
“We knew this was something we had to do. Fortunately for us, they liked what we were working on and flew us out to live in Mountain View for 4 months and complete the YC program,” said Jesse.
Towards the end of the YC, Brad and Jesse were questioning if Silicon Valley was the best place for FarmLogs to be. Since most of their customers are in the Midwest they made the the call to be in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where they could have better access to Midwest row-crop farmers and an existing startup culture.
Now, the startup is located in private offices on the corner of East Liberty and 4th Avenue. FarmLogs has expanded to five full time people and two part time. Last week they attended the Iowa Power Farming Show to talk to row crop farmers and growers. Jesse stressed the need to talk to customers and users.
“The cool thing about shows like that is the great opportunity for us to get meaningful conversations with lots of farmer,” said Jesse. “We pickup new customers there, but what it’s really about is getting face to face with a lot of potential customers, actual customers, and it’s really important to have those conversations.”
Farmlogs helps farmers plan their upcoming year and understand their profit potential. Specifically, it helps track the field work and crop progress throughout the season, analyze the results of farmers’ crops by showing from what they’re spending, what their getting back out on the field, and how much profit they should make. It also pulls in other resourceful information helping farmers find the best value by showing what the local market is offering, the Chicago Commodity Futures Market information, weather, and the news. It includes a web, and mobile experience with an Android and iOS app available.
“Being a farmer is tough, and these guys need every advantage they can get. We’ll give them one more, hopefully a pretty strong advantage,” said Jesse.
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