Digital technology in the agricultural sector is advancing by leaps and bounds and is beginning to make inroads as a new modality for business, transportation and improved productivity in the field. These tools reach every corner of the activity and producers can buy inputs, close freight and other operations. Argentine agribusiness is adding companies with this profile every day, which, in addition to becoming major players in the country, are extending their networks to neighboring countries.
“A startup is a technology-based, fast-growing company and in general they are young firms,” explained to Infocampo Gabriel Vidal, CEO and founding partner of AgriRed, which began operating in 2017 and today has more than 45% of the companies authorized in Argentina to commercialize agricultural inputs. The enterprise, which currently has a monthly turnover of 250 million pesos, is a good starting point to visualize this trend that is here to stay.
In the case of AgriRed, the platform is an electronic marketplace where seed, phytosanitary and fertilizer wholesalers register to buy and sell these inputs. “Our objective is to digitalize the commercial exchange between companies in a market that is becoming more competitive every day,” they say. In a business that mobilizes some 6 billion dollars a year, they aim to simplify sales processes, optimize the purchasing process and reduce transaction costs and times.
In this way, the company remarked that they seek to provide solutions to some of the problems that arise in the traditional commercialization of inputs, such as high direct and indirect sales costs and large price variations, caused by both internal and external factors. This platform also allows agronomies and cooperatives to expand their commercial frontiers by doing business with other companies located hundreds of kilometers away.
At the same time, while consolidating their progress at the national level, they began to expand into Brazil. In mid-June, the startup landed in the Brazilian market, under the name AgriAcordo. “We see a great opportunity, since it is a market five times bigger, as competitive and dynamic as the agricultural inputs market in Argentina,” said Vidal.
Freight transport is another area where this technology has a strong foothold. This is the case of Circular, a communication and freight transport management platform for the agricultural sector, powered by artificial intelligence. This app makes it possible to streamline interactions between producers, storage companies, transporters, truckers and exporters.
Circular took its first steps in 2018, from an idea of Andrés Augspach and Marcos Laffaye. It started from a pilot test with 200 trucks and currently, it has 36,000 adhered drivers and more than 100,000 unloading shifts granted. The services provided by this application make it possible to organize transit to the ports, a very sensitive logistics issue, especially during the harvest season.
On this point, the founders of the platform highlighted that from the assignment of shifts in port terminals in Rosario and Bahía Blanca, in this thick harvest campaign it was possible to determine an average saving of three hours for each truck that unloaded at the ports. “With our app we aim to help the efficiency of each link, providing tools to integrate them and streamline logistics,” explained Laffaye.
The numbers back up this technology. According to the company’s estimates, approximately 45% of the grain transportation fleet is using Circular. In this way, drivers arrive at port terminals with shifts, carry digitalized documentation and save waiting times in the loading and unloading processes. “In many cases, this meant the possibility of adding more trips during the week, and therefore, greater profitability for the carriers”, the company remarked.
In mid-June, the company closed a service agreement with Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC), by means of which the grain company incorporates into its operations an application that will facilitate logistics coordination and shift management for grain unloading. The Circular platform is already operational for producers and transporters that supply the Santa Fe plant in General Lagos and is expected to be implemented in all the multinational’s plants, ports and grain storage facilities in the country in the coming months.
The Dreyfus plant in General Lagos receives about 900 trucks per day during the harvest season. In this context, the use of the Circular application will give LDC access to real-time information that will allow it to simplify shift management and optimize the unloading flow, thus stabilizing the arrival of trucks throughout the day and reducing waiting times for vehicles at the plant.
Digital technology also makes it possible to generate sustainable solutions for work in the lot. With this idea as a premise, three entrepreneurs with agricultural know-how gave shape to ucrop.it, the first collaborative agriculture platform that connects producers with other key players in the market to congenial production goals.
The startup emerged in 2018 from the joint work of Diego Hoter, Marcos Botta and Matías O’Keefe. They detected the need for producers to improve their link with the different actors in the agricultural market, in relation to traceability and how to show that they produced in a sustainable way.
According to its creators, producers can register evidence of the crop in blockchain in a simple and fast way from their cell phones, in the open field and without internet access. The platform allows them to generate detailed reports on how their crops are evolving, so that producers can strategically decide with which agricultural stakeholders to share them. An attractive point is that they can receive commercial and financial benefits for reporting their sustainable practices, which have an impact on the margin of their crops. “Generating a campaign requires four steps: defining a work plan, selecting crop areas, recording agronomic events and signing them,” Hoter noted.
In the middle of last month, the company announced a $1.1 million oversubscribed seed round, led by U.S. venture capital funds and Red Surcos, one of the country’s leading distributors of agricultural inputs and services. The startup is also asking for an international track and is focusing its efforts on regional expansion. In the near future, they expect to land in Paraguay and Brazil, and in the next phase, in Mexico and the United States.