“Every other product is available online. Why can’t that be available in American agriculture?”
So asks Brad McDonald, co-founder of Agroy, over the phone during a scheduled chat. The question, of course, is rhetorical, since making agricultural products available—and affordable—online is exactly what he and Agroy are doing.
Agroy is an Amazon-like e-commerce platform that lets farmers connect with other farmers and find wholesale products from around the globe. Founder and CEO Jukka Peuranpää started the company in Finland in 2011, and after six successful years of piloting the concept around Europe approached McDonald to start a U.S. version.
The aim is to make the ease, flexibility, and variety of a marketplace like Amazon widely available to whole the agricultural industry, something no one else has done until now. The company’s LinkedIn page calls itself “a price freedom fighter for farmers.”
“The goal is when a farmer logs into their account they can be confident the products are not only the cheapest in their area, they’re the cheapest in the world,” says McDonald, who holds a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
Farmers can sign up for Agroy for free. When a product becomes available in their area, Agroy sends an email with product and pricing information. Farmers can either purchase the item direct through the platform, or simply take the information and use it as extra negotiating muscle elsewhere.
Agroy, meanwhile, negotiates with companies on the price at which goods are sold as well as areas where those goods will be available. The more suppliers Agroy can add, the more farmers it will be able to reach.
Right now products include things like fertilizer, chemicals, and seed. Agroy has also provided animal feed and even pigs in the past. The overarching goal, says McDonald, is to “provide any product a farmer writes a check for.”
So, for example, a farmer in Texas might log into their account be able to find and buy fertilizer from Iowa for a better price than they would find in their own locality.
“By utilizing e-commerce, we lose a lot of the fixed costs the current system has to pay for,” McDonald explains. “Farmers are no longer restrained to only purchasing with their neighbors, but can now make purchases with farmers across the country by purchasing online.”
McDonald himself is a farmer. After working with Rabobank and Bunge, McDonald headed back to his native Iowa because he saw an opportunity: “Most of the people I associate with are farmers. When I first started, no one, including myself, knew of a website where you log on to make ag [agriculture] input purchases. I saw this as a niche in the market.”
The concept has so far been well received in the U.S., according to McDonald, who calls Agroy “a very easy sell.” He adds that most people are shocked no such platform has existed before. Farmers Business Network, for example, has an e-commerce wing, but its main sell is giving farmers the ability to democratize farm data. Access to anything, including the e-commerce element, costs a farmer $600 annually.
Meanwhile, Agroy launched a branch in India recently, and continues to have a presence in Europe. In its native Finland, 8 percent of the agricultural land purchases products through Agroy. The company is currently looking at Brazil and Central America as the next couple places to expand to.
It will be interesting to see where the platform is at in five or even two years time. The network runs across millions of acres of farmland in the U.S. alone right now. With no real competition breathing down its neck, where and how this company expands in the coming years seems virtually limitless right now.