A combination of aging farmworkers, immigration crackdowns, and the dangerous, backbreaking work of farming have created a labor crisis in U.S. agriculture. Which means that more than ever, the industry needs tools to help find and retain reliable workers.
To help uncover solutions to this labor shortage, Radicle Growth, an agtech accelerator fund, and the Western Growers Association held the Radicle Automation Challenge. Last night in Salinas, CA, Ganaz was named one of the winners of that challenge and was awarded $250,000 in seed investment.
Ganaz (pronounced “GAH-nahz”), is a year-old, Seattle-based startup that aims to be the “Glassdoor for Farms.” It’s a mobile app that lets farms advertise jobs and communicate with its workers.
I met Ganaz Co-Founder Sri Artham at the Food IT conference in San Francisco yesterday. He explained to me that there are a ton of digital services like Glassdoor and Linkedin if you are looking for a white collar job, but if you’re a farm worker, there really aren’t those same tools.
“There could be a job on a farm just 30 miles away from you, and you’d never know,” said Artham.
Ganaz works to connect workers with those open jobs and help farms communicate more effectively with its workforce. Farms list job openings on the app in both English and Spanish, and workers can scroll through listings and apply for them. Once on the job, Ganaz facilitates communication with the workers by letting farms send work-related updates (e.g. show up to a particular field the next morning) via the app or SMS. Communications written by farms on Ganaz are automatically translated into Spanish.
Right now Ganaz is available in Washington, Oregon, California and Baja, Mexico, and the platform is used by 4,000 people weekly. Ganaz currently makes money by charging a fee for job postings as well as a subscription fee for ongoing communications with workers.
Eventually, the Ganaz platform will also incorporate more robust in-app communication features, a way for workers to rate farms, and potentially a way for farm workers to find off-season, non-farm work. But first, Artham said that if Ganaz accepts the Radicle seed funding award (terms of the investment still need to be worked through), the money will go towards building out the engineering team and adding people to help interact and support farms on the platform. The total amount raised by the company at that point will be just over one million dollars.
Ganaz is among a wave of startups that are using networks to connect and improve farming operations. Farmers Business Network allows farms to share data analytics and input purchase pricing, and WeFarm helps farmers share knowledge with one another through text messages.
And these startups could not have come at a better time. With the current administration circulating the idea of limiting visas for temporary agricultural workers, farms are going to need all the help finding all the help they can get.