Image credit: Madhur Soni / Unsplash

Bushel bags $47m Series C funding as it scales up & eyes new fintech offering

April 20, 2021

US grain trading platform Bushel has raised $47 million in a Series C round led by Continental Grain Company and Lewis & Clark AgriFood, with additional investment from Germin8 Ventures as well as agribusiness firms Cargill, Scoular, and Consolidated Grain and Barge Co.

Cargill is also joining as a member of Bushel’s platform alongside Scoular, which has been a user since 2018.

Bushel’s product suite includes its flagship mobile app, websites, trading tools, market feeds, API services, and a custom software division focused on agriculture. Farmers use the platform for free, while grain companies pay.

It integrates with multiple grain accounting systems, trading desks, farm management systems, insurance companies, and market feeds to allow different software systems to work with each other.

“For a year or so, we’ve been working on allowing […] management tools and insurance companies to partner with us on our APIs to standardize the movement of scale tickets, grain contracts, and more. We are also letting the farmers permission their data,” Bushel CEO Jake Joraanstad tells AFN.

Founded in 2011, the Fargo, North Dakota-based startup counts 60,000 active users on its platform, which is used at 2,000 grain buying locations throughout the US and Canada. It reaches 40% of grain origination in the US and handles $22 billion of grain contracts each year. By its measure, this makes it the largest network for grain growers and buyers in the country. 

“We’re seeing almost no churn on the user base. We haven’t seen great adoption in a lot of areas but I think Bushel is an outlier in this space and our adoption is one of our strongest assets,” Joraanstad says.

The Series C funds will be used for three main purposes, according to Joraanstad. First, Bushel is hoping to bring “the biggest and the best” ag companies on board. Second is getting more users on the platform to boost network effects.

“We think the amount of growers on the platform is a big deal. It allows us to help all these companies who are intertwined in some way,” he says.

“[Like] the local co-op that buys grain from the local farm and sells it to a processing facility for either food, feed, or ethanol. We need all these players to participate for this to work.”

Bushel is also building out its fintech offering, and plans to introduce a digital wallet, payments, credit, and enhanced data services – including capabilities to help consumer brands sustainably source commodities in the global grain supply chain.

“Adding fintech features was obvious to us when we saw over $20 billion of grain settlements annually among our customer base,” says Joraanstad.

“About 90% of farmers are receiving paper checks, however. Moving money with gasoline is not a long-term solution to our efficiency problems in the world.”

Agribusiness marketplace startups like Bushel typically focus their efforts on streamlining antiquated supply chains and moving paper-based processes online. Other examples working in the grain industry include Indigo, which added a grain marketplace in 2018, FarmLead, Agro.Club, and Grao Direto.

“If you look at some of the players in the space, particularly the ones who are a bit louder, you’ll notice that they pivot about every year to various iterations of what they do,” Joraanstad says.

“We, on the other hand, have done none of that,” he claims. “We’re not building a marketplace, we’re not building competitive bidding between multiple customers – we’re focused on serving a digital relationship with tools, not stepping in between.”

Nevertheless, plenty of challenges lie ahead for Bushel. First among them is the expansion of its team by bringing on roughly 50 more employees over the course of this year. It’s also looking to add some more big names from the agribusiness sector to its platform.

“We’ve got some of the biggest [and] best customers in ag coming on in 2021 and 2022, so that’s just a big lift for us to execute. But we’re excited about it,” Joraanstad says. “I think during 2022 our impact on the grain industry in the US and Canada is going to be significant.”

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