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Sugar cane harvest in Australia
Harvesting sugar cane near Mackay, Queensland, Australia. Photo credit: Josh Withers / Unsplash

Farmers Business Network expands to Australia with Farmsave acquisition

July 21, 2020

US-based Farmers Business Network (FBN) is expanding to Australia after announcing the acquisition of local startup Farmsave.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed, though FBN co-founder Charles Baron confirmed to AFN that the Farmsave brand will be discontinued.

All of the acquired company’s existing employees will remain in place as the new FBN Australia team.

“We saw a company that was deeply aligned with the same values, a strong connection to farmers, fundamental beliefs of competitiveness and transparency [in the inputs market] and a great team who understands the role tech is going to play in the future of ag,” he told AFN.

Already operational in the US and Canada, California-headquartered FBN offers farmers a digital platform for comparing, pricing, and buying inputs for their businesses. Close to 12,000 farmers are members of its network, covering over 38 million acres across the two North American countries, according to Baron.

Based in Perth, Western Australia, Farmsave provides a similar online marketplace and price index for inputs, allowing farmers to purchase supplies more efficiently. It claims to have over 5,000 farmer members from across Australia singed up to its platform.

Baron said that Aussie farmers face similar challenges to their US and Canadian counterparts when it comes to buying inputs due to the amount of consolidation in the industry, particularly in chemicals and seeds.

“We believe that growers’ incomes have been under an enormous amount of pressure, in part due to highly consolidated interests and the lack of basic market needs like price transparency on the most important inputs that farmers need to purchase,” Baron said.

“We got really excited when we met Dirk [Butter, Farmsave founder] because he has exactly the same philosophy of creating an online membership to give farmers the ability to do business in the fairest way possible and get the best deals they can in the market.”

From today, Australian farmers will be able to join FBN, and Farmsave’s existing members will be migrated to the US company’s platform.

“We can now work with farms all across the country in the same manner as Farmsave [did], but we now bring the rest of the FBN offering to those farmers,” Baron said. “They can join the community, use our e-commerce purchasing platform, use our analytics tools and resources [and] customer financing.”

FBN will also be growing its Perth team through hires, and will work on specialized product and service offerings for the Australian market. “Our product set is a little different from country to country — the US is the most mature — but we’re excited to bring more and more to Australia, including new inputs, new financing products and the like,” he added.

Farmsave isn’t FBN’s first acquisition, and Baron didn’t rule out further such deals in the future.

“We’re very focused on where we [already] are, though since we began we’ve received enquiries and requests from farmers all over the world. We’re constantly talking to growers and understanding their needs all across the world, but we’re focused right now on building the best platform for farmers in the countries we serve,” he said. 

According to Crunchbase, FBN’s most recent fundraise was its $175 million Series E injection from Kleiner Perkins in January 2019. Earlier investors include Baltimore-based asset manager T. Rowe Price, Singaporean state fund Temasek, and Google-affiliated GV.

Farmsave’s last reported investment was in April 2017, when it secured $40,000 from muru-D, an accelerator run by Australian telco Telstra.

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