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The Bushel team. Image credit: Bushel

Bushel acquires Cargill & ADM’s GrainBridge

October 12, 2021

US grain trading platform Bushel has acquired GrainBridge, its counterpart that’s a joint venture of agribusiness giants Cargill and ADM. GrainBridge will eventually become part of Bushel’s software offering, adding a data science component the companies say will help farmers and grain buyers make more informed decisions and ultimately become more profitable.

Financial details were not disclosed. Both the GrainBridge platform and the company’s employees will become part of Bushel, and Cargill and ADM will transition their customers over to the startup.

Launched in 2017, Fargo, North Dakota-based Bushel aims to digitalize the grain industry via its software platform that integrates different systems in the grain supply chain – from accounting and insurance to farm management and trading desks. It says about 40% of the grain US farmers initially sell into the supply chain comes through its platform, which now powers about 2,000 grain facilities across the US and Canada. Using Bushel, farmers can view their grain contracts and see when they can expect to get paid, pricing, and bids.

The startup has been adding to its grain trading platform over time, including the acquisition of farm management app FarmLogs earlier this year. 

Bushel CEO Jake Joraanstad told AFN that despite the platform’s growing list of capabilities, the company needed more expertise in data refinement and data science, as well as in thinking about grain trading and marketing from the farmer’s perspective.

He said the question Bushel kept returning to was, “How do we take that information [in the Bushel platform] and help our customers, both the facilities and the farmers, do business better?”

The answer, he said, was “more efficiently, profitably, sustainably.”

“Those are the areas that we want to invest in, and [the acquisition] was really a way to jump ahead of the curve on that and also to get ADM and Cargill onboard with the Bushel platform,” he added.

Mark Johnson, who became CEO of GrainBridge in 2020, wrote at the time that that one of the biggest challenges for farmers marketing their grain is that prices are constantly in flux and “the difference between selling today or next week could be the difference between a profit and a loss.”

He told AFN this week that the idea behind GrainBridge was that “by [Cargill and ADM] coming together, pulling their data and putting data on top of that, they could try to give farmers objective decisions about [the best time] to sell their grain.” 

Silicon Valley veteran Johnson said that when he started at GrainBridge, he discovered that most farmers still had contracts printed out on paper or scale tickets stored in a shoebox.

“If you want to digitize this industry and if you want to find opportunities to transform agriculture in the next century, the baseline is to go digitize the infrastructure. If you look at the history of agtech over the past decade, that hard work hasn’t happened,” he said.

Bushel’s work serves as a larger lesson for agtech because the company has taken the time to prioritize the “boring” stuff, like grain ERPs, for example) before trying to build other tools on top of that data, Johnson added.

“Until you digitize that grain transaction internally, you can’t build CRM [customer resource management software] on top of it, you can’t build a better relationship with the farmer. [That’s where] Bushel has been incredibly visionary.”

The deal will provide Bushel not just access to data expertise, but also a foothold in the heart of the US Midwest. Joraanstad said the GrainBridge team in Omaha, Nebraska will stay there, eventually growing that office into a second headquarters for Bushel.

Having two of the world’s biggest ag companies “consider Bushel to be the right answer” is “fundamentally important for the industry to consider” as it looks for more partnerships, he added.

“We want to partner with the people doing the best in these other areas.  We want to collaborate and I think it’s time we started doing that better.”

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