The grain business is going through a digital transformation, says Jake Joraanstad, Bushel co-founder and CEO. The company says its product is used in some way with more than 15% of the U.S. grain volume, but that is going to only increase as they are readying to launch new products and features.
Earlier this week, Bushel announced it has closed its Series B investment round, totaling $19.5 million and led by Continental Grain Company, Lewis & Clark AgriFood, Germin8 Ventures and others (including previous investors.) Since 2015, the company has raised more than $28 million in capital.
Joraanstad says the investment will expedite the products and features that are in the company’s pipeline. He expects new features to be introduced in 2020 and 2021 instead of taking up to four years.
Bushel has built its business on elevator-branded apps that give a real-time view of scale tickets, contracts, commodity balances, futures, prepaids, cash bids, settlements, e-sign and contract management.
“One of our goals is to show in this particular time in the industry, when markets are bad, farmers are struggling through harvest, and grain companies and businesses are going through a tough time, we want to be strong through this,” he says. “And we are excited to bring on the development team and resources we need to launch the products farmers and customers have been asking for.”
In 2020, the product will add more transactional business features as well as Bushel Connect, which offers increased integration with partners in adjacent industries: finance, banking, field technology, traceability and farm management software.
He says two technology trends are directly affecting the potential for this digital transformation in the grain space. He says the first is a parallel example to banking and how it went from paper and in-person transactions to how mobile banking completely changed the interaction with the customer and transfer of funds. And the second is the demand for traceability and how it helps define how sustainability is put into practice to answer the questions of how a crop was grown.
In a year such as 2019, Joraanstad says their technology was particularly helpful.
“The core thing we do that added value this last year is that the farmer has probably never paid more attention to the market. In years past, there have been more times to sell at a profitable level, and basis wasn’t as big of a factor. This year, all those things mattered as farmers had to be acutely aware of their business to gain any profitability,” he says. “We simplified the process. Everything can be seen on your phone—the contract, the deliveries, etc.”
Currently, the company has 1,200 grain receiving locations using a Bushel-powered app in the U.S. and Canada. Joraanstad says the industry is at a tipping point.
“With the mergers, you have businesses either growing, getting bought or dying,” he says. “And technology is something the leading companies are embracing because they know it’s a foundation for their success in the future.”