Ag start-up is paying off
THIRTY days after supplying it, Naomi Stuart and her husband Luke Gaynor were still waiting to be paid almost $300,000 for their grain.
The couple's grain trader had stopped taking their calls and a huge cloud of uncertainty settled in above them.
"This was a significant payment for a small business - nearly $300,000,” Namoi said.
"The impact on the cash flow of our business and the ability for us to make our loan repayments and to pay our workers became a serious problem.”
Eventually, the parents-of-three, were paid.
However, Naomi knew she wasn't alone - the issue is widespread and not uncommon.
With much brainstorming, research and investigation she created a solution: FarmPay, an online platform to help grassroots farmers.
FarmPay links growers, traders and buyers to a transparent system, speeding up supply chain data, and allowing payments to be made sooner to producers.
This week FarmPay started its pilot program, and already has tongues wagging in Wagga Wagga, as well as abroad in China.
Developing FarmPay required Naomi to take the giant leap away from her high-powered career as a chartered accountant into unknown territory as an entrepreneur.
It was daunting and scary, but a step she would like to see more regional women pursue.
It was about two years ago, when her family was waiting on that $300,000 grain payment, that Naomi started to think, surely, 'there is a better way'.
"I was thinking, there has got to be a better way to provide transparency over the grain supply chain and a way to speed up payments to farmers,” she said.
"30-day payment terms mean your grain often leaves the farm gate and it could be on a ship to China or consumed in a feedlot by the next day, which makes it very difficult to get your grain back.
"And, over the past few years there have been a number of grain traders who have actually gone into liquidation, leaving farmers collectively millions of dollars out of pocket.”
Transparency, trust and efficiency are key words Naomi used to describe the FarmPay system.
"Grain traders and growers can sign up to our platform, which enables them to easily manage their contract in one location.
"We then track grain as it leaves the farm gate. Then, when it's delivered to the grain buyer, we transfer the critical data on quality and quantity back to the traders.
"So what that means is the process that can normally take days or weeks to reconcile all happens in real time as the grain is delivered.”
Obviously, it's been a long road to establish FarmPay from an idea to an interactive site, but Naomi stressed the hardest part was taking the first step.
"The hardest decision I made was to leave my corporate career. I was working in Wagga as the chief operating officer of a large regional accounting practice,” she said.
"But I knew I was solving a problem, because I had experienced it.
"It's extremely beneficial to understand what concessions you are able to get for your small business, because everything counts.
"We have already acted on things like the R&D tax write-off, the instant-asset write-off, and there are also other government grants available.”
Naomi said the Federal Government website business.gov.au was a good place to start.
With FarmPay soon to be up and running within the grain industry, Namoi is setting her sights on the global agriculture sector.
"The more we got out and talked to farmers in different areas, the more we realised that this problem exists across all commodities,” she said.
"We have built our platform with the ability to scale into other commodities.”
Naomi encourages other small business owners to find out what measures they may be eligible for by accessing the new filter tool at www.business. gov.au/smallbusiness.