Fresh vegetables that are surplus to orders are frequently left to rot in the field, as the cost of harvesting without a known buyer is too great. Concern about this waste was the original inspiration for Agronomex, but founder Pascale Martin quickly discovered that traceability, quality and logistics were the biggest obstacles, and so has developed an innovation solution to address this.
Agronomex, an early stage start-up based in London, is a finalist in Agri-Tech East’s GROW agri-tech business plan competition.
The Global Food Programme estimates that up to 40 per cent of edible wastage is at the farm gate. Appalled at this statistic, Pascale Martin, an operational risk analyst with a master’s in financial mathematics, decided to use her expertise in modelling and process optimisation for the financial services industry to come up with a new approach.
She explains: “My starting point was to make it easier for producers to sell surplus in advance of the harvest. If overproduction can find a buyer and payment is guaranteed then this food would not go to waste.
“This was the basis for our eSourcing solution, use resource optimisation and technology to design a global solution based on a win-win process to optimise both, supply and sourcing processes, which allows ‘forward contracting’ using the eBay auction model.
“The service would also provide a credit check for the buyers to increase confidence and enable buyers to post their sourcing needs and payment facilities to meet their treasury needs.
“However, meetings with industry stakeholders revealed additional obstacles. There is a legal requirement for a traceability audit trail, and the cost of transport can make the sale uneconomical. So, armed with this feedback, we have developed an alternative logistic solution which allows us to offer a competitive logistic rate to the value-chain.”
To provide the responsive logistics service, Agronomex has teamed up with Return Loads, a UK freight exchange platform that optimises part loaded trucks and dead-mileage where the truck is returning empty.
Martin continues: “In addition, we saw the need for a single trade ID allocated to each consignment to ensure traceability and provide the necessary documentation online to guarantee quality. Purchasers confirm that the shipment is received to an acceptable standard before payment is released. A good track record on quality will enhance the reputation of suppliers and high acceptance rate provides confidence in the purchaser.
“A secure messaging system enables both parties to communicate directly, removing the middle men that would make the transaction uneconomic.”
Martin has received an enthusiastic response to the Agronomex concept, which also provides geographically relevant crop prices, allowing suppliers to make informed decisions about when to sell at the best price.
The next step is to further develop the platform and test with the stakeholders.
The GROW agri-tech business plan competition was established by Agri-Tech East to stimulate entrepreneurship in the industry. The 2016/7 challenge was supported by Innovate UK.
For more information visit www.agronomex.com