Lynn Dargis was fed up trying to compare grain prices last winter.
A busy farmer with a 4,400-acre grain operation, 2,000-head feedlot, and three small children, Dargis didn’t always have time to log into each grain buyer’s website to find the best prices.
But she also knew she couldn’t afford to leave money on the table.
So she developed Farmbucks — an app designed to be a one-stop shop for Prairie grain prices.
“It’s like Expedia for grain prices,” said the St. Paul-area farmer. “It aggregates grain prices from multiple buyers and puts it all onto one platform so that farmers can easily compare prices and identify where pricing opportunities are.”
That’s a far cry from the way farmers typically shop around for the best grain prices, said Dargis, who farms with her husband. Right now, they have to go to different websites or make multiple phone calls to compare prices — a time-consuming process that doesn’t always guarantee the best price. So many rely on one or two favourite sites when checking the markets.
“If you want a quick update, you’re typically not looking at all 10 websites you use,” said Dargis. “But if you’re not really looking, you miss out on certain opportunities that you didn’t realize were there. So I set out on this mission to build something that was showing real-time data and pricing offers.”
Farmbucks (available as both a smartphone app and web-based service) shows current top bids and futures markets for each of the major Prairie crops. It offers side-by-side comparison of real-time local prices for the year ahead, making it easier to spot pricing opportunities as they come up. The service costs $120 a year.
“You don’t really know if you have a good deal until you compare it to everything else,” said Dargis. “Right now, we might get a text telling us there’s an $11 special on canola, but how do you know that’s actually a good deal until you go and compare it against everything else that’s out there?”
Aggregating prices like this isn’t a new concept, but agriculture lags behind other sectors, she said.
“If you’re going to go travelling, you can use Expedia. If you want to research information, you can use Google. If you want to buy something, you can use Amazon,” said Dargis. “We didn’t have that for grain prices.”
More players in the grain sector have increased competition, but made it more difficult to keep track of what they’re offering for cereal, oilseed, and pulse crops, she added.
“With the new buyers out there, I have five or six places I can sell to today that I didn’t have five years ago,” said Dargis. “This will help us be more knowledgeable about what’s going on around us. That way, we can make better, more profitable decisions for our farming operations.”
Farmbucks currently has five fully integrated buyers, with two more in the works. She said she hopes that, once buyers see the proof of concept, more will sign on to share their prices, allowing the service to extend beyond Western Canada.
“The biggest challenge has been getting grain buyers on board,” she said. “It’s been a long road convincing buyers that this is also beneficial to them, but it’s just a matter of time until I can get them all approved and on board.”
The app is available in the Apple App Store and Google Play, and at farmbucks.com.