National small business contest gives boost to enterprising Alberta producer

Tool aggregates offers and shows real-time prices from multiple grain buyers

A fledgling Alberta ag enterprise has been named the most promising startup in a nationwide contest for small business owners.

“I was so excited,” said Farmbucks founder Lynn Dargis, who took home the award for her grain-pricing app from TELUS Pitch in July.

“It just solidifies that we’re onto something really good here. It’s given us the additional push we need to keep going and keep breaking down these barriers for price transparency in the ag industry.”

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Dargis and her husband operate a 4,400-acre grain operation and 2,000-head feedlot near St. Paul. The mother of three began working on Farmbucks last winter when she became frustrated while trying to compare prices from local grain buyers. So she hired a team of developers and set out to create a tool that would aggregate pricing offers from multiple buyers and show real-time prices — a sort of “Expedia for grain prices.”

And when she came across TELUS Pitch — a small-business contest where business owners from coast to coast vie for a $100,000 grand prize — she knew she had to throw her hat in the ring.

“I had never even heard of it before,” said Dargis, who learned about the contest one day while she was scrolling through Facebook.

“But once I looked into it, I realized, ‘Hey, I have a new idea, something I think is unique and much needed in the industry.’ So I figured we had a good basis to apply and try to win this thing.”

And while it didn’t take home the $100,000 grand prize, Farmbucks beat out more than 6,500 other applicants to become the judges’ unanimous choice for the Most Promising Startup award.

“There was some stiff competition. These weren’t just some novice-level entries that I was up against — these are established businesses,” she said.

“It’s just proven that there is something very unique and special about what I’m doing.”

As part of the prize package, Dargis won $5,000 in Facebook ad credits, a one-year membership to Workhaus (a co-working office space) and a bootcamp session with a Facebook expert. But for Dargis, the real prize was the chance to meet and talk with Dragon’s Den judge Arlene Dickinson and executives from TELUS, Samsung Canada and Facebook Canada.

“We had a chance to network with all these executives, so it was a pretty awesome learning opportunity,” said Dargis, who went to Toronto for the event.

“Meeting face-to-face with these executives was so motivational and inspiring. It’s kind of validation from them — ‘We see you. We notice you. You’re doing things we think are needed as well.’

“It’s inspired me to keep doing what I’m doing.”

But Dargis won’t be resting on her laurels any time soon. She plans to reinvest her winnings and her learnings in her enterprise, which launched earlier this year as a smartphone app and web-based service.

“We’re changing all the time,” she said. “We’ve launched a newer, better version — Farmbucks 2.0 — and we’re making continuous updates to the app, adding new features and functions like pricing alerts, price history and a message board.”

And she’s already planning for big things from Farmbucks, including new strategic partnerships and an expansion into other countries.

“Winning the award has attracted some pretty major companies’ interest,” she said, though she wasn’t able to speak about those just yet.

“We have new people and buyers signing up every day, and I think it’s only going to continue to grow.

“There are some exciting things coming up.”

About the author

Reporter

Jennifer Blair is a Red Deer-based reporter with a post-secondary education in professional writing and nearly 10 years of experience in corporate communications, policy development, and journalism. She's spent half of her career telling stories about an industry she loves for an audience she admires--the farmers who work every day to build a better agriculture industry in Alberta.

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