Considering its application’s overall usefulness and user-friendliness, it’s no surprise that 2016’s iAwards’ “Startup of the Year” title went to the Australian startup AgriWebb. AgriWebb’s app – AgriWebb NoteBook – allows its users to assemble all the important, actionable farming information in real-time, even offline. Thus, it enables them to act according to informed predictions: a matter crucial to farming. Simple in design, but sophisticated in its function, AgriWebb NoteBook has all it needs to become one of the most important tools dedicated to the modern agriculture.
But who are the people behind the app, the ones that took the award home? Who is Justin Webb and where did he come from? And how did he manage to come up with an app this good? We’re about to find it out!
For Farmers. By Farmers.
There are apps designed for something, and there are apps designed by something. According to Justin Webb’s words, “unlike many other technologies designed for agriculture,” AgriWebb’s application was – as it should have been – “designed by agriculture.”
Justin Webb is – of course – the founder of AgriWebb. His academic and professional background is in applied mathematics and economics. He’s not a mathematician nor economist, though: he’s a farmer, a fifth generation farmer in a family of farmers. „Our family has five generations of farming history stretching across Australia,” he’s told us. „AgriWebb started from a v. tangible problem: on-farm data recording and management for our family farm.”
“The important thing to note is that farming is v. much a data-driven exercise,” he explains, “even if that data has been managed from a pencil-notebook, a set of spreadsheets or even kept in the head. It is established on a long history of trial-and-error experiments over a great period of time and passed from generation to generation.”
As a person educated in mathematics and economics, he has often felt “frustrated by the lack of hard benchmarked evidence with which to guide and ground important, influential decisions.” To solve this problem, he began working on what would later become AgriWebb NoteBook.
Thus, it was designed by agriculture, not for agriculture. Which – in fact – makes it perfect for it.
The Fundamental Challenges
Justin Webb believes agriculture to be the fundamental challenge of our generation. World’s population is growing in numbers. He states that “agricultural production must meet that shift in demand,” the means to this end being tech and innovation. “With productive land under increasingly competitive demand, the onus falls on increases in productivity through the conduit of technology to solve the shortcoming of a potential global food crisis.”
Given proper information, it’s possible to produce more rather than less. But AgriWebb NoteBook’s purpose is also to make all this data traceable and transparent – not for the sake of these characteristics themselves, but in order to avoid global agricultural crises. “The global need for traceable and transparent information was never clearer than during the ‘Mad Cow’ – or BSE – crisis in the UK during the late 90s and early 2000s. A whole country’s export was effectively halted because of a lack of reliable quality control and traceability,” Webb reminds us. “Since that incident, the UK has become one of the world leaders in animal traceability, and AgriWebb is the software that connects the farmer directly to necessary accreditation with simple and flexible software.”
The Hard Work Awarded
The background research and testing for the app has taken a lot of time. It appears that AgriWebb NoteBook was in the works since 2013/2014. During this period, it was being optimized to make it UX and UI balanced as it is now, to make it a perfect tool for interpreting all the actionable farming data. According to Webb, “the challenge was to create a simple application that naturally fit in a farmer’s working day, but powerful enough to empower optimal decision making. From that context, we applied the best engineering and development talent in Australia to create a familiar, simple user interface as an overlay to highly developed tool providing actionable data.”
The dedication and resilience paid off. As I have mentioned earlier, it’s the AgriWebb that took this year’s iAwards’ “Startup of the Year” title: one of the most prestigious titles a startup can be awarded. “AgriWebb intuitively collects and uses livestock data to increase industry profitability and efficiency across the entire supply chain, adding transparency for consumers, governments, and industry representatives, while enabling better, more sustainable management,” we read on the iAwards website. “The great honor of winning ‘Startup of the Year’ in the iAwards program is a wonderful milestone in the AgriWebb journey,” Webb tells us. “We have dedicated so much of our lives to realizing our progress to date and the iAwards recognition is a significant landmark.”
“However, we are a grounded team, and we know that though awards are special, they don’t pay salaries or dividends,” he concludes. “So we will celebrate our win and use it as motivation to work even harder to deliver the best possible product to our existing and future clients.”
The Future is Bright
“The future of AgriWebb is bright,” Justin Webb believes. „We hope to serve our clients with a software that solves on-farm data collection, monitoring, and interpretation problems. From that elemental solution, we will seek to implement a transformation of traceability and transparency that extends right up the supply chain.”
This is quite a lot, but, given AgriWebb’s successful expansion so far, it seems possible. “AgriWebb hopes to bring a global reality to the phrase ‘paddock-to-plate’ while concurrently improving the productive sustainability of global primary production.”
We do keep our fingers crossed!
Justin Webb was interviewed on September 20, 2016. The interview was conducted by Daria Kursa.