STARTUP PROFILE - HarvestPort: The Airbnb of Farm Equipment
Posted on March 08, 2017 16:59 PM by sthara
Wipe the dust off that tractor sitting idle on the farm. There is now an online marketplace where farmers can rent out their equipment not currently being used for harvest—and it’s called HarvestPort.
HarvestPort helps farmers monetize idle equipment during their off-season. “Agribusinesses are not realizing the millions
of dollars that could be earned from capital equipment sitting idle large portions of the year,” said Brian Dawson, founder and CEO at HarvestPort. “Our online marketplace helps farmers earn revenue and cut costs related to logistics and equipment, while at the same time removing the administrative headache that comes with asset management. It’s a win-win.”
Dawson refers to HarvestPort as the “Airbnb” of agriculture equipment and assets. Like Airbnb (a website for people to list, find and rent lodging), HarvestPort allows participants to both lease and procure planting, harvesting, transport and storage resources. This includes everything from harvest trailers, bins, forklifts, irrigation pipe, machinery and more.
For example, a stone fruit grower in California uses his tractors two to three months out of the year. When the grower is done with the harvest, he can take those tractors and list them on the HarvestPort platform so another grower can borrow them. The stone fruit grower earns money off season without having to track, trace and follow up on the logistics; and the borrowing grower gets nearby equipment at the lowest price without having to tie up capital in seasonally-used assets.
Easy as 1, 2, 3
When constructing the HarvestPort platform, Dawson and his team ensured that the website was intuitive and easy to use. Lending and borrowing is as easy as one, two, three. Lenders list their seasonally used resources at a price they choose, evaluate all the incoming requests and select a borrower. Conversely, the borrower requests the asset they need, reviews the lenders in the area and reserves the desired equipment.
For the entire process, HarvestPort manages the accountability and invoicing related to the exchange. The company matches the equipment needed with the equipment being sought based on search selections such as price, date needed and geography. Once a match has been made, the borrower and lender negotiate a price and terms of lending that works best for both.
“What’s great is that our platform keeps you completely anonymous,” said Dawson. “We understand how sensitive company information can be—especially in agriculture. We make sure to keep all client and billing information confidential.”
Prior to launching HarvestPort, Dawson had founded an asset rental and logistics company whose clients were primarily large specialty crop growers, packers and processors. He was frequently being approached by clients who wanted a means to monetize equipment off-season. Along with Carson Britz, Chad Hokama, and Tim Koide, he started HarvestPort in July 2015 to help improve asset utilization in the agricultural industry. The company officially opened its doors to the public in March 2016 and already has a strong client base of nearly 50 users.
The company is currently assessing potential partnerships with multifaceted organizations to further bolster its offerings. One partnership is with Western Growers and its Center for Innovation & Technology.
“The Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology allows startups to directly access some of the largest and most influential agricultural businesses and executives in the U.S.,” said Dawson. “This market access allows startups to leap over the traditional barriers to market entry.”
As one the 16 agtech innovation companies in the Center, HarvestPort works with farmers and other innovators to enhance the platform. HarvestPort recently launched a “Direct Offer” product feature that allows packers to instantly onboard their growers in order to have greater visibility into supply chain asset movements to and from the field. The goal is to reduce friction between affiliated organizations by making it seamless for growers to access key harvesting assets like bins precisely when they need them, and to ensure that packers have a tool to track and document these handoffs and mitigate any loss and damage.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in WG&S Magazine in July 2016.