Farm businesses risk being left behind if they don't embrace online marketplace, says industry expert

Marketing Team

Farmers are missing out on the benefits of online marketplaces because agricultural markets haven’t kept pace with digital development.

That was the message given to around 60 Norfolk and Suffolk farmers at a joint Lovewell Blake and Suffolk Coastal NFU event this week.

Patrick Bidwell, business manager at Hectare Agritech, the firm behind two of the UK’s leading digital agricultural marketplaces, told the audience that analogue supply chains are stifling innovation, and do not bring the transparency, financial benefits and wider buyer/seller connections that digital marketplaces can bring.

“Using an online marketplace rather than the more traditional phone-based trading techniques gives farmers access to a much bigger pool of merchants and buyers, and that potentially enables them to achieve better prices by connecting them with merchants they wouldn’t otherwise come into contact with,” said Mr Bidwell.

“When it comes to selling livestock, there are other advantages too, not least the cost savings of not having to physically take livestock to market. Whilst online grain trading tends to be mainly with merchants, the online livestock marketplace is much more peer-to-peer, enabling farmers to connect with potential buyers and sellers throughout the country.”

Hectare Agritech has two of the UK’s leading online marketplaces, Graindex, which has over 33,000 active users, and SellMyLivestock, which has over 10,000 head listed at any one time. Between them they make up the fourth most-clicked agricultural website in the UK.

“The idea is actually quite a traditional one,” said Mr Bidwell. “It’s akin to the old idea of a corn exchange, which brought together buyers and sellers in one convenient location. It’s just that its reach is far greater.
“Farmers who have not considered trading in this way risk being left behind, receiving lower prices for their outputs, and potentially seeing the old, analogue way of trading disappearing altogether.”

Mr Bidwell was speaking at the latest Lovewell Blake/Suffolk Coastal NFU Farmers’ Evening which took place at Halesworth Golf Club.

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