Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Sprout Agribusiness Programme & Who Wants To Go Mobile Milking?

For the last 2 years I’ve been working full time to set up an experimental prototype dairy system. The plan has always been to "pave the way"so other people, like me can go farming even if they don't have any land or very much money.

I believe it was Peter Brock who said “Bite off more than you can chew and then chew like crazy”. 

That describes my last two years quite accurately.

Without going into all the details, I’ve learnt a lot over the last two years and now it's time to crank things up and get this show on the road for real.

A Quick update

In order to move to the next step I need more money, as I've used all I have setting up the prototype system.

I’ve been accepted into the Sprout Agritech business accelerator. The programme is designed to help boost agricultural technology companies with potential to go on to become successful global businesses.

They had 60 applications; they interviewed 22 and finally selected 8 businesses to participate in the programme.

The Sprout programme is based in Palmerston North and is funded by:

MIG Angels (Palmerston North)
Ellison Holdings (Larry Ellison from Foxton not San Francisco)
K One W One (Sir Stephen Tindall)
Enterprise Angels (Tauranga)

A big thanks to those organizations for putting the cash up and supporting agricultural development in NZ.

The Sprout organisation have taken an equity stake in my company and I’ll spend the next few months working alongside some pretty cool people and getting myself ready for the investment showcase which is held at the end of the programme in March 2016. 

This is an opportunity for the 8 businesses to pitch for investment from agri focused investors.

We're Selling Milk

In the past year I’ve established that people actually want to buy my milk (thank goodness!) and the steady stream of emails from people wanting to set up their own little businesses like mine has shown me that there actually are people out there who think this is a good idea!

You never really know if your idea is any good until you try it.

In this case, when I told farmers about my mobile project they all said it was a bad idea. But when I told my town friends and acquaintances, they all said it was a great idea. 

Who to believe?

Anyway I gave it a crack and it turns out that there are good number of people who like the concept. So it's now worth taking these ideas beyond my own little project.

The Plan

The plan now is to make what I’ve leant available to others and to set up a system that people can “plug into”. This system will take care of all the crappy, time consuming, tedious stuff that real people don’t really need to know about.

I’ll give you an example,

If you’re a farmer and you wanted to set up a dairy farm, and let's say you choose to supply Fonterra.
Fonterra give you the “Fonterra Handbook” which includes all the rules and specifications that farmers have to abide by in order to comply with Fonterra’s risk management programme to produce milk.

The farmer then buys a milking plant and has a cowshed built. The milking machine company sells a machine that complies with the food safety code and the builder builds a cowshed that complies with the code as well. 
These items are reasonably priced because there are lots of milking machine companies & builders who can supply cowsheds and milking plants.

The farmer doesn’t need to know all the food safety regulations for every aspect of their business because their equipment suppliers & Fonterra know all about their particular parts and they pass onto the farmer what they need to know.

There’s no one who provides a solution like that for small scale dairy producers.

When you look at the small cheese makers or milk producers, they have to do everything themselves. They have to write their own RMP and then maintain it and then cover the costs of audits and inspections and when they buy equipment that complies with all the regulations, it tends to be a “custom, one off solution” which comes with an eye watering price tag.

Providing small producers have the time and the patience to get setup and accredited. They then have to compete against all the big boys in their market. And these big corporates get really aggressive, once you start to make a dent in their market share.

So it’s no wonder there are just a handful of small-scale dairy businesses around.

But small scale farmers have lots of advantages too and there are real opportunities available around the world that smaller farmers can access. You just have to do it the right way.

Turnkey Dairy Business

I’ve started the Nature Matters Milk Company to serve small scale dairy farmers and to make it easier for them to succeed.

The two main areas that bring down small dairy businesses are regulatory compliance issues and lack of a strong brand, which affects profitability.

I’m currently building and testing the systems that other small farmers can utilise. These systems have to ensure every individual farmer complies with all the regulations and also ensures that they don’t get anybody sick. That alone is a big job and much more complicated than I thought. Which is the story of my life.

I’m also slowly building a proper brand (although it's not public yet).

You Can Go Farming Too.

Once I've got all that sorted, I'll be able to provide you with all the equipment (at reasonable prices) needed to milk cows, pasteurise milk, package milk & deliver milk to their local community. By the way, it won't look anything like my current setup either.

You'll operate under my RMP & I'll provide you with complete training and step by step manuals on everything you need to know.

I'll audit you regularly and my system will ensure you are recording & complying with everything you are meant to.

What this means is you can start a small dairy business that is likely to be profitable from day one and you don't have to worry about the large regulatory costs, as they are split across all farmers using the system.

I'm not mother theresa, so I'll probably charge a percentage of your turnover as my fee. This means if you're not successful then neither am I.

That's just a quick run down on the principle of how the business will run. Essentially I'm taking away the costly boring stuff and letting you get on with farming and providing outstanding customer service.

Who's Keen?

These things cost quite a bit of money to develop, which is why I approached the Sprout programme. I hope to be able to bring on a financial partner or partners who can provide the funding to fast track the development so we can get rolling.

In the meantime, if you think you might like to set up your own micro dairy then drop me an email

I’ve got no further info at this stage, so please don't email me with lots of questions.

I'm just creating a list of people who are interested in going farming in the Nature Matters Milk style.

If you're keen, email me with:
Your name
What you doing at the moment
Where you from
Why you are interested.

I've got no other information, so please don't ask me questions. I'll let everybody know when I've got more to say.



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