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Bushel launches digital payment network for agriculture

Some people say give the customer what he wants, but that wasn’t Steve Jobs approach. The pioneer of the personal computer believed that people don't know what they want until you show it to them.

Jake Joraanstad believes the same is true when it comes to digitizing agriculture.

“People didn’t think they wanted the Bushel mobile tool so a farmer could see his scale tickets on his phone until we brought it to agriculture in 2017. Today, there are more than 60,000 farmers using the tool,” says Joraanstad, CEO of Bushel. “I believe our new payment and money facilitation network to address the issue of payment by paper checks will have the same level of adoption.

“Nearly 90% of payments in a $200 billion industry are done through a paper check today,” he adds. “There is no other industry, not even healthcare, that does paper checks to that scale.”

In its continued quest to move agriculture away from paper, the company believes its new product suite is the next major opportunity to digitize the industry’s infrastructure. Slated to launch in July, the tools enable producers and agribusinesses to move money in real time across the supply chain.

“Today, we’re literally delivering paper via gasoline to a mailbox and then making the farmer drive to town to deposit that check into their account,” he says. "We are behind in agriculture in terms of digitization. One of the areas we believe we can move quickly through is being able to make payments electronically."

The three parts of the digital payment network include:

1. Bushel Payments. “There are over 200 grain companies and ag retailers currently using Bushel platform,” Joraanstad says. “Bushel Payments enables those customers to pay a farmer electronically through our platform. For less than $10 a payment, you can pay a farmer electronically with Bushel Payments.”

The current limit is $1 million on a single settlement to a farmer, so he says the tool covers a vast majority of settlement checks that go out to the industry today.

The company’s goal is to get the majority of its approximately 60,000 farmers using Bushel today to convert to the Bushel Payment platform over the coming year.

2. Bushel Wallet is an app farmers download. This digital wallet allows farmers to link up to six U.S. bank accounts, so they can transfer funds. 

“When a farmer first creates his account with Bushel Wallet, he’s actually creating a checking account that is FDIC insured through a partner bank of ours, which includes a debit card,” Joraanstad says. 

3. Bushel Wallet Link is an API that allows any agribusiness to embed payments in their application or web environment and connect to Bushel Wallet’s network to move money.

Test Driving the Tools

Consolidated Grain and Barge Co. (CGB) is one of the first agribusinesses to pilot Bushel Wallet Link. It is embedding the payment feature into its user experience to allow electronic settlements for growers.

“To keep up with consumer demand for a more interactive experience, we knew we needed to provide a way to transact with our customer base more easily in a seamless and timely manner,” says Charlie Laird, Director of IT Strategy of CGB.

Nebraska-based Ag Valley Cooperative is piloting Bushel Payments, enabling access to the tool for its growers. Once a grower signs up and completes the verification process through the co-op’s app powered by Bushel, he can immediately begin to transact.

“As we see more opportunities to engage and communicate with our farmers, it became clear that we needed a way to streamline the payment process,” says Jeff Krejdl, CEO of Ag Valley Cooperative said. “The onboarding was easy. Once we start working with growers, this is going to be a very cool option to offer them. Harvest starts in mid-July, so we will begin looking at using it for settlement payments then.”

From early on in its work to digitize agriculture, Joraanstad says it became apparent that a big piece of this was how farmers and agribusinesses did business with each other. "They need the tools to become more financially efficient and clearer on the state of their operations. The feedback from our customers will be crucial as we continue to innovate FinTech products for agriculture.”

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