By David Perry
The automotive industry boomed in the United States during the mid-twentieth century. This paired with the development of an interstate highway system led to a new method for the transport of agricultural products: trucking. Hauling grain by truck became a potentially cheaper and more efficient alternative to trains and steamships, depending on the distances involved.
Access was the critical value-add. Stations and ports are few and far between; but as the twenty-first century approached, every municipality in the country was close enough to a highway exit. Trucks began to pick up grain directly from, or close to a farmer’s field. Pick-ups, as well as deliveries, could be arranged to meet the needs of carriers moving crops and growers offloading them. Consumers and buyers had more reliable and rapid access to goods grown hundreds of miles away, fostering even more demand. The automotive age paved right over existing boundaries.
Today, every bushel of grain moves by truck at least once before reaching its destination – many bushels move two or three times. The domestic industry is worth more than $7.5B and moves more than 800M tons of agricultural products. Despite our continued reliance on trucking, and dramatic improvements in the trucks themselves, we have not significantly improved the industry’s overall efficiency. Whereas digital technologies have changed how we travel (e.g. Uber, Lyft), rent cars (e.g. Turo), and even how carriers choose to freight (e.g. Uber Freight, Convoy), transportation in agriculture has not yet advanced. This inefficiency costs growers, buyers, and ultimately consumers. Questions around who can move grain, and when, inhibits a farmer’s ability to sell to the right buyer. Advancements in technology should not only streamline the supply chain but enable one that is transparent and profitable for all of its stakeholders, especially farmers.
Agricultural trucking currently happens two different ways: either farmers deliver grain themselves with their own trucks, or they contract commercial trucking companies for pick-up and transport. Farmers who own trucks do so primarily for flexibility – to always have a vehicle on standby after harvest. The downside is that these expensive assets remain unused for the majority of the year. For those farmers looking to maximize value around their trucks, creating an enterprise is a time-intensive process that will be limited in scope unless given full attention. Contracting with commercial trucking companies, meanwhile, does not come with guarantees, whether around availability or reliability. This is not to mention inefficiencies in coordinating or following logistics from pickup to delivery, whether within your own operation or when outsourced to another company. Carrier cancellation or delivery issues fall on the grower to remedy, a burdensome process when already contracted with a buyer for a specific delivery date.
This is why we launched Indigo Transport™ – to give farmers who have their own trucks a way to maximize their value, and farmers without trucks a way to find reliable carriers for their loads. Growers, with the right licensure, can register their trucks in the program to begin not only hauling their neighbors’ grain, but any that fits their specifications or needs. Our platform matches carriers to growers (or, growers to growers) on a real-time basis to support the rapid movement of crops to the buyer. Delivery can be planned months in advance, or at a moment’s notice, to any buyer. This enables farmers to make a higher margin on their grain, sell to a buyer further away who’s willing to pay for specific attributes of the crop, as well as receive dedicated, live logistic support from the Transport team at Indigo. The benefits of the program also extend to carriers, with the chance to access an expanding inventory of grain within Indigo Marketplace™. Any other company looking to ship products can also access Indigo’s dedicated network of carriers.
Indigo Transport optimizes the industry that changed how agricultural goods moved from the grower to the buyer nearly 70 years ago. Technology can now connect the bookends of the supply chain, preserving the value of a farmers’ crop as it moves from grower to buyer, and ultimately from buyer to consumer. This, coupled with our other technology platforms – specifically the use of satellites to track macro patterns in transportation logistics – promises further streamlining of the supply chain as we continue advancing our model.
The original idea behind Indigo Transport was a personal, responsive, and reliable platform that supports our commitment to grower profitability and responds to consumer demand for traceability. I believe the platform we are announcing today does that – offers a viable solution for one of the biggest challenges in ag today.