This time of year is different than most. For some, it’s a change of scenery as summer turns to fall. It’s a chance to swap out the wardrobe from shorts to sweaters. For others––it’s more. They that feel an insatiable restlessness and an itch in their palms.
At Bushel, teammates come in to work every day, open their laptops, and feel the gravity. While they sit in meetings discussing API specs and download rates, there’s something pulling them home. Harvest’s eternal clock is ringing. The field is calling.
Bushel Chairman & Co-founder, Ryan Raguse, has spent every year farming. Like many farm kids, at ten years old Ryan was driving in the field of his family’s Wheaton, Minn., grain and sugar beet farm.
For Raguse, farming’s ingrained spirit of innovation transferred naturally to the technology industry. He moved from the farm to mini tech hub of Fargo, ND, where he found sophisticated technology applications. He realized that software had left the agriculture industry wanting. Farming was getting technology’s leftovers.
Raguse, with the Bushel team, began piecing together solutions that were lacking in the grain industry by combining technology with a specific purpose. Years later, Bushel is the grain industry’s first software platform allowing grain elevators, cooperatives and ethanol facilities to digitally connect with their growers. “It made a lot of sense to pour into the grain industry,” Raguse says. “Our first move was to take it to private companies and see how it’d go––and it just worked.”
Bushel’s Vice President of Marketing Camille Grade had a similar reaction. “I honestly couldn’t believe it wasn’t already created,” she recalls. “I was familiar with scale tickets from when I’d ride with my dad. He’d get his scale tickets and clip it to the dash with a magnet. That was it. How something like Bushel didn’t already exist was amazing to me.”
For generations, farmers have relied on paper to keep track of their tickets. It’s messy, time consuming, and terrifyingly error prone. Fifth generation farmer and Bushel Product Owner, Dane Braun, attests to the inefficiencies that plague the industry. “During harvest, you’re trying to make financial decisions during a busy time. Maybe you’re coming up on filling a contract, but you aren’t completely certain if you gave an extra load,” he explains. “The absence of knowledge makes it extremely unreliable.” Following his undergrad in Agriculture Economics and masters in Agribusiness and Applied Economics from North Dakota State University, Braun pursued a number of ag related careers. Braun utilizes his deep connections and experience to plot out the roadmap of Bushel. “I think my farm background and being around farmers has really benefited us in keeping our product simple. Farmers have so much technology at their fingertips that varies where it’s used, so we need to keep our product simple and intuitive.”
Understanding the end user has been key in ensuring the product is not only world class technology, but also practical to the field. The Bushel team knows the benefit of the product because they personally use it (and their uncles are continuously texting with feature requests).
“One of the earliest value propositions to me was this idea of relationships. I know how important it was around this area, and I had personal experience with my family doing business with the grain elevator,” says Grade. This symbiotic relationship with the grain merchandisers and farmers plays an important role in the roadmap of Bushel’s feature creation, and elevator managers are frequently sought after for feedback and feature ideas.
Because Bushel’s team members have a real understanding of the features that go into Bushel, everyone has a favorite. Braun and Grade vote push notifications because of its ability to build relationships real time. Vice President of Sales Dan Olson’s favorite feature is eSignature, which he’s quick to say is an incredible way to keep track of things in order quickly. And for Raguse, a little mix of it all is what captures his heart. “My favorite feature of Bushel is the overall collectiveness. I can’t pick one feature because the collection of features is what makes Bushel unique,” he says.
As a long-time member in the ethanol industry, Olson has a wide vision of Bushel’s potential. “The ability to de-risk for grain merchandisers helps farmers become better marketers of their corn crop,” he says. “I see it fully integrated in all of our farming operations. I see it as a foundation for traceability and food safety, which is an increasing concern in the world today.”
While American Midwest grain is busy making its way around the world, Bushel knows, focuses, and thrives on that first relationship between the elevator and the farmer. “It secures the relationships between the farmers and grain entities. Whether it’s an ethanol plant or coop, it’s key to that. Bushel is the hedge around that relationship,” says Olson.
In the end, a strong platform begins with passion. When the industry is in your blood, it’s impossible to let it down. Put simply by Grade, “Ag has always been one of the most forward thinking, innovative industries. You stick all your money into the ground, and equipment to cultivate that ground, and then you wait for Mother Nature. It sounds a little insane, but it’s a good kind of insanity.”