AgTech: MBA’s Blockchain Startup Could Revolutionize Australia’s Agricultural Industry

Emma Weston’s AgriDigital executed the world's first live settlement of a physical commodity on a blockchain in 2016

Emma Weston is an MBA graduate from Sydney’s Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) taking Australia’s agricultural industry by storm.

She’s co-founder and CEO of agricultural technology – AgTech – company, Full Profile. Its main product – AgriDigital – is a cloud-based transaction platform which uses blockchain technology to bring security and transparency to agricultural supply chains.

On the AgriDigital platform, stakeholders can make fast, same-day payments and manage all aspects of the agri supply chain - including contracts, deliveries, invoices, and inventory – in one place.

In 2016, AgriDigital executed the world's first live settlement of a physical commodity on a blockchain. Currently focused on the Australian grains industry, Emma plans to expand into livestock in Australia, and take AgriDigital into the Canadian grains market in 2017.

She wants to use blockchain technology to make agricultural supply chains transparent, so that consumers know where they get their food from, and farmers get paid for what they deliver. After almost two decades’ experience in the industry, and with the knowledge and network gained from an MBA at one of Australia’s best-ranked business schools, she’s well-placed to do so.

How did the idea to start AgriDigital come about?

We wanted to start a business that was exclusively focused on solving deep, systemic issues in agriculture and using technology to do this.

We had a large problem space to work with and settled on three clear problems we believe we can solve. Firstly, that farmers do not get paid for what they deliver when they deliver. Secondly, that buyers cannot access flexible forms of supply chain finance. And thirdly, that consumers do not know where their food really comes from.

Where are you at right now? What do you hope to achieve?

We are in an exciting stage of growth. Our technology is in market in the Australian grains industry, providing a commodity management solution for grain growers, buyers and site operators. In December 2016, we successfully executed the world’s first settlement of a physical agri-commodity on a blockchain.

With a rapidly expanding team, we have even bigger plans for 2017. We are growing our AgriDigital product within Australia, expanding into the North America market, and exploring solutions for other commodities.

How could blockchain revolutionize the agricultural industry?

It’s clear that blockchain has big potential to transform the entire agricultural industry. Farmers have always been eager adopters of technologies that make sense and deliver real value. For an industry which employs 40% of the global workforce, the benefits to be gained from applying blockchain technology across agribusinesses are enormous.

Blockchain has huge potential in key areas of the industry such as: provenance and radical transparency; mobile payments, credits, and decreased transaction fees; and real-time management of supply chain transactions and financing. We will also see convergence of key technologies and innovations such as blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT).

What advice do you have for MBAs looking to start their own business?

Be clear about your personal and business objectives and your own strengths. Don’t be afraid to surround yourself with people who are better than you in certain areas. Take appropriate risks and make your own luck. Knowing your own business inside-out is crucial. Share your vision openly, not just with employees, but with your stakeholders too.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at AGSM?

Originally, I was seeking an international experience where I would meet new people from different cultures and backgrounds. Ultimately, I decided to stay in Australia for personal reasons. AGSM was a natural choice for me as it’s academically pre-eminent in the region and offers a range of international exchanges.

What I did not realize was how international my MBA cohort would be. I was joined by 63 other students from 36 countries. It was an amazing melting pot of ideas, experience and personalities that provided both challenge and opportunity, and was a lot of fun!

Would you be where you are today without the AGSM MBA?

I honestly don’t think so. It’s part of who I am, and my career trajectory. My AGSM MBA gave me exposure to the new, confidence in who I am and what I can do, and a wonderful network of friends and colleagues. During the MBA, I became very interested in startups and broader tech. This has been the focus of my entire career since graduating. It’s hard to imagine how things would have turned out had I taken a different path.

The other clear value I gained from my MBA was my personal network. It’s amazing to have these connections all around the world and to be able to call people up, no matter how much time has passed, to ask a favor, road-test an idea or just for a chat.

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