Pat Rogers, a fifth-generation peanut farmer from Blenheim, South Carolina, was at an InfoAg conference in 2014 when he identified a problem within the farming community. He realized that the world of agriculture was in desperate need of a way for farmers to connect and share information in a faster, more convenient way.
Rogers had seen firsthand how scarce networking opportunities were for agriculture professionals. Even social media platforms and online message boards failed to provide steady, relevant information to farmers in their own regions. So he came up with the idea for a peer-to-peer network where farmers could both communicate and access local information on a single platform. He called that platform AgFuse.
AgFuse would allow farmers to connect with one another, share farming tips, pitch product ideas and keep in touch with other agriculture professionals in their area.
“I knew I had a good idea, but I had to verify it,” Rogers says. In August of 2015, he set up a landing page that featured a signup box and a description of the site’s functionality. AgFuse received so much interest that, just a month later, the full site was released to the public. Since then, it has welcomed users from over 28 countries, including Australia, Mexico and Canada.
The platform works lot like Facebook, but with a networking component similar to LinkedIn’s. Farmers are able to connect with one another and receive information based on geographical location, crops, and news interests. Users can also join groups, create posts and scroll through their news feeds to see what’s happening with other farmers in their network. But AgFuse omits some of the unnecessary features of traditional social media to make room for more business.
“It’s more like an information network instead of a social network,” Rogers explains.
AgFuse is the first social media platform of its kind, which means it has a lot of potential for development. Rogers hopes to have the iOS app up for testing and feedback within the month, with the Android app soon to follow. Other upcoming features include a platform through which agri-bloggers and other writers can post their work straight to the website, and a reference service that will make pertinent information accessible to farmers from anywhere, especially the field.
But AgFuse is currently a bootstrapped venture, so Rogers is taking things slow. When asked if he plans to seek investors anytime soon, he responds by saying, “We plan to take bootstrapping as far as we can. I have a vision for the product. I’m kind of a target user, so I’m doing it a little for myself.” Rogers says he wants to ensure the product has integrity and will properly serve farmers like himself before seeking more funding.