In December 2016, Kim Harrison and her daughter, Olivia Vann, launched their own agricultural web application, 2BuyAG.com. Harrison owns Harrison Valley Farms in Millersburg, Missouri, and she and her daughter are what’s known as agripreneurs who developed their web application to connect farmers to potential buyers.
“Buyers need a consistent supply and farmers want to have more options outside of the typical clients,” said Harrison. “This app is a better way to connect specialty grocery stores, food hubs, or even families who are looking to utilize the farm to table experience in their own kitchen.”
“The difference between us and our competition is that we are farmers,” Harrison said. “We know the time it takes to grow, sell and distribute the product without an established network of buyers.”
A user-friendly platform, 2BuyAG will soon be available for people all across the United States and eventually across the world. Currently, the application is in beta testing mode. People can sign up as testers to try it for free to help detect any potential problems while using the app, which is picture-based, using downloaded icons so that users can see what products are available in real time.
Within the app, there are ways to establish a public and private network. This gives buyers and farmers the option to create a public post, which allows them to branch out and gain new exposure, while a private post is directed to buyers and farmers with whom they regularly interact. The app also has a chat feature so that buyers and farmers can communicate with each other.
Users are able to set up a profile and identify themselves as either a buyer or seller. If buyers are not sure about what exactly they need there is also the ability to conduct a keyword search.
Harrison explained that the app can be accessed anywhere and they are willing to come out and train those who are interested.
THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY. This is exactly what Harrison told herself as she was trying to balance her family business while also managing Harrison Valley Farm.
In 2015, Harrison teamed up with her daughter, Olivia, who has a bachelor’s in biochemistry, a minor in agricultural economics and a master’s in business administration from the Trulaske College of Business. During her studies, Vann said that she conducted a feasibility analysis and market research for various projects. “Mom’s idea was a perfect opportunity to apply the skills that she attained in her curriculum. Through my research we found that people want local food and care about where their food comes from.”
THE BEGINNING. The duo’s first step toward making their “big idea” come to life was working with the Small Business Technology Development Center (SBTDC) in Columbia and meeting their counselor Collin Brunch. Harrison attributes working with Bunch and the SBTDC as a critical part in the maturation of their app. “While working with Collin we became affiliated with the Regional Economical Development Center and the Mid-Missouri Innovation Center, which helped us to connect to a ton of resources. Collin told us it’s all about the timing.”
AN EXCELLENT TURNING POINT. In 2012 Harrison and Vann started taking courses in the midst of their development phase so that they could increase their knowledge about what they were up against. “This was truly a learn-as-we-go process. We knew where we wanted to go but we weren’t sure about how to get there.” The courses included how to develop a sales pitch, where they were required to present their idea to a group of more than 60 people. They also took a course about adopting an innovation, facilitated by Sean Seibert, founder and CEO of Invent Yourself LLC in Columbia. Through the University of Missouri, Harrison and Vann were also able to take advantage of the mentoring service offered for start-up businesses. From taking these courses, they moved on to testing their idea and ultimately being able to launch their web app without being pressured by investors or outside profit-driven entities.
ALPHA TESTING PHASE. With all of the strides that Harrison and Vann had taken to get their app up and running, they soon found themselves at the testing phase. In mid-March, Tin Can Technologies, a young software development company based in Columbia, took on the project of helping the agripreneurs move their app into the Alpha testing phase.
CHALLENGES. From the beginning of the mission to launch the 2BuyAg web application it has always been just them putting in all the work to ensure that they are utilizing their resources in the most efficient and effective way possible. “There are just two of us doing the work, and what we don’t know we must learn. We each have our own strengths so we are able to collaborate,” added Vann. “For every one of these resources, there was class work and meetings that required our attendance,” added Harrison. “At times it was really hard juggling the time it takes to do all of that and get the app up and running. There hasn’t been any outside funding, with the exception of several grants through the SBTDC and Innovation Corps Team Programs, I-Corps.” They are trying to be resourceful and do what they can to make their app customer-friendly.” During the Beta testing phase, the agripreneurs are counting on users to try the app so that they can know what they can do to continue to improve.
WHAT’S IN A NAME. The name 2BuyAg is very personal to the team as it comes from what they have valued most throughout their journey to this point. “The number two represents that it takes at least two people to have a transaction. The abbreviation of the word agriculture represents that we are open to being more than just food-driven industry. Also without the help of my border collies Bella and Balou to help me hoard my sheep, there wouldn’t have been an app.” Harrison hopes that the app will eventually be used internationally. “This is bigger than us. Where ever there is a critical mass of producers and buyers, our app can help. This has been an exciting, yet intimidating process for us. It is very fun and rewarding to be able take on this project with my daughter. We are so excited for the web app to get out there.”
Anyone who is interested in working with the application while it’s in the second phase of testing can reach out to Harrison at kharrison@2buyAg.com.