Startup News & Analysis

Toowoomba agtech taps into public concern for Aussie farmers, smashing $400,000 equity crowdfunding target

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien /

DIT

Direct Injection Technologies founder Mark Peart. Source: Supplied.

Toowoomba startup Direct Injection Technologies (DIT) is getting city folk on board with its agtech solution to make farmers’ lives easier, smashing its crowdfunding target of $400,000.

DIT launched its Equitise crowdfunding campaign last week, raising 85% of the required funding within 24 hours. Now, it’s striving toward its upper cap of $1.1 million.

At the time of writing, the campaign has raised $426,500, with 13 days remaining.

DIT uses technology to feed supplements to farm animals in a more efficient way, while increasing animal productivity and welfare.

Traditionally, animals are fed supplements either via loose feed, or through salt licks, meaning the strongest animals get the lion’s share.

According to DIT founder and chief Mark Peart, the technology system uses an algorithm, taking into account the weight of the animals in question, and the water flow available, and injects exactly the right amount of soluble supplements into the water.

“All animals drink proportionally to their body weight,” he tells StartupSmart, so “every animal gets a dose, and the right dose”.

It may seem like a simple fix, but Peart says it could be “very disruptive” in terms of the value it gives farmers.

Traditionally, getting supplements to livestock can costs about $0.40 per animal, per day, he says. DIT can reduce this cost to about $0.08.

Family legacy

A self-proclaimed ‘bushie’, pilot and property entrepreneur, Peart was raised in rural Australia, and has worked in “every corner” of the country — so launching an agtech startup was a natural move for him.

His father was an “early pioneer in this space” of supplements innovation, trying to develop a better system some 20 years ago, he says. But, the technology and water pump systems were not yet up to scratch to get it working properly.

“There’s a family legacy around it, but it’s taken a long time to get right,” Peart says.

Whatever the final amount raised, the funding will go into strategy and sales. Peart has plans to recruit a roving sales team to go out to prospective clients even in the most remote of locations.

The startup has six people on board now, but this will likely grow to 20 within the next two or three months, he says.

Peart also has ambitions of heading overseas, and says DIT could be in the “huge markets” of the US and South America within two or three years.

“We want to build an Australian-owned global agtech business in the livestock industry,” he says.

“No one else is doing what we’re doing.”

Tapping into the crowd

With more public consciousness around both the plight of Australian farmers and animal welfare and food security, crowdfunding was a natural way to go for Peart.

“People in cities and metro areas are realising the importance of farming,” he says.

During the drought crisis last year, he noticed how much support was drummed up through the ‘buy a bale’ campaign, allowing people to donate hay and other necessities to farmers, Peart realised people are passionate about helping farmers make ends meet.

He set out to “tap into the crowd”, he says.

“Everybody knows how hard farmers have it,” he adds.

“If we’re saving them a dollar, that’s a dollar they can put towards the cash reserves to get through the dry times, or to invest,” he says.

“There’s such a conversation around farming and food. People can get involved.”

And, as well as simply contributing to a cause, “there’s also an opportunity to grow their business”, Peart adds.

“They see the work we’re doing is important.”

“People will talk”

From growing up in the bush to attending agricultural college to working on cattle farms and in aviation in the outback, Peart has “a very grassroots knowledge of farming”, he says, and this is one of his biggest strengths.

Running an agtech startup could be challenging for founders that “don’t know what it’s like to live on isolated farms”, he says.

“My whole life is in the bush,” he adds, which means he knows his clients, knows what they’re up against, and knows how to talk to them.

“The trick is not the technology, it’s how you market the technology,” Peart says.

Other agtech startups need to make sure they know their market, and “know intimately the challenges Australian farmers face”, he says.

He also stresses the importance of having good networks in rural communities.

“The ‘bush telegraph’ is a pretty important thing,” he notes.

“People will talk.”

However, Peart would also recommend considering the crowdfunding route, to give city folk the chance to “make an investment and know it’s making a difference”, he says.

“Would you rather get $1 million from one person, or from a thousand? I would rather have a thousand people,” he says.

“In the longer term, that will put the business in good stead.”

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Stephanie Palmer-Derrien

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien is the editor at StartupSmart. You can contact her at [email protected].