SwarmFarm founder Andrew Bate explains why he’s building a tech startup in a rural area

SwarmFarm Andrew Bate

SwarmFarm co-founder Andrew Bate. Source: SwarmFarm.

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately: Why have we embraced life and built our team in a rural area if we want to build a tech company?

I think the answer is that we’re building the company for everyone. And we’re building it on the foundation of our farming roots and our passion for agriculture. We want to bring technology to real people, on real farms, and when we’re connected to the people we want to help, we’re closer to understanding who they are and what they need.

We believe that a technology startup is not just a business. It’s a part of the community, and it has to take that seriously.

Real progress is only created by doing the work that matters, putting our heads down and getting it done. That speaks to the core of what rural communities are all about. It’s who we are; people in our region make things happen. And they don’t do it because somebody in government or big business is telling them to or because they need to prove anything. They do it because they know what it takes to grow, to thrive and to build. 

Farmers are innovators

Our company started out on the farm that I grew up on in central Queensland. We wanted to build a startup that grew out of those rural roots to maintain that deep attachment to our industry. SwarmFarm is building the future of farming through robotics, but that doesn’t mean we want to tear down everything that’s come before us. Tradition and farming knowledge is important, and understanding how agriculture works is essential.

Farmers have been embracing innovation since time began. The technology of farming itself disrupted the way societies were built, and from crop production to scientific analysis to embracing new tools, farmers have understood the role of innovation and embraced the cutting edge. They are constantly looking for new ways to boost yields, improve the bottom line, and be more sustainable.

Being a farmer gives us a real-world perspective. Building a company in a rural community, surrounded by farmers who speak the language of disruptive innovation, science and entrepreneurship enables us to immerse ourselves in a culture of transformation.

When you look at the investments that technology players are making in rural companies, you can see that we’re not the only ones putting our faith in the country’s capacity to nurture tech startups. We’ve worked closely with the GrainInnovate fund, managed by Artesian and Tenacious Ventures, who are seriously backing agtech companies outside of main city hubs — knowing that their background, their roots and their interconnectedness are all going to be contributing factors to their growth and success.

If you’re building an agtech company in a city hub or in the suburbs, you’re missing out on what farming has to offer. A farmer’s mindset is the same as ours, and that gives us an advantage. Rural communities may not know everything about building a successful tech company, but we know a thing or two about growing a sustainable business and building it for the long haul. Setting up our HQ out here and making a commitment to our area shows that we are serious about building agricultural solutions.

Swarmfarm app

The SwarmFarm app. Source: supplied.

SwarmFarm is a community-minded team

When we started our organisation, we knew we wanted to be a community-minded team with an emphasis on building down to earth, meaningful relationships and creating a company where people can bring their whole selves to work.

Choosing to grow SwarmFarm in a rural area is a big bet on that; as founders, we’ve always believed that communities out here are vibrant, supportive, nurturing and full of life. Rural Queensland has so much to offer folks who want to step outside the madness of inner city living and find a different pace of life with a stronger focus on human connections.

The people who work here at SwarmFarm, who have chosen a new lifestyle for themselves and their families, are experiencing something they might never have imagined. Every employee gets a chance to close their laptop and get out on the farm themselves, seeing, hearing and feeling what it’s like to be our end users.

And there’s a sense of being a family in a way that generations of farmers have known, in a way that other tech startups could never manage to infuse.

Let’s talk a little about being rural entrepreneurs who are doing it right. We’ve used the unique opportunities of our area to our advantage. We’ve found unique talent, a large market, and a place with less risk than the larger cities. We’ve connected with a community of like-minded thinkers and used technology to build their business in a way that makes sense. And we’ve done it all while supporting the local infrastructure and society.

Community is the keyword. It’s a word that is often over-used or misunderstood, but when we use it, we are saying something important about who we are. We’re trying to live up to the vision we’ve always had, about supporting and working with farmers. Building our company here has enabled us to do just that. It’s brought us together with our customers and partners, and its allowed us to keep them at the heart of every decision we make.

This article was first published on LinkedIn


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