Consumers do not have to — and most do not want to — think about where the food on the plate is from. But behind the meal served in a restaurant or ingredients picked up in the supermarket, there will be farmers for whom that knowledge is essential to their farm’s survival. Breedr, a livestock management platform, has secured £12 million in investment to develop its platform that empowers farmers to take control of their data.
The funding, led by Investbridge Capital which was joined by existing investors LocalGlobe and Forward Partners, and a crowdfunding investment, will help the app develop further and expand globally, sharing the benefits that the earliest adopters have been enjoying.
Improving returns and managing stress for farmers
Few could claim that farming is an attractive vocation. Aside from working unsocial hours and sometimes less than sanitary working conditions, it involves constant pressure. The loss of EU subsidies, which was about 90% of the income for some farmers, along with low prices means that farmers work to incredibly tight margins. Breedr’s goal is to help them manage, and even widen, those margins.
At its heart, it is a livestock management platform, helping farmers maintain a central record of the animals they own. Ian Wheal, the founder and CEO, explained to TFN, “Currently farmers use pen and paper or outdated technology, traditional livestock markets and banks. These are disparate and are not focused on also utilising the information on the animals to also help improve profit and returns for the farmer.” In short, when farmers must be focused on their animals, Breedr helps them make the most of the information they collect.
The app creates many winners. Farmers benefit from better data collection, saving them time as well as empowering them. Consumers, retailers, and even other farmers benefit because the data provides a much better audit trail, highlighting the quality. And there are even environmental impacts, cattle are infamous for their contribution to greenhouse gases but Breedr’s users have seen a significant reduction in emissions.
“With Breedr, everything we do is aimed at improving the profit for the farmer. For farmers of the future to do this, they need commercial sustainability to be able to support environmental sustainability on the farm,” says Wheal. “This means everything we do is focused on profit and return or improving the product the farmer produces. From reduced commissions and costs to market animals, or data to improve the environmental sustainability and performance of animals, or freeing up the farmers’ cash flow to invest in growth.”
Investbridge Capital also noted this, with CEO Oliver Hogg adding, “Breedr has built a truly innovative platform that is solving issues across the agrifood industry, from delivering key insights to farmers to help improve the care and growth of their animals, to its transformative cash-flow product, to providing transparency across the supply chain to meet the needs of retailers and consumers.”
Better animal welfare means better farming, and better finance
Breedr also has an integrated marketplace, allowing farmers to buy and sell livestock within the app. Although the traditional livestock market has changed little in hundreds of years, Wheal has found that many farmers prefer Breedr’s version. “There is a growing demand from farmers who don’t like the stress that markets put on animals or the extra transport that is required,” he explains. “On average, our transaction costs are £35 per head lower on an animal, and this can be a farmer’s profit margin.” And the buyer gets the lifetime of data built up in Breedr, helping them maintain clear links in the supply chain and improve value.“
The app is also launching its own financial product, giving farmers better access to finance. Restricted access to finance is a major issue for livestock producers, and is listed as one of the main causes of stress among farmers. The lack of finance has wider impacts too, preventing the investment that could improve processes, introduce sustainable practices, or improve the food chain.
By linking finance with a complete, and transparent, set of data about livestock, coupled with specialist finance providers, Breedr can reduce the risk to both parties, while helping farmers better manage their cashflow.
A big market to conquer
Breedr plans to use the investment to continue its growth. Although meeting with success in the UK, it has focused on cattle, but the farmers face similar challenges with sheep and pigs, giving Breedr a market comprising around 30 million animals in the UK alone. It is also looking at the US and Australian market. The US market, in particular, is estimated to be 40 times bigger than the UK.
The prospect is of a big win for farmers, animals, and the planet. “Our top 20% of farmers have emissions levels that are 28% less than the national average,” said Wheal. He hopes the farming tools provided by Breedr will help export that success worldwide. “The UK has one of the highest standards in the world for animal welfare, and it is important we keep improving this as it benefits the farmer, the environment, and it is just the right thing to do.”