Farmers can ship and haul with new digital booking tool
- Indigo Agriculture, a seed technology company and grain transaction marketplace, has launched an automated freight brokerage platform exclusively for dry, bulk agricultural goods, according a statement on the company's website.
- Growers can choose Indigo Transport when they accept a bid for their grain in the digital platform, turning over the arrangement of the pickup to Indigo. Carriers register on the platform and choose loads based on location, price, destination and company. IIndigo claims to have thousands of carriers already vetted and registered.
- The service is currently restricted to corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and other non-grain, dry bulk commodity freight that can be transported via hoppers. Indigo's statement indicated freight options will expand in the future.
The Indigo Transport platform works similarly to other digital freight booking platforms such as Convoy and Uber Freight. As digital freight hiring platforms grow in number, time will tell what differentiates them in the eyes of shippers.
Focusing on a particular clientele may add value to the service if carriers are particularly sensitive to the requirements of agricultural shippers, such as farmers' needs to get their grains to processors within a specific window.
Capacity constraints make automated brokerage, which in theory removes the human broker who can prioritize loads based on criteria other than timing and fit, an attractive proposition. But what will happen if the driver shortage subsides and shippers have more choices?
Having a captive audience of farms enmeshed with a brand could be an advantage. Indigo Agriculture already provides a nearly end-to-end service for growers, selling its own seeds and agricultural inputs. Its platform also offers farmers with idle trucks an extra income stream, since growers with appropriate vehicles and licensure can join the platform as carriers too.
Automated brokerages are particularly suited to agricultural loads, especially for crops meant to be consumed (think apples or cherries), since the harvest to consumption window is often a matter of weeks.
In the near-term though, the make or break factor is getting enough carriers on the platform to match the loads. Since Transport isn't Indigo's core business, it may be more concerned with providing a holistic service to existing customers rather than grabbing all the freight it can. Still, the Indigo website encourages shippers with other loads to give them a call.
Follow Emma Cosgrove on Twitter