What started as a solution for Farm At Hand co-founder Kim Keller’s family farm in Saskatchewan, Canada, has grown into a robust farm management tool for farmers everywhere. Farm At Hand brings you the best integrated cloud-based farm management platform that allows you to manage your entire operations from seed to sale, anywhere, anytime.
Kim Keller, co-founder at Farm at Hand, is a third generation Saskatchewan farmer. She lives on her phone; when it died on the farm one day, she was forced to use pen and paper. The world ended, but Farm At Hand was born. She can be found crop checking, talking farm and texting.
Himanshu Singh, Farm at Hand’s other co-founder, has made it his mission to become an honorary farmer. He was shocked to find the lack of mobile tech for agriculture, and has since been applying non-traditional business strategies to the ag industry. After his first ride in the combine, he traded in his pocket squares for work boots.
Q&A With Kim Keller and Himanshu Singh
When did you feel like Farm At Hand had traction?
The first time we knew Farm At Hand was something farmers needed was at AgDays, an agriculture trade show in Brandon, MB back in 2012. We were highlighted as one of the innovative companies in agriculture and quickly onboarded hundreds of users there. Through word of mouth and features on industry-specific media, we quickly grew to almost 5,000 farmers that year.
Fast forward to 2015: we came back to AgDays and received numerous requests from agribusiness to work together with them. The interests from these companies show us we’re on the right track and building something of value, both for farmers and companies that work with them.
How has your product evolved from MVP to now?
The biggest difference would be the UX and additional features. Farm At Hand version 1.0 was meant as an in-house solution for our co-founder’s farm. That said, we focused more on functionality, and UI/UX was not our biggest concern; however, as we talked to our users, we started changing the look and feel to better accommodate their needs (i.e., bigger fonts, colour scheme that accommodates outdoor use, etc.) as well as adding features they requested us to build.
The road to building a successful startup often comes with unforeseen obstacles and setbacks. What kinds of challenges have you faced, and how did you get past them?
We did a major system upgrade in April 2014. To say there were some hiccups in the process was an understatement. Our users have depended on Farm At Hand for running and managing their businesses; however, for a short period of time during one of the busiest times of the year, they couldn’t access our system. That spring, we failed our users.
We spent the better part of 2014 fixing issues that came up from the upgrade and trying to win our users back. There were plenty of lessons learned from that experience — the biggest takeaway was how customer service makes all the difference. We responded to all questions, emails, text messages and calls personally, and our users appreciated that — so much so that they decided to stay with us and provide us with incredibly valuable product feedback as we move forward.
Running a startup comes with highs and lows. How do you bounce back in tough times?
In tough times, it’s the users who motivate us the most. Our first spike of growth was purely word of mouth and we know every single one of these early adopters personally. These farmers, along with those we connected with after, provide us with the motivation to keep looking up and to work hard to give them the best farm management solutions.
Our product has become an integral part their operations. We can’t afford to let them down, and we don’t want to. It’s easier to bounce back when you know you’re truly helping those who feed the world do their jobs better.
You recently launched a farmer’s mental health campaign. Can you tell us more about what you’re doing, and why it matters to you?
The agriculture industry is facing a really big challenge: producing 70% more food in order to feed the world’s estimated 10 billion population by 2050. It’s not an easy task. Farmers from all corners of the Earth are doing their best to ensure we’ll have enough food on the table; however, most of us might not be aware that farming is a stressful occupation.
Newsweek reported that “farmers are a dying breed” and suicide rates among farmers are the highest compared to other professions. These facts inspired our #HereForFarmers campaign to raise funds and awareness for farmers’ mental health, and allow us to support those who provide us with our daily sustenance.