New app gives grain farmers an edge to hedge

After working in the agricultural trading business as an option writer, Andries D’Alebout found that grain farmers had limited options when making hedging decisions because of delayed and limited access to Safex market updates. Having graduated from the University of the North West with a Master’s degree in Mathematics, D’Alebout used his expertise and experience in grain trading to develop the Dalevest app which is transforming market reporting in the industry.

Combining his love for mathematics and agriculture, former option writer Andries D’Alebout, founded a mobile application to provide grain farmers with real time Safex market updates.

Andries d'Albeout

MATHEMATICAL GENIUS: Founder of Dalevest, Andries d’Alebout combined his love for mathematics and farming to create an app that delivers market updates to grain farmers in real time. Photo: Provided

The delay in communicating market data to farmers prompted D’Alebout, ‘Zuckerberg’ of agriculture service provider Dalevest, and his team of six to develop the application. Having grown up on a farm he noticed how his father’s decision making was impacted by the limited market information available. “I started this without knowing if it would go anywhere besides helping my father a little bit,” D’Alebout told Finweek.

The free application is a first-ever for the industry in South Africa. It has grown “exponentially” through word of mouth and social media, boasting with 2500 users across the country since its launch at the beginning of the year.

The application serves as an “information hub” providing grain farmers with JSE prices for maize, beans, sunflower and wheat. Two daily reports are released at 8am and after 12pm, when the market closes. Graphs and information about commodities, with technical analysis are also provided.  A chat function is available for grain farmers to engage with each other, ask questions and share information, explains D’Alebout.

Dalevest also offers a grain trading platform. Farmers can send information about their grain which is sent to about 14 trading houses partnered with Dalevest. The farmer is then partnered up with the trading house that offers the best price for their grain. “We are sort of a connection hub too,” says D’Alebout.

I started this without knowing if it would go anywhere besides helping my father a little bit.

The market information is sourced from an in-house Reuters terminal, different companies in the US and the Chicago Board of Trade, says D’Alebout.  A lot of the information is also supplied from local farmers, making the market more transparent and accessible for stakeholders.

Programming for the application started over a year ago, but the development process is continuous. Following the Facebook model, D’Alebout says updates are introduced every month and a new feature, a profit monitoring tool, is being built. One of the recent technical issues was dealing with the large volumes of users, especially during 9am and 12pm when 1500 users access the application to check prices, he says. It took a month’s worth of programming to iron out.

So far Dalevest has received positive feedback from users. “The process in which they [farmers] make decisions has changed drastically,” says D’Alebout. Although many farmers aren’t open to working with technology, D’Alebout says Dalevest’s presence on social media has connected them directly with farmers already using technology.

The application is freely available for download from Apple IOS and Google Play Store for Android. Currently, most of the revenue is generated from advertising, says D’Alebout. Businesses have approached Dalevest to partner and incorporate ideas and products with the application.

Dalevest will be hosting the Grain Farmer of the Year competition, which will be launched on 1 October 2015. By incorporating the application, the farmer with the best yield and the Safex price the grain was hedged by will be awarded the winning prize of R500 000 in August 2016, and will receive a R500 000 prize.

By making the market more transparent to farmers, D’Alebout plans for Dalevest to be the “number one” information hub and communication channel for farmers. “I started this company with the idea in mind to help the farmers in South Africa… We definitely want to be a big force in the South African agricultural market,” he says.

this article was featured in Finweek magazine.

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