By HARRY CLARKE
FROM dozens of entries by Australia’s most innovative start-ups and entrepreneurs in agriculture, the data crunching gurus from Black Box Co have been crowned winners of the prestigious Pitch in the Paddock competition at BEEF2021.
Black Box Co is only 12 months old but is already fast becoming the go-to service for speedy analysis of mass data from across the cattle supply chain.
The product is a software interface that can quickly inform everyone from mum-and-dad producers to large corporate beef suppliers on how they could tweak their operations for better efficiency and profitability.
In a sign of the huge industry interest quickly generated by Black Box Co, CEO Shannon Speight customers started using their service at a “scarily early stage”.
A recent investment round that aimed to raise $1 million ultimately raised $1.5 million, all from Australian investors from within the beef industry.
Ms Speight and fellow co-founder Emma Black were pitted against eight other finalists for Pitch in the Paddock, who all delivered a pitch to an expert judging panel in competition for $10,000 in prize money from sponsor evokeAG.
There were developers of a blockchain transaction software for livestock, a smartphone app that helps to manage cattle trucking transport, and even a nifty scalpel attachment hailed as the world’s safest blade for cutting calves.
Judges were David Halpern, Sales Strategy and Operations Lead, from Microsoft, Bevan Slattery, founder of SUB.CO, Cloudscene, Superloop, Megaport, NEXTDC and Co-Founder PIPENetworks, Alex McCauley, CEO of StartupAUS, Luke Chandler, managing director of John Deere Australia & New Zealand, and Bruce Creek, agricultural business management from Thomas Elder Consulting.
Ms Speight said the team was thrilled to be declared the winner of the $10,000 prize.
“It feels absolutely fantastic. We were up against stiff competition and judging panel that was world class for ag-tech,” Ms Speight said.
“We have the possibility of making a big impact in the industry. There’s a lot of data out there that’s just sitting there, and that’s why we created this product.
“We worked with industry from the start and that’s been paramount to our success and our growth.
“We’ve all put in a lot of hours before and during the (BEEF21) week and I’m sure there’ll be a lot of long hours to come, but it’s been a fantastic opportunity to showcase our product.
“We plan on spending our 10,000 bucks on bringing our team together. We’re a remote team based across regional Australia and within some of the capital cities.
“So bringing everyone together for the first time, we’ll get to see each together, celebrate, and put our minds forward and sort out a strategy and roll out some more stuff.”
COO Emma Black added: “We’ve been very fortunate to win a lot of awards this year and I think that really highlights the need for our product in the industry. We saw an issue and decided that someone has to do something about it.
“It’s an easy, simple to use product that can generate so much value for the entire industry.
“We pool together data. We don’t just summarise it, we analyse it and link different pieces of that information together from along the supply chain.
“Some key examples of that are identifying calf loss or shifts in trends over time in a business. We look at historical data and current data. Producers can easily see the discounts and where they’ve fallen out of prime, and link that back to on-farm management.
“They can look at how they manage their cattle and optimise.”