By the time Map of Ag CEO Richard Vecqueray embarked on his MBA at London Business School in 2016, the digital economy had become a dominant force in almost every sphere of global business. Importantly, agriculture, his own business community, was the one remaining sector still offering untapped opportunity.
“There is so much innovation going on in the digital economy, with dominant players in each sector, companies such as Airbnb, Avant, Netflix, Amazon and Uber transforming business in hospitality, fintech, entertainment, retail, and transportation,” says Richard.
“Agriculture is an extremely diverse and complex industry, with an awful lot of opportunity for those seeking to marry it up with the digital economy. It is relatively, however, still an unexploited field.”
Richard, who qualified as a veterinarian in 1995, readily acknowledges that he was one of the oldest in his MBA cohort – “It was fun and inspiring watching my fellow MBA students studying, growing their businesses while starting families. I was sort of, ‘oh, yeah, I remember that’”. Making his own foray into running a business in 2005, Richard established his first company in the proverbial “garden shed” where he set up Evidence Group, a specialist veterinary consultancy, helping to develop profitable and sustainable agricultural supply chains.
Growing the business to a respectable £1.5m turnover, Richard realised that he was a “vet turned businessman” who needed to acquire the language and confidence to attract investors to continue and increase that growth.
“I consider my MBA is a kind of language course. LBS gave me the confidence to engage with the financial community, and with other businesses, while also developing the understanding to develop a strategic plan and attract some serious capital.”
It was during this time that he began his journey to running his latest business venture, Map of Ag, a global pioneer in agricultural data connection, analysis, and modelling technology.
With its offices in the UK, Argentina and New Zealand, and plans to expand into the Australian and North American markets, the company provides connection, through farm data, to what is happening in farming supply chains every day. This insight enables agri-food businesses, such as retailers, to maximise the impact of their planning and decision-making to support change in their farm suppliers be that on animal welfare or the environment.
“From an environmental perspective, more and more farmers have begun to realise that they are part of the solution by achieving greater efficiencies while adopting more sustainable practices,” says Richard who sees farms and farming changing dramatically over the coming 20 years.
“I see Map of Ag’s role, through permissioned farm-specific data, to be quantifying sustainability metrics on an ongoing basis so the agri-food industry can support their farming suppliers implement precision farming and appropriate land use change.”
With regard to his plans for Map of Ag, Richard is presently working through a 10-year strategy, which will maintain the 40 to 50% a year growth. Not only are his plans for growth confident and well established – he intends to enter the North American market by 2024 – he is resilient in the face of Covid-19 and changes brought about by Brexit.
“Brexit, the pandemic, global warming – when asked by an investor what my reaction to all of this was, I had to say that this joining together of issues is proving to be a net positive on a commercial basis for us, we can help our clients meet those challenges. Take for example farm assessments, a procedure which would normally see an assessor visit a farm in person, this can now be conducted using digital technology quite remotely. We have been able to help UK food supply chains ensure that farms are compliant without the need of a person to be on-site.”
Since completing his MBA in 2017, Richard has already seen a dramatic change in his industry. The powerful combination of business and agricultural domain knowledge, combined with digital technology will continue to be his spur for growth – as well, of course, as having the ‘language’ to communicate the business planning strategy for what promises to be an exciting future.
About the Author: Christopher Moseley is a Senior PR and Public Affairs Manager at London Business School. He has previously worked across a wide range of sectors, including in-house PR roles in telecoms/IT, defence and aerospace. He also worked for the agency, Weber Shandwick, promoting new technology business start-ups.