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Going Digital

Australia’s fastest growing agricultural businesses, Stahmann Farm Enterprises, is a $50 million nut-trading business with its farm roots firmly embedded in the rich soils of northern NSW’s Gwydir Valley near Moree.

With 50 per cent of nuts being exported to China, Stahmann Farms recognised a huge opportunity to capture the Chinese market online. Creating an ecommerce website with the integration of a shop, we wanted to find out just how effective this platform is for the Stahmann Farms business.

Interview with Director, Matthew Durack.

Tell me what you/your business currently does in regards to digital or online marketing?

We have the full suite of Online Promotional Tools

Website – with:

  • Static information regarding us and our products and services
  • Supplier Portal to provide up to date grower information relating to deliveries/quality on receipt/ pricing and payment information
  • Fairly regularly updated News Sections and information of interest

Facebook Page – Called iLOVEPECANS

  • This was used actively a few years ago when we were using this as our main pecan promotional tool – now it is just to provide semi regular updates on happenings in the business

Twitter Account –to keep the word out there

We support some Bloggers to keep the story alive

We will be undertaking a more active online promotional program in China to support our Online Store there – as yet this has not been fully scoped out

How has the digital landscape changed the way you do business, particularly within the international markets?

The opening of our Online Store in China completely changes our export marketing opportunities. Prior to this we either shipped bulk product to traders in each market who then on sold it to processors who then on sold it to rebaggers who then on sold it to wholesalers who then on sold it to retailers who then on sold it to consumers !!!!! Now we sell directly to end users.

Stahmann Farms and Agri Creative

What was your process for transitioning to an online market? and when did you realise you needed to exercise these opportunities?

We had been involved in online marketing in Australia some years ago so understood the pros and cons of the system. We stopped in Australia because we could not extract sufficient margin from the channel to offset the transport/delivery costs. In China the complex distribution system into stores meant that online actually provided a more efficient supply chain than traditional marketing systems. Our first foray into the market was to begin selling product to Chinese Resident Online Traders – this gave us an understanding of the market and how it worked. We then recognised that our Unique Position would be to provide products purchased in Australia by “Mrs Jones” in an Australian supermarket directly to “Mrs Wu” via the online channel.

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What other agricultural businesses do you think could benefit from a similar approach?

Agricultural businesses with a domestic retail presence could all take the step directly into Online Export Marketing – without a domestic retail presence though it would be difficult. You need to have a strong focus on Retail Consumers and a history of delivering exactly what they want – It is best to have this experience close to home before trying it overseas.

I can see you have adopted a strong B2C approach with your Chinese markets, do you see value in developing stronger B2C relationships in the Australian markets for your product? If not, why not?

As noted above we did this some years ago and stopped because of the cost of delivery. We are now considering re-entering this space though as the efficiency of online service delivery has improved dramatically – and the cost of operating an eCommerce site in Australia is much lower.

In terms of digital, where do you see Agriculture in the future?

The big opportunity for Agriculture in the Digital World is re-establish the connection between Consumers and their Food – Supermarkets have divorced consumers from where their food comes from and there is now a real backlash against this – people want to know where and from whom their food comes from – We now have a real capacity to recreate this connection. Farmers Markets have been extremely successful in the US and Europe for this reason – I don’t think the geography of Australia suits this approach as well but do think that consumers are crying out for a “Virtual Farmers Market” where they get the convenience of supermarket shopping but with a personal relationship with “The Farmer”. Our challenge as farmers is to provide this linkage without it getting in the way of our Day Job – which is to actually grow food – not spend half our day blogging about it on the internet – hence the need for smart professionals who can do this for us.

View the online shop

View the website

Read more: Partners going nuts about the fortunes of pecan –  The Australian