It was Christmas Eve 2017 that Will Bruce first landed in Australia, and his visit didn’t exactly get off to a great start. The cricket-loving Englishman had timed his stay to coincide with the Boxing Day Ashes Test at the MCG, and his team was struggling badly.
“My first interaction with an Australian was the guy at Melbourne passport control who just laughed at me and asked, ‘What are you doing here mate? You’ve already lost!’” Will recalls.
The bad luck didn’t last however, because later that year in Sydney, a meeting with AgriWebb co-founder Justin Webb led to a job offer. “Like all new opportunities, it was a bit of a gamble, but one I took based on the founders. In those three people, you have all the experience you could wish for in an early-stage startup,” Will says.
Will joined AgriWebb with his own diverse background of experiences to bring to the table. After completing a Bachelor of Science at university, he started his working career at PwC. There, he audited financial accounts for companies ranging from Premier League football clubs to global Jewellery brands before a shift to Transaction Services took him into retail & fast moving consumer goods.
“There was no better start. It was a great lesson in how you need to build relationships with people to ask the tough questions; all whilst getting a brilliant understanding of what drives business performance. You would arrive on a project with new team members, clients & partners and go through the operation from top to bottom,” he says.
He went on to take a job as Chief of Staff for Sage CEO Stephen Kelly. The role saw him travel the world, orchestrating meetings with C-suite members and managing Stephen’s communication with Sage customers, colleagues and investors. “It was a ringside seat to how you turn around a FTSE 50 business with millions of customers and thousands of colleagues. The central tenet was simple – no matter where we were in the world – it always came back to one thing only – delighting customers.” Will was promoted within the company to VP roles and led the deployment of SaaS-based models for Sage in eight countries. After all of this experience from a career that took him around the globe, only one big question stood before Will, could he sell software to farmers?
“I was a little petrified,” Will admits. “People in the industry told me you’ve got to be in ag, you’ve got to be a farmer, and you’ve got to be Australian: those are the key things. Here I was, a long way from home and with minimal farming knowledge.”
The enthusiasm Will felt for AgriWebb eclipsed any nerves he felt. He recognised the livestock enterprise management platform could transform an industry that had been overlooked for so long. “I saw there was immense value in our product. We just had to understand how to present that value and bring the industry on the journey.”
What often gets misunderstood is that you’re working with incredibly bright people in this industry. Producers have been through all sorts of adversity, and to survive, they’ve had to change and adapt at pace.
VP of Enterprise, AgriWebb
Discovering an industry ripe for change
Will recalls the early days at AgriWebb when the company was still in its infancy. “We went off to Western Australia, where it was a matter of heading down a farm driveway, putting up a banner in the shearing shed and waiting to see who turned up. I remember one old boy in the front row when I presented for the first time was asleep within five minutes.”
“At the time, we thought we would need to partner with a large Ag enterprise to change the level of technology adoption in the industry. What’s happened instead, is that we have had to take responsibility as the first-mover and drive that technology adoption ourselves in the livestock ecosystem.” Will says.
“What often gets misunderstood is that you’re working with incredibly bright people in this industry. Droughts, fires, floods, Brexit, Mad cow disease and now carbon emissions are all issues beyond comprehension. Producers have been through all sorts of adversity, and to survive, they’ve had to change and adapt at pace.”
Across Australia, then across the globe, Will has found livestock producers who are ready to adopt technology that will increase efficiency and productivity. Last year he visited a cattle station ten hours south of Darwin in the Northern Territory. “It was 5,000 square miles – that’s not far from being the size of Wales. 45 degrees, 80% humidity, and you’re standing out in the middle of the property, miles from anywhere and anything, but the sentiment is the same. Producers are desperate to innovate and go on the digital journey; they just want someone to do it with them.
Looking to the future
Now, Will’s AgriWebb journey is taking him back to London as VP of Enterprise Strategy. There, he wants to help ensure farmers are rewarded for the work they do. “One reason I joined AgriWebb in the first place was because the supply chain in this world is so unique, where a live animal goes through multiple stages and locations before ending up with the consumer” he says.
“Historically, there was no visibility into what’s performing and what’s not, where the efficiency gaps and opportunities are, and steps one could take to improve. Let alone, respond to changing demands and requests from the consumer”
“The UK market is the most progressive we have seen across all the geographies in that there is a trusted, collaborative relationship between Producer, Processor & Retailer where sharing data results in upsides for all concerned. As UK Retailers execute on their Net Zero strategies there is no better example of a rising tide lifting all boats throughout the supply chain. Most importantly it’s a win for farmers because, from AgriWebb’s inception, that’s what continues to drive us all”
“As we found with improving technology adoption for Producers, we need to take responsibility for taking these market leading concepts around the world to ensure the industry gets access to game-changing technology that will drive value and impact for all concerned.”
As he prepares to head home to the UK, Will reflects on how AgriWebb, the industry and his role in the company has evolved: “As AgriWebb brings on household names around the world that are industry leading in their drive for supply chain transparency, I have to pinch myself when I think this all started with me standing in a shearing shed in Western Australia.”
If you’d like to continue to follow Will’s journey at AgriWebb, you can do so via LinkedIn here.