Lachlan GrahamArgyle Foods Group
The Argyle Foods Group had its beginnings as a historical Angus stud, established in 1938 by the Graham family on the South West Slopes of New South Wales. Today, it has grown to become one of the country’s most trusted beef and mixed farming operators. Now, the fifth generation of Graham farmers is building an enterprise for the future.
Using farm data to build trust through the value chain
In his time in the livestock industry, Lachlan Graham has seen the growing importance of corporate responsibility and increasing interest in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors to both investors and consumers. While some companies consider this a burden, Lachlan sees it as an opportunity to tell the fantastic story of Australian livestock producers.
Argyle is part of a collaboration with KPMG and MLA in the KPMG Origins – Trusted Beef Traceability project. KPMG Origins is a track and trace platform that uses blockchain technology and is backed by trusted and verified data. It helps farmers bolster product value and strengthen their brand.
This initiative has been made possible thanks to Argyle’s adoption of AgriWebb and its Individual Animal Management feature. Information recorded through AgriWebb is automatically fed into the Origins platform. Down the value chain, that information can validate product claims and underpin the premium quality status for Australian beef. In supermarkets, customers will be able to scan product codes to learn the paddock-to-plate story of the meat they are buying.
Adding scientific rigour to sustainable farming
Lachlan is also looking to bring in hard data to support his sustainable farming practices. Argyle Foods Group has entered into a three-year co-innovation strategic partnership project with MLA, and brought on a carbon and ESG innovation manager to join the team.
“We want to use livestock as a solution. We want to use intelligent grazing processes, by actually measuring pasture growth rate and soil organic matter, and show how we incorporate atmospheric carbon and reduce our carbon footprint by using data-driven strategies across our entire supply chain.”
“The tech and the data we have with KPMG and AgriWebb allows us to get some meaningful data around our carbon position,” Lachlan explains. “We can show how, with increased productivity, we actually have a net benefit to the environment we operate in.”
The concern of investors around ESG factors is driving growing interest in regenerative farming and its potential to increase soil carbon. Again, Lachlan sees the positives in the situation.
“We’ve probably been doing regenerative ag practices without calling it that for 30 years. It’s all those things: minimum till, how we graze our land, using perennial pasture and legumes, the different crops we plant and the rotational cycles we use,” he says.
“A lot of farmers out there probably don’t understand the benefits. People thought carbon farming was locking up good quality land and letting it turn into a feral animal issue.”
A clear view of the farm, from afar
In the short term, AgriWebb is already providing greater oversight to the Argyle Foods Group. There are a lot of moving parts to the company – under the leadership of Lachlan and his brother and co-CEO, Bryce, the operation has expanded into international markets, including China, the Middle East and the USA.
On the ground, in Australia, they run a stud Angus herd, a commercial Angus breeding herd, a livestock trading division, and a lamb trading business, with sheep raised for wool.
As well as the family farming operation that started it all, there is leased country and several agistment properties. “When you look at our AgriWebb map, we’ve got properties from Queensland to just about an hour north of Melbourne,” Lachlan Graham says.
With livestock across the east coast and investors across the globe, AgriWebb livestock business management software makes it simple for stakeholders to stay informed and up to date.
“Our CFO is based in Edinburgh, and my brother and co-CEO is based in Hong Kong,” Lachlan says. “They all have an account and can log in and see what’s happening. If my brother’s meeting shareholders or potential investors, he can just pull it up on his phone in real time and show the data.”
Lachlan finds the map-based interface particularly impressive. “Having that at your fingertips in real-time is a massive benefit for shareholders and incoming investors or financiers. It’s user friendly and presents really well. We can zoom in and show, ‘These are all the livestock; and this is where they are.’ The ability to have that quality data and that visibility is just so important.”
He also loves being able to see what’s happening on the farm, without having to chase up his farm manager. “I don’t have to actually ask – I can go in and see where our mobs are, and see their weights, and see if a load is ready to go out,” he says.
Meeting the needs of a changing market
On his properties, Lachlan is focused on verification programs that open markets and bring in a premium. He raises cattle in a grass-fed program that’s independently audited and USDA approved. His product can be marketed in America as 100% hormone-free, 100% antibiotic-free, 100% GMO-free, and never confined to a feedlot.
He is GAP certified and Certified Humane, and has developed a natural grain-fed program that’s important for US retail chain Whole Foods, where people want the colour and the texture of grain-fed beef in a naturally fed product.
While the KPMG Origins program assures transparency through the supply chain, from paddock to plate, AgriWebb has been a valuable tool for streamlining what can be a potentially onerous and stressful audit process.
Lachlan believes using data smartly, and embracing technology in general, is central to success in the farming landscape. “Anyone not using tech will get left behind. They’ll miss out on opportunities, and they won’t be able to have a lower cost of capital. They won’t be able to expand and maximise productivity as they graze and operate the land with a sustainability focus,” he says. “We’ve got a massive story to tell. The programs we have put us in a position to validate, verify, and then market ourselves as an ESG-focused company.”
“It’s all about having good data. And it’s the way forward for our business in terms of reporting, but also in terms of growth capital and profitability.” He has a warning for those who would rather ignore the winds of change: “If you haven’t got an ESG focus and you’re within this industry – particularly if you are an integrated business like us – then you’re going to be quickly left behind in the years to come.”
If you’d like to find out if AgriWebb is a good fit for your operation, try our free interactive demo today.