We spoke to Alex Sparkes, founder of farmz.com.au, who’s proving that social networks aren’t just for teenagers and city dwellers. Farmz.com.au has successfully built an online community of agricultural entities across Australia, sharing information and forming relationships. Below Alex has given us some insight into how the site came about!
Can you tell us the motivation behind Farmz.com.au and how the concept came about?
I launched Farmz.com.au in July 2012 with the aim of giving Australian farmers the ability to connect with other farmers around Australia. The idea was that members of the agriculture industry could collaborate on ideas, ask and answer questions, solve every day problems, share and discover farm information, post updates and photos and develop new personal and professional relationships through an established network.
The motivation behind the site came when I returned to my farm in Central Queensland after finishing my Bachelor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Sydney, Orange. In my Uni days I developed a lot of friendships with individuals from a vast range of agriculture backgrounds and spread out right across Australia. It occurred to me that it was now extremely difficult to know what they were experiencing on their land, what I could learn from their experiences and what it was like to be in their shoes on a day-to-day basis.
It was around this time that social media was becoming a powerful force around the world, giving people an easy to use central place online to connect with all those who made up their personal and professional lives (past and present) and share what they loved, what they were interested in and what they were doing! It became clear to me that there is no reason the same principles couldn’t apply on a niche basis, specifically in the farming industry. As a result, Farmz was created as the first social network dedicated to the farming community in Australia.
How large is the community on Farmz.com.au and how quickly did it grow?
We received a great take-up rate almost immediately, signing up over 120 farms in the first few days. We now have over 600 farms registered on the site from around Australia. When you combine information and input from 600 farms that is quite an enormous resource of information. More importantly, it is a resource that farmers were previously unable to tap into. We can also imagine that it has helped develop a number of personal and professional relationships, creating new opportunities for the agriculture industry.
Some members of the farming community appear to be reluctant to engage with digital technologies and social media, what kind of energy is required to join Farmz?
When visiting the site, farmers are prompted to create a profile regarding their farm/enterprise and are encouraged to share as much or as little information as they feel comfortable with. Once sign up is complete you can instantly start connecting with farmers you already know and those that you don’t but would be interested in meeting. Sign up is free and will always be free, we’re here to work in the interests of the agricultural community.
Through my passion for both life on the land and building successful online businesses, I’m strong believer in the ability of technology to enhance the way rural and regional Australian’s live their farming lives and with that in mind I hope that Farmz provides farmers with a rich and relevant social experience.