After two years of piloting in Iowa, FarmlandFinder will debut in 12 more Midwestern states this winter.
“We’ve been starting to branch out and build relationships with those people, and showing them early access. We’ve got people that are testing that software right now,” Founder and CEO Steven Brockshus said.
“The whole premise of FarmlandFinder is we want to make it ridiculously simple for people to find land that’s for sale, analyze the market, understand what the market’s doing and then acquire farmland properties,” Brockshus added.
FarmlandFinder tracks land sales on brokerage firm publications, “very similar to how Google indexes the internet,” Brockshus said.
“We’re pulling that from the professional communities as well as county assessor records, public records, we take all that data and information and map it with USDA records, soil maps and satellite imagery, crop history maps. We overlay everything geospatially so that you can quickly correlate all those data sets in the different variables.”
FarmlandFinder users can also see what land around the property is selling for, and past rent prices, and connects users with “prime agents,” brokers or agents in the region partnering with FarmlandFinder to serve users. The platform has a free service and Pro Tools for individuals tracking the land market daily.
“So we’re a connector of people to information, so they know what’s going on, and then we’re a connector of people to people – experts – so they can take action,” Brockshus said.
Observers of ag real estate are seeing a growing separation between landowners and producers, Brockshus said.
“Historically, a family or individual owned the land and they farmed that land,” Brockshus said. “Now we have Wall Street investing in land. In the last five years, there’s been three public [real estate investment trusts] that have IPO’d… We’re seeing this investment mindset come to land.”
“With that distance, there becomes a greater need for boots-on-the-ground information.”
Brockshus grew up on a dairy farm, and was at a land auction back home near Sibley with his father one summer when he realized how little individuals knew about the land they were bidding on.
“‘What do we know about this property?’ Well, it was in this person’s family for this many years. They didn’t know how it produced, what it’s production history was, if it was good quality or not,” Brockshus said. “There’s a lack of information around it … A lot of people are looking for solid information, to treat land as a solid investment.”
Brockshus interned with agtech startup AccuGrain while he was studying at Iowa State University, and started developing a personal list of truths he believed about the future of agriculture and the economy as a whole.
“Everything that can be software will be software. If something can be automated, it will be automated. Everything’s moving toward instant – whether that’s instant delivery, or access,” Brockshus said. “I grew up in ag and I love ag, I think people do incredible work in the world. How do I leverage some of those trends to be able to help a system?”
Brockshus saw more agtech startups focusing in on precision agriculture and hardware capabilities, so he turned to real estate. He founded Terva in May 2016, and changed the software’s name to FarmlandFinder in early 2018. Today, the company has nine employees.
In the future, Brockshus believes land transactions will be instant and more private between buyers and sellers, rather than the traditional, local land auction.
“I think we’re a long ways out from that, but step one is bringing it online and creating transparency now,” Brockshus said.