FOA 204: What Does it Take to Build a Platform?

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Kellee James joins us today to discuss what it takes to build a platform as co-founder and CEO of Mercaris, a market information service and online trading platform for identity preserved agricultural commodities.

“We’re a market data and information service. We are also an online trading platform but we have chosen to focus on a specific part of the ag supply chain, and that is identity preserved ag commodities.” - Kellee James

Mercaris provides price discovery while allowing customers a procurement tool within a very specific field in agriculture through trades and auctions. Only 15% of their revenue is derived from trading fees. Most of their revenue comes from the sale of data. There is very limited tracking in imports and exports with these specific commodities so creating a data marketplace creates real advantage for their customers as well as a way to connect with vendors who may be interested in their products.

“You’ve got to establish yourself as the marketplace. So getting out ahead of others that are trying to do the same thing, I think is important.” - Kellee James

Kellee didn’t grow up on a farm. Her family is originally from New York but she fell in love with agriculture and pursued that industry in college. She found an opportunity when she learned that farmers could sell credits based on environmentally friendly practices.

“I was hooked. It was a way to provide real dollars in the pockets of producers who were undertaking something that had an environmental benefit. I liked the appeal of using a market mechanism to put a price and a value on something that we all need in society.” - Kellee James

Kellee highlights that the goal in these marketplaces is not to spend the most money to reduce emissions. The measure of success is to create an environment of supply and demand so that the “market finds the lowest cost reductions.” But how do we get so many different sectors on board and what incentivizes them to carry through with their promises?

“It’s a tough problem for humanity because it does require collective action and last time I looked, collective action is still best accomplished by the federal government.” - Kellee James

This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:

  • Meet Kellee James, CEO and co-founder of Mercaris
  • Explore what the Mercaris platform looks like and what it means for its customers
  • Learn about the structure behind commodity markets and what it takes to create one

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242 episodes