Lawyer turned agritech start-up founder revolutionising Aussie agriculture

Emma Weston is co-founder and CEO of AgriDigital, a global leader in software platforms transforming the way supply chain risk is managed from the farm gate to plate, technology poised to revolutionise the worldwide agricultural industry. In 2016, AgriDigital became the first agtech company to demonstrate at Finovate Fall, the world’s leading fintech conference.

In this week’s Success Story, Emma chats about the experience of building and selling a successful business and then returning to market with a new startup. She shares her best productivity hacks and explains why the technology her company is developing could revolutionise the biggest industry on earth.


Starting her career as a solicitor, it quickly became clear that Emma was destined for other things.

“I realised I didn’t have the commitment to the law that was required to put in the hours, the passion for solving customers problems in this particular way that was required to go on and be successful as a partner in a law firm,” recalls Emma.

Around the time she was admitted to practice in 1998, she received the fortuitous call from the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) asking if she’d be interested in an in-house legal role.

“That seemed like a perfect composite to me. I moved across as a junior lawyer at a really interesting time for the Australian Wheat Board and that was my entree into agriculture and agri business.”

She didn’t look back, spending 3 years in the legal team with AWB and going on to do an MBA. In 2006, at 30, an age where her peers were mostly buying homes and financing cars, Emma bought into Agfarm, which was at the time a grain acquisition agent for AWB.

Itching to apply her newly minted MBA knowledge to the business, together with CEO Bob McKay, also Emma’s partner, the vision was to expand Agfarm into Australia’s first national grain broker. The timing couldn’t have been better.

“I bought in right around the time of industry deregulation. So, there was suddenly this wealth of opportunity that was going to come into the market that I was very confident I could exploit, along with Bob and our team.”

Despite 2 hard years of devastating drought, Agfarm flourished. Emma and Bob exited the business in 2013, selling to the largest grower co-operative in the US.

With an unquenched desire to solve agricultural problems, Emma and Bob founded AgriDigital in 2015. AgriDigital is a leading global software platform capable of transparently tracking the progress of agricultural produce from the time it leaves the farm gate until it reaches the ultimate consumer, managing financial transactions and mitigating risk for all parties along the supply chain – including buyers, traders, logistic suppliers, storage suppliers, wholesalers.

“Thinking about how you get from supply chain (linear supply chains) to value chains is all around being able to have access to data and having a view to the underlying commodities so you can de-risk the chain at any point in time. So that’s really the mission that we’re on,” explains Emma.

With over 40% of the world’s population working in agriculture, it’s the largest employer by sector in the world. Technology like AgriDigital’s has the potential to revolutionise the global agricultural industry.

To effectively juggle the demands of being a CEO, a busy family life and multiple coaching and mentoring requests, Emma is a fan of the distraction busting, productivity maximising Pomodoro Technique when it comes to managing her time.

She assigns herself a task, flicks the timer on her phone and focuses on that one task until the time is up.

“That tends to make me realise how much time I spend in meetings, how much time I spend on email and how much time I don’t necessarily spend doing the tasks that are winning tasks for the day.”

Her recent change to no longer responding to voicemail has allowed Emma to wrangle back 1 – 2 hours a day she once spent responding to voicemail messages.

“I’ve asked people to email me, so I get the fundamentals of what they’re after and I can actually get on to being productive in my response straight away, rather than playing phone tag or lacking the information required to really help,” says Emma.

She is keenly aware of the challenges to productivity and recommends adopting a positive, growth outlook, as recommended in Carol Dweck’s book Mindset. She also found the book Getting To 50 / 50 – How Working Couples Can Have It All By Sharing It All by Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober instrumental in crafting an effective professional and home life.

Resources recommended:

PomodoroTechnique: https://www.amazon.com/Pomodoro-Technique-Francesco-Cirillo/dp/3981567900/

Mindset –  Carol Dweck: https://mindsetonline.com/abouttheauthor/index.html

Getting to 50 / 50 – How Working Couples Can Have It All By Sharing It All – Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober: http://www.gettingto5050.com/bios.htm