Farmers helping fire-affected farmers

Amidst the devastating stories of loss and heartache during a natural disaster, stories of mateship and camaraderie often emerge through the smoke and haze. One such story is of new project using agricultural technology to connect farmers with fire-affected farmers to give them the help they need.

Australia’s farming community is showing its solidarity in the face of the current fire season by using technology to connect with each other.

Farm management software company AgriWebb recently launched ‘The AgriWebb Community – Helping Hand Project’ to help fire-affected farmers get the help they need.

AgriWebb is typically a farm-management app that enables livestock farmers to digitise their records (such as movements, treatments, and weights) to improve their decision-making ability. However, in the face of the current fire crisis, AgriWebb Co-founder, John Fargher and the AgriWebb team were keen to contribute to the recovery. After receiving a number of offers from the AgriWebb community, Mr Fargher realised AgriWebb was well placed to make a difference.

“While Australians have been shocked by the scale of destruction caused by the current bushfires, the true horror awaits many farmers on their return home,” he said. 

“Buildings have been destroyed, crops lost, and livestock has perished. There are fears up to 100,000 livestock could be lost. The figures are almost too great to grasp.”

“We know there are people out there who want to lend a hand so we decided we could drive a community project to help connect these people with those who need help,” Mr Fargher said. 

The AgriWebb Community – Helping Hand Project aims to connect farmers needing assistance with farmers willing to help, and they do not have to be AgriWebb customers or users. Farmers can register at www.agriwebb.com/helping-hand-project to assist other farmers, while those affected by bushfires can also register for help – whether they need labour, agistment, feed or machinery.

“From there, our team will match up those who can help with those who need help,” Mr Fargher said. 

James Houston, a cattle farmer in Burrowye, Victoria, has experienced loss from fires first hand.

“We have had 11,000 out of 14,000 acres of grassland burnt and we have 4,500 cattle to feed with 100-200 head lost [bushfire related],” Mr Houston said.

“We need fodder, feed, agistment and also need a mobile mechanic workshop for machinery maintenance of the vehicles that are working in the smoke all day. Currently, we have homes for three B-doubles of cattle but need 37 more. We might have a home for 20 B-doubles and will know in the next 48 hours. We will keep the weaners, heifers and first calvers on farm so there’s a need for fodder. Trucks aren’t being let in with petrol for generators to run houses/pumps/machinery and we will be out of power for the next two to three months,” he said.

AgriWebb’s Mr Fargher said, “I hope the wider farming community gets on board. Nobody understands the needs of farmers like farmers. They have the equipment, supplies and know-how to make a difference, and quickly.”

Mr Fargher knows the personal impact all too well, having heard the stories firsthand from customers, as well as his father-in-law’s property being hit by the Kangaroo Island fires.

“There are people who have lost everything,” he said. 

Since 2014, AgriWebb has built a community of 3,500+ farmers. According to the company, as of January 8, 167 AgriWebb users had farms under threat of fire, with some 409,000 livestock at risk and more than 200,000 hectares burned. Those numbers are expected to rise.

In addition to the Helping Hand Project, AgriWebb has previously helped a number of farmers suffering through drought to find assistance via its AgriWebb Community Facebook Group, with AgriWebb Co-Founder and Chairman Justin Webb recently providing agistment of 220 livestock for a severely drought-affected customer in New South Wales, onto their family farm in Victoria. 

AgriWebb is also helping users get the financial assistance they are entitled to and is building a measurement tool so farmers can calculate the loss in fence infrastructure for insurance claims. 

“The idea came from one of our customers on Kangaroo Island who lost every fence line on his farm and rang up to ask how we could help. We want to clear any hurdles farmers face in an already tough time. This simple tool will save our customer hours of time in calculating the losses” Mr Fargher said.

For people who are not farmers but still want to help, AgriWebb encourages a donation to Burrumbottock Hay Runners. 

“Before the fires even started, they were doing a great job delivering hay to get farmers through the drought,” Mr Fargher said. 

“Now, their work is more important than ever.”