​​AGSM graduate Emma Weston’s FinTech start-up ‘Full Profile’ has won the Westpac BlockHack 16, with an innovative financial management solution for agribusiness.

An in-house counsel role at the former Australian Wheat Board led to an interest in agribusiness, and took the career of Emma Weston (MBA 2005), co-founder of Full Profile, in a whole new direction.

Armed with an AGSM MBA and a desire to improve the world of agribusiness, Emma made the transition from the courtroom to the digital marketplace and the fast-paced world of Blockchain.

A passionate exponent of how technology and agriculture can and must meet, Emma spoke to us about her win at Westpac Blockhack16, and how Blockchain can be applied to ensure a stronger economic future for farming communities.

You have had an interesting career journey, from private practice law, to founding an innovative agribusiness start up. Tell us a bit about your journey so far.

After working in private practice law, I moved to an in-house role with the former Australian Wheat Board. This started my career in agribusiness and I have never looked back from there.

In 2005 I attended AGSM as a full-time MBA student, which was a turning point in my career. It really broadened my thinking; expanded my networks and enabled my entrepreneurial thinking.

After my MBA I joined grain broker Agfarm as a Director and Shareholder, and with the rest of that team went on the extraordinary journey of taking a small business to a national level, eventually selling that business to a listed Australian agribusiness and a large US grower cooperative.

In some ways doing my AGSM MBA enabled me to leave the traditional management career stream. Since then I have been directly involved with 6 start-ups and have mentored and advised a number of others. I draw on my MBA all the time at work and have a toolkit that I use and add to that dates from my business school days. But the most important and enduring gift was the friends I made during my studies who became friends and supporters for life.

In October 2015, my two co-founders and I established Full Profile, which provides commodity management software and innovative financial solutions to agribusiness. I lead our commodity software solutions division and my main focus is building agri-blockchains. We are currently developing a commercial pilot program for the Australian grain industry and aim to pilot Blockchain, or shared ledger technology, with a bank and grain buyer this coming harvest.

In a nutshell, what is Blockchain Technology?

Blockchain is a new technology that records all transactions for an asset in a ledger shared across multiple locations and where each transaction is verified by the parties that share the ledger.

Each record is a ‘block’ which is chained on to the previous and subsequent blocks thereby creating an immutable historical record, a single source of truth.

Once a ‘block’ is validated, the ledger can be updated in seconds and all changes are replicated so all participants have an accurate record of an asset’s position, the transactions relating to that asset and the chain of title.

The commercial implications and applications are exciting and very real.

How did you become interested in Blockchain?

I was working with my team on the problem of how to solve the credit risk that farmers are exposed to by buyers in the current environment.

It is a problem that has plagued the industry for a long time. I always thought regulation would be the eventual solution but with Blockchain there is an ability to converge the legal, physical and data record position of an asset in a new way that enables real-time payment on title transfer and equally open up innovative solutions to other industry issues, such as proving provenance and guaranteeing quality from supplier to consumer (paddock to plate).

I am now absolutely fascinated by Blockchain as a technology and as an approach to problem-solving.

I am a really curious person and love learning new things; so Blockchain is perfect fodder for me.

You were a member of the winning team in Westpac BlockHack 16. Tell us about the event and the experience.

Westpac are genuinely interested in how Blockchain is going to change the way we do business and they encouraged us to participate in this event. We put together a diverse team from our own company Full Profile as well as key contributors from our broader networks and even one of our grower customers.

This helped us avoid group-think and really tease out and test our ideas. We deliberately used the hackathon experience, which naturally imposes constraints in terms of time, technology and resources, as a way of diving into the problem of growers not being paid for what they deliver when they deliver.

When pitching our solution, we had to take the judges and audience on a journey with us to understand the problem, its scale and importantly why Blockchain was the best solution.

We had access to amazing technical coaches and subject matter experts to help us craft our solution and validate it as we iterated.

I relished the opportunity to share our story with others and to come away with the win was the icing on the cake.

What are the next steps for you and Full Profile?

Next steps for us are attending Finovate Fall in New York (our prize) and to get our commercial agri-blockchain pilots off the ground in time for harvest this year.