Remote Access

Can a modern Australian business really succeed if it's headquartered in a regional or remote area? (First published in the Virgin Australia In-Flight Voyeur Magazine Sept 2018)

Since 1984, Toowoomba-based firm AGDATA has been designing farm management software.

Today, it has more than 22,000 licensed users. Managing director Glenn Skerman explains what has helped the business thrive.

Tell us about the company’s beginnings. Were many farmers using computers in 1984?

AGDATA was started by accident almost. My father, Lance Skerman, was a farmer in Queensland and wanted to have a better grasp of the financials on the farm. He had been reading about personal computers and decided to ask a graduate to write a cashbook program for him. Once friends and neighbours heard about it, that was when the business started.

What are the advantages of being based in Toowoomba?

Here, we have all the facilities without any traffic or congestion. If we need to get to Brisbane or Sydney it’s just a short drive or flight. We feel more connected with our customer base than we would if we were based in one of the major cities. Our support staff come from rural backgrounds and can offer empathy when talking to customers, especially during the tough times. Also, because Toowoomba is a regional hub for education, a lot of our customers come in from further out west to pick up or drop off their children at boarding school. While they’re in town, they’ll visit us for a catch up.

What might city dwellers not realise about Australia’s farmers?

They often underestimate how technologically advanced farmers are. Modern farming equipment has an amazing amount of in-built technology. Sometimes farmers go to extreme lengths just to get services that city dwellers take for granted: for example, we have a client who erected a 53-metre- high tower to be able to access decent internet which he needs to support his farming operations.

Dan F Stapleton