The multibillion-dollar cattle industry largely has been ignored by the digital revolution with ranch owners still loading their herds into trailers and hauling them to auctions to sell.
It’s also costly with fees that are attached to the sale.
Erik Cooper wants to create an online marketplace where ranchers can upload their herds for sale, saving time, money, and hassle.
“When the order is filled, then the payment is cleared through the platform and transportation is arranged through the platform as well.”
That’s the genesis of DustUp, the Dallas-based startup that aims to disrupt the cattle industry first in Texas, then nationwide, and eventually around the world.
It’s creating patent-pending technology that will use the mobile device’s camera to determine an animal’s weight. It could also use facial recognition as a redundancy for the ear tags on the animals, said Cooper, DustUp’s founder and CEO.
“The buyer can place the order based on all those attributes,” he said. “When the order is filled, then the payment is cleared through the platform and transportation is arranged through the platform as well.”
The fees will be much lower than what ranchers pay at cattle auctions, which can run as high as 10 percent in some states.
“They’re getting fleeced. We’re going to charge them not much and we’re going to effectively allow them to manage their whole ranch on the platform,” Cooper said.
He acknowledges that the cattle industry is old fashioned, and some might be hesitant to adopt new technology, especially the mainline producers.
He will target smaller, younger ranches with grass-fed, organic cattle first.
“I think they’ll get on once the hypothesis is proved up,” Cooper said. “The current livestock marketing model is completely broken. It’s a labor-intensive sales process. There’s been no innovation in this space for 30 years.”
The cattle industry also is fragmented unlike the chicken and pork sectors, which are dominated by corporations.
With DustUp, cattle can be traced through the process so grocery stores and customers will know exactly where the meat comes from. If there are concerns about tainted meat or sick animals, they’ll know where the meat ended up.
Like other marketplaces, there also will be a ratings system so buyers can rate the quality of the rancher. DustUp also will know whether there’s a lien on an animal.
“I think they’ll get on once the hypothesis is proved up.”
While it’s being used for cattle initially, DustUp could be used with other livestock in the future.
Cooper, who quit his job in February to start DustUp, is seeking funding now so he can scale up the product.
Cooper spent four years working on the executive team at Farm Credit where he managed an agribusiness loan portfolio with cattle, food, beverages, and other commodities.
He’s handled transactions with large companies, including Tyson, Iowa Premium Beef, and International Paper.