What’s your name? Mark Relph
What do you do? I’m a technology industry guy. I’ve been working in technology for 20 years in a variety of roles including technology support, sales, business development, product management and developer engagement.
How did you become a technology industry guy? I worked at Microsoft in Canada and at the headquarters in Seattle. I’ve been a big part of the Canadian startup community. I worked at GrowLab (now HIGHLINE) in Vancouver and I do a lot of advising of startups. I am on the board of the C100 – an organization dedicated to support Canadian startups. Right now, I work in business development at Amazon Web Services.
Where are you located? Seattle, Washington.
What do you do with Farm At Hand and how long have you been a part of the family? I have been involved with Farm At Hand since the early days when I met them at GrowLab in Vancouver. I became their primary mentor during their time in the accelerator. After they left Growlab, I stayed on as an Advisor and early investor.
Why did you invest in Farm At Hand? Two reasons. First (and most importantly) are the people. At the end of the day it pays to make bets on great, smart, motivated teams. Second, I love what Farm At Hand has built. They focused on a core set of problems for farmers and solved it. Anytime you can bring that kind of value to your customers and users I think you are on to something great.
What’s your experience with farming or agriculture? I probably know more than the average person, although I have never been a farmer myself. My family have roots in rural Saskatchewan and Alberta. My wife’s family immigrated to Canada and operated a farm for decades.
Lots of history there, including being the first farm in their area to use a tractor instead of horses. Even today, our family is involved in farming in a variety of ways. This has helped me understand the history and modern realities for farmers. I get how complex farming can be and how much technology is involved. Fun fact – my son is named after a famous Canadian tractor company.
What is the biggest thing you’ve learned about farmers and/or Agriculture since you joined Farm At Hand as an investor? Definitely it has been learning about the supplier ecosystem. I always had a sense of the kinds of companies working with farmers, but I didn’t know it as well as I do now. From agronomists, to suppliers, to equipment manufacturers – there is a huge industry around farming.
What’s one of your favourite Farm At Hand moments?
I think it was when Farm At Hand was chosen for 48 Hours In The Valley, which is the premier event for Canadian startups run by the C100. I was the host of the event, but had a chance to spend a lot of time with Kim and Himanshu as we learned to tap into Silicon Valley to help the grow of the company.
What are you most excited about? I feel that agriculture will be transformed in the next decade by technology including revolutionary equipment, sensors, drones, new apps and data science and the cloud. As the world struggles with feeding our ever growing population this is going to be so critical.
What’s the one thing you would like a farmer to know from the general public? It likely isn’t going to come as a surprise, but it would be just how little most people know about modern farming and how their food is grown.