Growing up on a dairy farm in northwest Iowa, Steven Brockshus attended his fair share of land auctions.
“Several years back, I went to a farmland auction with my dad,” says Brockshus. “It struck me that people were bidding on the most important assets in their life. They were armed with very little hard information about how the property had performed in the past or its worth in relation to other comparable properties. They just had a sale bill with the acreage, and roadside and aerial images.”
Online solution uses real data
The idea for Farmland Finder came about when Brockshus took a class at Iowa State University on agricultural entrepreneurship.
“Each of us had to identify a problem that bothered us,” says Brockshus. “I thought back to the land sales I’d been to and got in touch with professionals in the farmland real estate market. The pain point for them was the time it takes to gather basic information on a property.”
Farmland Finder is the answer to the issue that Brockshus identified. It is an online database tool that connects people with information, so they can make decisions on buying, selling or valuing land. Rather than pull out a plat book, web soil survey or tracking down past owners and tenants, Farmland Finder provides a digital platform to evaluate the property using real data collected from numerous, reliable sources.
A team of nine works diligently to collect points of data and aggregate them all into one location. Users of Farmland Finder can view land that is for sale, types of acreage, historical yields, soil maps, current owners, price comparisons and much more. The site also hosts a blog, allowing the Farmland Finder team to provide high level insights of the farmland market today as well as reports on highlighted properties and insights on specific states or regions.
Farmland Finder was first launched in December 2017 with a focus on the Iowa farmland market. In December 2018, the service was launched to cover 12 more states across the Midwest, including Wisconsin. By the end of 2019, the Farmland Finder team plans to make their site available to cover farmland from coast to coast.
“I’m grateful to have a team and supporters who have helped get us to where we are today,” says Brockshus. “It takes highly skilled individuals to create, launch and continually enhance this tool.”
For landowners, professionals
The value proposition of Farmland Finder is to help landowners and professionals to buy, sell and value farmland while saving time and creating opportunities to generate a higher return on investment. Ag lenders, appraisers, auctioneers, brokers, farmers and investors are among the primary users of Farmland Finder.
Not only is this tool useful for professionals who deal in farmland daily, it is also easy to use for absentee, aspiring and beginning landowners. It is a tool that provides transparency and allows the general population to evaluate land objectively.
“There is a transition taking place from farmer-owned real estate to private equity ownership,” Brockshus says. “Farmland has become an efficient asset class for investors. Farmers are continuing to age, creating the potential for about 50% of properties to change hands in the next 10 to 15 years.”
Brockshus and his team at Farmland Finder can feel the pulse of the changing market for agricultural real estate.
“Generally speaking, no sales at auctions are on the rise compared to a year ago,” Brockshus says. “This indicates a slightly downward trend in the farmland market. We’re definitely seeing increasing activity from land investors and less farmers buying land. During this challenging economic period in agriculture, farmers have been freeing up their equity by doing sale leasebacks with investors. There is more land for sale today than last year, which creates more options for buyers.”
Giebel writes from Baraboo, Wis.