John Fargher is the co-founder of AgriWebb, a livestock farm management software company transforming global cattle and sheep production.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
As a fifth-generation sheep and cattle farmer from South Australia, I have always had a love for agriculture and entrepreneurship. It’s this experience which led me to co-found AgriWebb, an Australian company helping digitalise a very traditional industry, agriculture, back in 2014.
I kickstarted my career in law, having studied at the University of Adelaide and abroad at Indiana University in the USA, where I earned a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Arts specialising in Geographical and Environmental Studies.
Following this, I worked in London as an in-house legal counsel for a FTSE 100 Retail/IT company. I also had the pleasure of running a £40 million project for Cadbury during the London 2012 Olympics.
Although I’ve had some fantastic opportunities, my true passion has always been in utilising technology to evolve farming and bring it into the digital era.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Thanks to COVID my day-to-day work schedule is now much more structured, not only because our office is currently closed but also because of the travel restrictions.
I have not left Sydney for over six months now, which is a stark contrast to the past five years at AgriWebb, where I have spent a huge proportion of my time on the road.
To put this into context, in January and February before lockdown hit, I did two interstate trips, one overseas visiting England, Wales and Ireland and another regional trip within NSW. Over the past six months, I was due to do two trips to the US, another trip to the UK and countless trips within Australia.
My day-to-day life is now very routine driven. It starts with a trip to daycare to drop off and then pick up my daughter as well as some form of exercise — a run or an exercise class. The remainder of the day is largely spent on Zoom meetings and collaborating with my team.
My role spans across three time zones so I work around the clock to support the team: in the mornings I work with the US team, during the day with the Australian team and at night with our UK team. After all that, it’s pretty much time for bed!
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
AgriWebb has always had a flexible approach and allowed people to work from home when and if needed. Some employees were fully remote even before the pandemic hit.
We responded very quickly to the pandemic, closing our office and giving our team the tools, resources and support necessary to help with full-time working from home. Moving forward, we’re looking to keep work flexibility — striking the right balance for those wanting to work from home.
For me, the flexibility hugely helps with family life allowing me to spend much more time with my wife and daughter as well as shift my hours of work — I see this as a huge benefit to flexible working hours.
Generally, I’m used to working remotely from different locations — be it plane, train, car (traditionally called the mobile office!), hotel rooms or in the paddock. All I need is a laptop, a phone and some Bose noise cancelling headphones to get stuck in.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
There is nothing more important than making sure you have time for your family and passion areas outside of work — regardless of where you are in life.
Personally, having a work-life balance means staying aware of your mindset, your health and your attitude towards how you build out your day.
I aim to get out and about at least once a day for fresh air, either a walk to grab a coffee or simply sit on a bench taking in some sunlight. I find that exercise helps clear the mind and allows me to focus on the day ahead.
I love what I do. My life is working to live out our mission at AgriWebb. Travelling and speaking to our customers helps drive me everyday. I get excited hearing how we’ve helped our customers and continue to support them into the future.
Not being able to do this in person over the past six months has been a struggle for me. I try to make up for it by calling and speaking with them regularly, and while it helps, frankly it’s not quite the same.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
As I mentioned, I strive to get out of the house everyday to do daily exercise, whether that be a run or leisurely walk. When 2020 rolled around my new year’s resolution was to read everynight before bed — it’s something I’m trying to make part of my regular routine.
I also want to start leaving my phone out of the bedroom so that I don’t scroll through unnecessary apps before bed.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I enjoy reading entrepreneurship books and particularly biographies. Some recent books which are worth a read are:
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE by Phil Knight
Twiggy: The High-Stakes Life of Andrew Forrest by Andrew Burrell
I am currently reading Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture – A New Earth by Charles Massy.
I have a list of podcasts that I have yet to get through, something I need to do. One that I used to listen to is: The Startup Chat with Steli and Hiten based on building startups. I found it really useful and have implemented many of their tips and tricks into AgriWebb.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
As I’m a runner, I live by the FitBit app to track my steps and runs during workouts. I also scroll through Spotify to find tracks to give me inspiration when I’m deep in work.
As a farmer, it’s only natural for me to check the Weather Channel app everyday to see where it’s raining in Australia and, in particular, if it is raining — which it never is! — on my family’s property. And to keep up with what’s happening around the world, I tap into the ABC News app.
On Friday mornings you’ll find me clicking through the MLA Newsletter to get updates on the agricultural industry and commodity reports. I also watch Landline on ABC TV on Sundays to keep across trends.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Probably Bill Gates because I have so much respect for him and all his achievements within the business world and the wider community. I’m also slightly envious of the amount of books he reads.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
The most important thing is to find work that you love. If you do this you’ll not get caught up in the divide between work and life. While I believe there needs to be a balance, the balance does not need to be placed into separate boxes.
As long as you have time for your family, you stay fit and healthy and are happy in what you do (and prioritise these things accordingly), the balance will take care of itself. At the end of the day, life is too short to do something you don’t enjoy.
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