Before the internal combustion engine displaced horsepower, hay traded by type, weight, and grade on organized exchanges in cities from coast to coast.
Hay had its own cipher for telegraphic communication. Seller quotes referenced the market's location instead of a distant field. Prices and inbound freight volumes were readily visible. Newspapers published trade data weekly, covering over fifty U.S. markets.
The demand for hay in urban markets collapsed so suddenly, however, the exchanges could not adjust or adapt. A new, decentralized market structure appeared, with trucking replacing railroads and dealers supplanting exchanges. But in the process, price discovery, product standards, and trading norms suffered, as no mechanism emerged to replace the market-organizing services of the exchanges.
Now, new technologies upend every aspect of commerce. Commodities exchanges have closed their trading floors in favor of electronic order-matching. Chemistry and spectroscopy enable inexpensive assays of the nutritional values of hay and other agricultural products. The vast majority have Internet access. But no one has stepped forward to help hay growers and producers, merchants, and buyers benefit from these technologies in a meaningful way.
Welcome to Fieldgram
Fieldgram operates the first and only hybrid electronic market for truckload quantities of alfalfa and other forage products, using the Port of Houston as the reference delivery point for pricing purposes.
By using the Port of Houston as a pricing benchmark, we enable buyers who will take delivery either at the port or within our defined, Greater Houston market area to have a clear indication of the actual, as-received price they should expect, excepting only unusual delivery circumstances.
The Port of Houston benchmark price can also serve as the basis for deliveries outside of the Greater Houston market area, with adjustments based on distance from the port.
Our founder, John Harris, started Fieldgram in 2015. Before starting Fieldgram, John spent many years working on trading systems for bonds. His first job out of college was installing market-data systems for commodities.
We have modeled our trading protocols in part on those used in the inter-dealer market for U.S. Treasury securities--the deepest, most liquid, heavily-traded market in existence.
Our markets are readily visible via our website. In order to buy or sell, you must first open an account with us. There is no charge for opening an account.
LETTER FROM OUR FOUNDER
Why I started Fieldgram
I worked 25 years on Wall Street, most of that time developing new trading systems for bonds. During my tenure, we experienced six, large-scale market crises. Each led to an ever-larger bank bailout, the latest costing trillions of dollars.
It became obvious that neither voting nor grass-roots uprisings (e.g., Occupy Wall Street) could stop these boom-bust cycles and subsequent looting sprees. Entrepreneurs would have to solve the problem. The solution would need to provide opportunities for commercial, trading, and investment activities comparable to those Wall Street offered.
Only one other segment of the economy was large, deep, and important enough, and sufficiently similar in structure, to supply opportunities on such a scale: the markets for basic commodities. These held another advantage. Having tangible, essential goods as their foundation offered a possible hedge against Wall Street's dematerialized stocks and bonds, the actual ownership of which had become a legal fiction.
I decided to find a way to put my knowledge and experience to good use in commodity markets, and to encourage others to do the same. My research led me to hay--one of the most widely-planted and valuable crops--but opportunities abound throughout the markets for agriculture, energy, and metals.
I started Fieldgram to help people produce, transform, and obtain forage products more easily and economically. We share, freely and openly, the data models we use for describing and sourcing hay, welcoming others to use them and contribute to their improvement. As we work every day to improve the information, trading, and financial systems and processes available for hay and other commodities, we will also continue to share our knowledge and encourage others to participate in these vital markets.
-- John Harris