Agriculture may have been the founder of the original “gig economy.” Anyone who has worked as a relief milker or baled hay for a neighbor has done a gig – creating income from specific, short-term tasks.
Now the gig economy is everywhere, allowing willing workers to earn income walking dogs, delivering food, providing transportation and more. Most of these gigs are brokered using computer and cell-phone apps, and a lot of gig activity is centered in urban areas.
But that may be changing with the advent of the HitchPin app. HitchPin is a web-based platform that unites farmers seeking labor or other services with those who are able to provide it. Agricultural goods like hay and straw also can be brokered via the site.
Developed by entrepreneur Trevor McKeeman, HitchPin was designed to help farmers and ranchers secure and move goods and services by simplifying the complex logistics that often are a challenge in agriculture. “If you wanted to book a flight or a hotel, you wouldn’t have to spend all day calling around to check availability,” said McKeeman. “But unfortunately that often would be the case for a farmer looking for someone to do some custom harvesting.”
The vision for HitchPin is to also allow farmers to become more strategic in making capital investments. Rather than every farm owning a full line of equipment, individuals could purchase specialized equipment and maximize their investment by running it on more contract jobs. “We hope to help farmers generate more revenue from the equipment they have, or save money by hiring services for less than the cost of owning equipment,” said McKeeman.
The app is free to use and free to browse. It provides an escrow service like PayPal, so providers are paid promptly without the need to issue invoices or chase down checks. A reputation rating system also allows users to leave reputation scores after transactions are complete, much like those on Uber and eBay. It can be downloaded from Apple’s App Store or accessed for desktop computer use at https://www.hitchpin.com/.
HitchPin was developed and is based at the Kansas State University Institute for Commercialization in Manhattan, Kan. It recently won the People’s Choice Award at the 2018 Farm Credit Services of America Ag Innovation Pitch Competition. McKeeman, a Kansas farm boy who has an MBA from the Sloan Fellows program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said he was more thrilled to earn that award than the grand prize.
“For a roomful of farmers and ranchers to choose this new technology as the one that will help them the most is a tremendous honor,” said McKeeman. “Helping farmers control costs and stay in business has been our main goal from the start.”