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NGFA partnering in effort to digitize barge transactions

TAGS: Policy
DarcyMaulsby /iStock/Thinkstock. grain barge river elevator
This barge on the Mississippi River in eastern Iowa is taking on a load of grain, either corn or soybeans, from area farms.
Secure platform for transmitting barge-related paperwork to improve efficiencies for grain shippers.

The National Grain & Feed Assn. (NGFA) continues its efforts to roll out its new Barge Digital Transformation (BDT) platform with the announcement of an official partnership with a new affiliated organization, National Grain & Feed Digital Solutions (NGFDS).

The BDT project is a massive undertaking underway to digitize the current time-consuming, inefficient and costly paperwork-intensive processes common in the barge trade. In particular, the new platform is expected to digitize the approximated 70,000-100,000 negotiable barge bills of lading that NGFA members process each year.

“This is truly a momentous development projected to save those of us using barge transportation significant costs now being incurred while greatly improving efficiency,” said NGFDS chair Brittany Schaefer, logistics manager at Bunge North America. “My hope is that launching this innovative, secure platform for transmitting barge-related paperwork is just one step toward a future of efficient data transmission throughout the agricultural supply chain.”

NGFA president and chief executive officer Randy Gordon said, “The establishment of NGFDS and the ensuing implementation of this electronic platform is yet another example of NGFA members working together to drive change and develop a solution that meets the business needs of the collective industry. All those who use or benefit from barge transportation owe a tremendous thanks to the Steering Committee, and particularly Brittany Schaefer, for the countless hours of time and intensive, detailed effort that has brought us to this threshold. NGFA is excited to be partnering with and supporting NGFDS in bringing this solution to the marketplace, and NGFA remains open to exploring additional opportunities for providing technological solutions to enhance industry operations.”

General discussions recognizing the industry’s need for this initiative began after an open meeting in New Orleans, La., in early 2018. Intensive work toward a solution, including project scoping and design and development of a prototype, began with a three-day session in St. Louis, Mo., in October 2018.

After a rigorous search process, essDOCS was selected as the technology partner from a field of strong candidates in October 2019. Since that time, the industry group of NGFA member companies has been working with essDOCS to develop the new platform. User testing now is underway, with the goal of deploying the digital platform and training industry members on its use beginning by the end of this summer.

To oversee and administer the new platform, NGFDS was formed and officially certified as a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(6) nonprofit corporation earlier this year. This month, NGFA and NGFDS formalized their partnership wherein NGFA will continue to provide management and administrative support functions for NGFDS in its operations and activities related to the new BDT platform.

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