The harvest does not wait. And American agriculture has been facing a labor crisis for decades, resulting in অপ 3.1 billion worth of food wastage.
According to the USDA, employment of agricultural workers has declined by 75% in the last seven decades. By filling an important gap, migrant workers are responsible for most of the agricultural workforce. Fewer workers have migrated to the United States in recent years, and those who come have to go through a difficult H-2A program, a process that involves inefficiency.
Co-founders Michael Guerguis and Jordan Taylor set out to solve this problem with Seso, a startup that connects farmers who need employment for workers and migrant workers.
“Farmers want to cultivate. They’re not good at paperwork, “said Guerguis, whose startup is digitizing agricultural recruitment and payroll processes, much of which has so far been done with pen and paper.
Seso provides visa automation, government regulatory compliance, an employee database, and management tools for migrant workers to facilitate an administrative documentation process that is complex. The startup issued 5,500 farmers with H-2A visas in 2021.
Nearly a year after the labor market launch, Seso announced on Thursday that it had raised $ 25 million in a Series A round led by Founders Fund, NFX, and K5 Ventures, led by Index Ventures.
Founded in 2019, the company has 35 employees and 77 customers including some of the largest farms in the country. Farmers who use startup technology to recruit and manage migrant workers expand a wide spectrum, including ostrich farmers in South Africa, shepherds in Utah, and bee farmers in North Dakota.
Farmers have traditionally relied on intermediaries to bring in H-2A workers. Mistakes in the tedious visa application process have resulted in workers arriving late and eventually losing billions of dollars in crops. “For the program, you have to work with four or five different government agencies,” Gurguis said. “It’s so complicated, it’s never been successful. It’s a broken system.”
BT Loftus Ranches, one of the longest-running hop farms in the Yakima Valley, uses Seso’s technology to communicate with returning workers, many of whom live in rural areas without cell service. Cesso, which also has staff in Mexico, helps migrant workers arrange transportation to reach the consulate safely, and as a result, it reduces the workload of the HR department by 70%.
Alex Munoz, human resources director at BT Loftus, said: “The logistics of finding workers must have been a big hurdle that we had to overcome every year.” “Having an employer that reaches out to employees through a variety of platforms has certainly smoothed out our contracting process.”
Before creating a workforce management portal for the agro-industry, the 32-year-old CEO worked at the National Economic Council in the White House, formulating employment and housing policies. Gurguis, whose parents are from Egypt, graduated from Stanford University in 2011 where he studied labor policy and economics. “I understand that I don’t want to be a policy maker, I want to use technology to create jobs. So I knew I was going to start a labor marketplace startup at some point, because that was my passion. “
Elizabeth Ortiz Jarrett is a 28-year-old Mexican immigrant worker who works for Bonnie Plants, a plant retailer in Utica, New York. He arrived in the United States on an H-2A visa, the only uncapped visa in the country The H-2A program allows American farmers to hire seasonal workers from other countries for up to 10 months, only to find that they have not been able to find domestic workers to fill the position.
In Mexico, Zarate worked as an industrial engineer, earning $ 450 per month, but in the United States he was able to earn about $ 3000 per month as a seasonal worker. He sends most of his income to his grandparents. “The H-2A program allows you to enter the country without the risk of going through the process of illegal immigration, which can be dangerous and extortionate,” Jarrett said. “It gives you the opportunity to earn an honest wage and learn new skills.”
Seso charges farmers approximately $ 5,000 as compliance software fees and application fees for its services, although this rate varies depending on the services used by farmers. The company sold 3 3 million in 2021, Guerrero said Forbes.
“Seso has built so much confidence in agriculture that their customer base is looking to them to further automate their workflow, a feature of some of the best vertical software companies,” said Nina Achadzian, a partner at Index Ventures.
Migrant workers, one of the most exploited populations, are mostly bank-free and have to pay by check. With the new round of funding, the startup plans to embed financial and pay functions in its technology so that employees do not have to lose 10% of their pay checks on remittance fees.