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NGFA Partners to Digitize Barge Transactions

NGFDS' Barge Digital Transformation platform will digitize current time-consuming, inefficient and costly paperwork-intensive processes common in barge trade

NGFDS Gold logo

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) announces its official partnership with a new affiliated organization –- National Grain and Feed Digital Solutions (NGFDS) -– to oversee the widely anticipated new Barge Digital Transformation (BDT) platform.

The BDT project is the 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 to 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," says NGFDS Chairman 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."

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, says NGFA President and CEO Randy Gordon.

“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," he says. "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, the technology partner – essDOCS – was selected 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 scheduled to begin 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) non-profit corporation earlier this year. At its first organizational meeting, NGFDS elected the following officers and directors:

NGFDS Officers

  • Chairman, Brittany Schaefer, Bunge North America
  • Vice Chairman, Julie Detlefsen, Cargill Inc.
  • Executive Director, Charlie Delacruz, NGFA
  • Treasurer, Steve Oberlander, CHS Inc.
  • Secretary/Asst. Treasurer, Mary Hitchcock, NGFA

NGFDS Board of Directors

  • Steve Burbrink, CGB Enterprises Inc.
  • Charlie Delacruz, NGFA
  • Julie Detlefsen, Cargill Inc.
  • Matt Giltner, Archer Daniels Midland Co.
  • Jason Hofer, Gavilon Group LLC
  • John Kopina, Louis Dreyfus Co.
  • Andrew Luttrell, Ingram Barge Co.
  • Rich McCarty, American Commercial Barge Line
  • Steve Oberlander, CHS Inc.
  • Brittany Schaefer, Bunge North America
  • Jeff Wilson, Zen-Noh Grain Corp.

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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