VOL. 11 | NO. 36 | Saturday, September 8, 2018
SPECIAL EDITION Small Business
The Seam Eyes Growth With New Personnel, Technologies
By Michael Waddell
With nearly 20 years of software development for commodities industries like cotton and peanuts, local fintech company The Seam is looking to the future, developing new technologies supporting sustainable agriculture initiatives.
Under the leadership of CEO Mark Pryor, left, and software engineering manager Jason Sutton, The Seam is pursuing new technologies. (Memphis News/Jim Weber)
The company’s recent growth includes the promotion of Jason Sutton to manager of Software Engineering.
The Seam was founded in 2000 by some of the world’s largest cotton-focused agribusinesses like Cargill and Louis Dreyfus and cotton cooperatives like Plaines Cotton and StplCotn.
“Mainly we were created as an online platform for cotton trading,” said Seam chairman and CEO Mark Pryor. “These fierce competitors came together to create an independent company to provide innovative technology to the cotton industry.”
Since then, The Seam has operated and architected software for trading millions of bales of cotton, while also handling the settling and clearing of the transactions. The company branched out into other commodities along the way, including soybeans, grains and peanuts.
“We’ve also written platforms for agricultural service companies to do their business, especially for peanut companies in Georgia,” Sutton said. “In fact, we’re bigger in peanuts now than we are in cotton.”
Peanuts and cotton are considered sister commodities because many farmers in the South and Southeast grow both on their land due to similar climate needs.
“They’re great crop-rotation crops where you might grow peanuts one year and cotton the next,” Pryor said. “It’s good for the soil and environment.”
One hot new area the company is heavily involved with is blockchain.
“There’s a big need in agriculture for change, and what’s needed is data that can be trusted,” Pryor said. “It’s driven by initiatives in sustainability and food safety.”
When outbreaks occur across the country that can damage food crops, good systems are not in place for traceability and transparency.
“Blockchain is really the golden key for this,” Pryor said. “It allows for the traceability and transparency of the supply chain to the industry, using a platform of trust in essence.
“It’s a remarkable revolution technology where the participants throughout the global supply chain will be able to reference the same source of information on a trusted, secure platform.”
The Seam is currently working with the National Cotton Council, the American Peanut Council and other organizations to provide a sustainability initiative using blockchain to commodity groups, and the company’s new blockchain software will be unveiled in the coming months.
“We’re doing decentralized techniques that really were not possible before,” Sutton said of the distributed peer-to-peer technology.
It’s a new idea that challenges the status quo, Pryor said, while providing some capabilities they never thought would be possible.
“Logistics is another industry where it’s about to take off,” he said.
Sutton takes over as manager of Software Engineering for the company, a position previously held by Pryor. Sutton helped architect platforms for the commodities groups that have been in heavy use for more than 15 years and are still very successful today.
“I’m definitely very proud of the work I’ve put out,” he said.
Now he will still be involved with development as well as managing the other developers, issues that may come up, and designing specs for new projects.
“My ultimate goal is to help The Seam grow,” Sutton said. “I feel like the primary way to do that is to put together very professional, very highly visible software projects that our users are happy with. We’d like to possibly expand to other commodities and even to other industries.”
All software is developed in-house.
“Knowing that we’re small, we put a lot of automation into our systems and processes,” Pryor said, “so we don’t require as much staff.”
The company started out in 2000 with about 10 employees and has grown to a staff of 20. Recent appointments include Suzanne Lowery to director of finance and Tim Thornton to senior software engineer.
Last year, The Seam moved into a new facility at 3400 Player’s Club Parkway in Southwind after previously calling the Poplar-Ridgeway area home for 18 years. The new space provides needed collaborative and workshop space, including a 50-person classroom.
After recently getting the nod for new projects, the company is looking to hire senior-level software architects, customer service and quality assurance agents.