Revolutionizing Agriculture’s HR Issues: Seso’s Innovative Software for Farm Workforces

Seso was founded five years ago to help streamline that process and now looks to expand into a one-stop-shop HR platform for the agriculture industry. Michael Guirguis co-founded the startup after his cousin asked for his advice on whether or not her organic farm should expand. Once he started talking to potential farm customers, he realized that farms could use a lot more help with their HR beyond just finding workers. “When it comes to the back office, every farm we visited had thousands of filing cabinets,” Guirguis said. “Your HR team is in the back office doing traditional HR work,” Guirguis said.

Migrant workers play a crucial role in the labor force of U.S. farms, but obtaining H-2A visas for them can be a complex and daunting task. Additionally, ensuring compliance surrounding these employees can be overwhelming for farms. However, Seso, a company founded five years ago, aims to simplify this process and expand their services into a comprehensive HR platform for the agriculture industry.

Michael Guirguis, co-founder of Seso, was inspired to start the company after his cousin sought his advice on whether her organic farm should expand. Despite the high demand for her harvests, Guirguis, who has spent his entire career creating jobs and navigating the labor market, advised against expansion due to the industry’s labor shortage. This experience prompted him to create Seso, which automates the H-2A visa process to help farms overcome this challenge and remain compliant. As he began interacting with potential farm customers, Guirguis realized that the industry could benefit from additional HR support beyond just finding workers.

“When it comes to the back office, every farm we visited had thousands of filing cabinets,” Guirguis shared. “It’s one of the most underdeveloped industries in the U.S. That was an eye-opening moment for us. We have the opportunity to address the labor shortage and modernize the entire operating system, starting with HR.”

The company recently raised $26 million to enhance its platform capabilities. The Series B round was led by Mary Meeker from Bond, with contributions from Index Ventures, NFX, SV Angels, numerous Seso customers, and others. Seso’s customer base doubled in 2023, and the company now works with 27 of the top 100 agriculture employers in the United States.

Although the agriculture industry is ripe for innovation, it has been somewhat hesitant to adopt new technology, according to Guirguis. However, he believes that Seso has been successful in selling to farms because it does not seek to change the actual farming process, which is something that farmers have expressed they are not yet ready for. Instead, the company focuses on streamlining back office tasks, making it an easier sell.

“Your HR team is in the back office, handling traditional HR work,” Guirguis explained. “That is the behavior we are trying to change, which is much easier than convincing someone who has spent 50 years in the field, using pen and paper, to change their methods completely. We have designed products that can adapt to their existing processes. For example, you can take a photo of a handwritten time sheet and use AI to ensure its accuracy.”

Guirguis’s emphasis on gathering feedback directly from farmers is what ultimately convinced Nina Achadjian, a partner at Index Ventures, to invest in Seso. When the company first approached Index for investment, Achadjian initially declined. However, as she observed how the company interacts with and caters to farmers, she changed her mind.

“I remember one customer call, and it gave me chills,” Achadjian recalled. “[He said], ‘I am constantly pitched by these Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, and when they show up at my farm, they try to tell me how to run my business.’ I always ask them to spend a day working alongside me so they can understand the daily reality of the end customer, but they never show up. Michael was the only one who showed up at 4 a.m., in the freezing cold and dark, to pick artichokes.”

This feedback from farmers is what prompted Seso to expand its services to include automating payroll. According to Guirguis, farm payroll is incredibly complex due to various agriculture employment laws. Workers are paid based on the amount of crop they pick, and the pay rate varies for migrant workers, domestic workers, and if they are picking from the same field. Guirguis sees plenty of opportunities to continue expanding their services.

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Ava Patel

Ava Patel is a cultural critic and commentator with a focus on literature and the arts. She is known for her thought-provoking essays and reviews, and has a talent for bringing new and diverse voices to the forefront of the cultural conversation.

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