Agtech pioneer Kent Egerton-Warburton receives Order of Australia medal for Agrimaster software

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Kent Egerton-Warburton. Nic Ellis
Camera IconKent Egerton-Warburton. Nic Ellis Credit: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

The agtech pioneer behind the software program most commonly used by WA farmers has been honoured with a Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to the sector.

Kent Egerton-Warburton was among a suite of WA names making it onto the Queen’s Birthday Honours list on Sunday.

Other prominent names in the State’s agricultural sector to receive the prestigious accolade include former Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association boss and WA Rural Woman of the Year Catherine Marriott and former Carnarvon Shire president and pastoralist Dudley Maslen.

Ms Marriott — who has been a major advocate for women in the agricultural industry — said she was “completely overwhelmed and full of joy” with all of the messages she had received following the announcement.

“You never know the impact you have on people, but you hope you are making a difference,” she wrote on Twitter.

Ms Marriott has been the recipient of numerous awards, sat on numerous boards including Australia’s Commission for International Agricultural Research, and founded Influential Women, a group connecting rural women.

Mr Maslen — who has a been a prominent face in the Mid West for many years in politics as well as regional committees and boards — said he was “very happy” to have been honoured.

From 1997-1989 he was the Member for the Gascoyne, in 2003 he was elected as Carnarvon shire president, and over the years has been the chair of the Pastoral Lands Board, Gascoyne Minilya District Committee and the Carnarvon Trustees Aboriginal Corporation.

Mr Egerton-Warburton said the honour came as a “bit of a surprise,” but was pleased to know the impact his work had on the WA agricultural landscape.

In 1981, Mr Egerton-Warburton sat down at his computer and began writing the software which would go on to be a household name and instrumental in farm accounting, budgeting and business management in WA.

Now used across thousands of farming enterprises across the country, Agrimaster Farm Financial Management Software had humble beginnings on a farm he cleared just south of Kojonup.

A man of many hobbies, Mr Egerton-Warburton was not only a successful sheep farmer, but an avid sailor and photographer.

In the early 1980s, a new hobby took hold — programming.

He sold up all of his camera gear to purchase an Osbourne 2000 personal computer, converted his dark room into an office and taught himself how to code.

His passion second to none, he would farm by day and program by night.

The goal — to develop a program he could use on his own farm to help manage the financials.

“I really enjoyed it,” Mr Egerton-Warburton said.

“I was designing a program to be used on a family farm like mine, for farmers with the same education, same consultants, same accountants — so we were all in it together.”

Upon teaming up with Borden’s Alan Moir, who distributed the software through Country Soft followed by Dalgety Essex Technology, Mr Egerton-Warburton’s vision was taken from the confines of his on-farm office, to the nation.

What followed was 20 years of “trial and error,” writing four ever-evolving versions of the program, including the first Windows version in 1995, when he ran dry sheep to free up time to develop it.

He loved every second of it.

By 1990, Agrimaster had 1000 registered users and when the GST was introduced in July 2000, requiring farmers to do their accounting more frequently, their client base doubled.

The Agrimaster business has been in the hands of his son Dave and daughter-in-law Natalie since, who he said had done a “very good job,” with other software designers now programming as the agtech sector evolves.

Admitting the honour came as a “bit of a surprise,” Mr Egerton-Warburton said it was nice to reflect on the 40-year journey.

“Looking back it was a great passage and we did a lot of good,” he said.

“We changed the way WA farmers managed their books and how consultants managed things.”

Ever humble, he said it had been a “true collaboration” between him and the farm consultants and accountants who got clients on board and provided feedback over the years.

“I could mention names after names . . . they all contributed something to the design and what it needed, this is a very co-operative effort with me as developer and designer and all of these people helping along the way.”

Kojonup farmer Rob Egerton-Warburton said he “couldn’t be prouder” of his father and the “huge” impact his program has had on WA farming businesses and the rise of financial literacy.

“It’s an amazing achievement,” he said.

“In 1981 no one had a computer or any electronics in farming, everything was analogue.

“He had a computer with a little four-inch screen and it cost him $7000, which is the equivalent to a LandCruiser.

“He’s an incredibly humble man and he’s quietly chipped away over the years, he’s one of those unsung people in ag and I’m thrilled he’s got the recognition he deserves.”

Now retired to Perth and almost 80, he has still got his finger on the pulse of technology, with the keen bowler lending his skills to design the website for his local Dalkeith Nedlands Bowling Club.

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