, LLC today announced the launch of, an Internet-based set of infrastructure tools for use by professionals in the multi-billion-dollar, worldwide cash market for tree nuts, encompassing several varieties of nuts such as almonds, cashews, walnuts and pistachios used mainly by confectioners, snack food companies and other food product makers.

The new system becomes available today on the Web to provide the user groups within the market — growers, handlers, brokers and end-product manufacturers — with a two-week period of demonstrations and pre-registration. Online business will commence at 9 am PST on April 17, 2000.

Technology Tool For The Industry

“ offers a highly specialized agricultural sector a state-of-the-art technology tool to establish for the first time an efficient, intra-industry trading forum,” said Ray Garman, co-founder of “Until now, market participants have had to rely on a patchwork of personal buyer- seller relationships. will provide instantaneous access for pre-qualified participants to engage in real-time transactions, marketing services and forward contacting — globally, 24-hours a day, seven days a week,” stated Larry Yogel, co-founder of “Furthermore, counters any concern about default because all transactions will be fully insured,” added Yogel. “Our goal is not to impose a solution on the industry but to provide the tools buyers and sellers need to find their own solutions, their way,” said Garman.

“In addition,” they continued, “ will give every industry member easy, instantaneous access to a global marketplace. This will be of particular benefit to thousands of smaller and international businesses who otherwise have relatively few convenient outlets for their products.” will earn revenues primarily from a single, flat transaction fee of 0.5% per transaction for nuts sold through and for infrastructure software used by industry participants. Worldwide production of tree nuts exceeds approximately 12 billion pounds per year.

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Two-Tier System

The platform will enable users to transact business through two separate subsystems. First, it will operate an on-line, real-time Trading Floor on which prices will be updated continuously and insured transactions among anonymous buyers and sellers finalized and recorded instantaneously. Second, it will host Private Enterprise Zones(TM) — web sites entered from the site by use of passwords — in which industry participants such as handlers and brokers can make direct contact with their customers and end-users. The Zones will be designed and built free of charge by and all information on the site can be personalized to the needs of each customer.

The first Private Enterprise Zone(TM) will be launched in May. These zones will make it possible for buyers and sellers who maintain close existing relationships to do so on-line with the added convenience and accessibility offered by

Easy Access From Any Location

Pre-approved users will gain access to by entering a user name and password via a personal computer or a hand-held Palm Pilot(TM). Once logged on to the exchange, a user will be able to make an offer or bid and execute trades.

“This is a highly mobile group of users, particularly among the handlers,” said Christine DeMont, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Operations of “Easy remote access — from the orchards, vehicles or any location, not just offices — is essential to making the real-time, 24/7 trading system truly effective for all participants.”

The system calculates, audits and issues all relevant reports on open interest, position liability and other relevant information for traders. It also allows users to easily update information about themselves, their offers, bids and products. The system also accommodates profiles of participants with relevant financial information. It allows the use of letters of credit and direct banking debits and credits, as well as the escrowing of funds against contracts. Traders can offset contracts in long and short net positions to leverage market moves against contracts for physical delivery or speculative positions.

Worldwide System Focused On Three Areas will operate globally from its launch, but the system is being marketed intensively as of the launch in California’s San Joaquin Valley. “California has 7,000 almond growers who cultivate 570,000 acres and produce an annual crop of some 750 million pounds of almonds with a value of approximately $1.5 billion,” said DeMont. “Our initial goal is to establish as the principal trading platform for this major crop and other California crops, including walnuts. At the same time, we will be moving quickly to penetrate both the European and Asian markets.”

To implement this strategy, has already opened in Modesto, California, the first of three regional offices. Other offices will open in Rotterdam in June and in Asia in the fall. These offices will be responsible for marketing the system, as well as providing administrative support to the company’s activities.

“We anticipate that will be a significant player in trading activities worldwide by June, with an emphasis on the California tree nut business,” said DeMont.

Information Is Key will offer its customers comprehensive, up-to-date news and information about the tree nut industry, including real-time information about weather conditions and developing crops in specific growing areas. The brokers and buyers who trade with handlers need such detailed information to evaluate the size, quality and timing of local harvests of particular crops. Traditionally, they obtain it by maintaining extensive contacts in the field.

“We will provide our users with a single, convenient source of all of the information they need to participate on a fully informed basis in executing trades,” said Garman. “ is not only an online exchange, but a central forum for a major worldwide industry. We believe that, by providing such a central forum for information and trading, we will significantly increase the efficiency and liquidity of the industry globally and contribute to its future growth and prosperity.”

Experienced Management

The members of senior management of have extensive, in-depth experience in Internet technology, finance and agriculture.

Ray Garman, 36, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of, has worked with software and Internet technology for more than 20 years. Mr. Garman has deep roots in the tree nut industry. He was a partner to Erwin Mayer in the trading venture, LIC Holdings, which purchased 35% of Abel Reggio. Abel Reggio was a major trader of tree nuts and Mr. Mayer was one of the most recognizable professionals in the business for more than 40 years. In 1993, Mr. Garman and Mr. Mayer conceived the idea for an Internet-based tree nut trading platform that would enhance liquidity, demand and profitability of the tree nut products. From 1993 until Mr. Mayer’s death in 1995, Mr. Garman and Mr. Mayer conceptualized the unique form of trading and business infrastructure within “The vision of is to put Mr. Mayer’s forty years of experience into a software system for others to use,” said Garman.

Prior to his involvement in the tree nut industry, Mr. Garman was involved in a unique mix of experiences that are central to the development of He worked with commodities valuation with the World Bank, where he developed the “Marlboro Index” in 1986. This index, covering 199 commodities, is still used in countries where the local currency has no valuation. During the 1980s, Mr. Garman also worked as a consultant for the Cotton Exchange, developing a futures trading platform. Since 1995, he has been involved in developing e-commerce platforms for Fortune 1000 companies. $1.5 billion in Internet sales have already been done through his software platforms.

Larry Yogel, 50, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of, will oversee all financial operations. Mr. Yogel is a lawyer and practiced law concentrating on corporate and real estate matters. In 1980, Mr. Yogel co-founded Commercial Properties Group in Philadelphia, a company that acquired, owned, managed, and sold commercial real estate located throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Until 1988, he was responsible for acquisitions and finance for the company and was the principal in charge of the company’s Wal-Mart relationship. Since 1990, Mr. Yogel has invested, financed and structured the acquisition and sale of real estate and business interests. In 1997, he co-founded the Stafford Group of Companies with divisions in municipal finance (including the financing of sports complexes), general corporate finance, time-share and international infrastructure and project finance, and real estate finance. Since 1998, Mr. Yogel has been associated with the structuring and financing of Mr. Garman’s software development company, Magical Fox Incorporated.

Christine DeMont, 35, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Operations for, is responsible for all industry communications and California operations. Prior to joining, Ms. DeMont was the Director of Marketing for the Almond Board of California. From 1993 to 1998, Ms. DeMont was an International Marketing Manager for the Gallo Winery, where she developed and executed the company’s most successful international market launch. At Nordstrom, Inc., one of America’s most successful retail chains, she managed several departments in various stores, including the company’s flagship store in downtown San Francisco. In this capacity, Ms. DeMont reversed sales declines during the U.S. retail depression from 1989 to 1993.