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Need to get away from the hustle and bustle of town? Look no further than your local family-run farm. Melbourne startup Shacky is helping connect city slickers and travellers with high quality, low-key houses on Australian farms.

Shacky is a platform that puts ‘tiny houses’ on Australia’s farms and allows guests to book a stay online. The result is a countryside getaway that’s easy to arrange, quality assured and helps support a fellow Australian family. It’s a social enterprise helping holidaymakers find options closer to home while also providing struggling farmers with a much-needed second source of income.

The Melbourne startup has crowdfunded more than $25,000 and had around 50 farmers, from as far as Western Australia, express interest in being part of the idea, which will see the delivery of a ‘tiny house’ to their property. The farmers can trial the system and then begin paying the house off through visits.

The growing popularity of accommodation rental platforms like Airbnb has been changing the entire idea of what a holiday is. From boat houses to tree houses, the potential for more isolated, unique experiences to become accessible through an online platform is growing. It’s something that Shacky is looking to tap into, and the ‘tiny’ houses that farmers will rent out will target a niche but growing part of the market for eco-friendly countryside getaways.

Founder Joep Pennartz said that although his platform won’t have as many listings as some of these bigger websites, all its listings will be personalised and quality-tested.

“It’s not as simple as Airbnb where anyone can just sign up. Farmers can sign up but I actually go and visit the host to see if their farm or property will fit on Shacky and to see if they need help with anything,” he explained.

The Melbourne entrepreneur realises that this may mean growth will be slower, but believes there’s value in being able to guarantee the quality of a guest’s stay.

“We’re doing the work for guests to find the best spots and the best hosts so you don’t have to scroll through 5000 hosts.”

Shacky is about bridging cities and rural areas and helping both communities address each other’s needs. The service will enable urban dwellers to book and pay for a stay in the otherwise inaccessible Australian countryside, all online. More importantly though, it will be supporting communities in rural Victoria that are under enormous amounts of financial pressure due to drought, floods, technology and a changing marketplace.

Farms are changing hands and it’s getting harder for family-owned properties to compete against bigger, mechanised farms. Research has shown that 91 percent of all farm households now depend on more than one source of income.

Shacky gives farmers in struggling rural areas like Port Augusta, Port Lincoln and Mount Gambier the opportunity to use agri-tourism to boost their income and supports them by giving them the technological know-how to do so.

Pennartz said one of the big problems farmers encountered when they joined other accommodation platforms was that they found them hard to use and didn’t know how to write a persuasive description for their property or how to take the right pictures.

“Some farmers are definitely tech-savvy, but a lot of them are not very comfortable in it and that’s the extra service that Shacky provides.”

The first farmers have been set up, and guests are already lining up to stay in one of Shacky’s ‘tiny’ houses. Pennartz said the first guests have had a lot of positive feedback for him, and the amount of interest from the Victorian community is is very promising.

The tech-powered social enterprise looks forward to slow and steady growth as it begins to capture the attention of Australian holiday-goers. Pennartz said he hopes to focus on collecting and responding to feedback, to find out what the true value for Shacky is on the market – for the customer and for the host.

Shacky has been developing its website since April and will be officially launching its bookings platform at the end of this week.

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