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The Next Phase of Farming: Disrupting the Industry of Agriculture

November 14, 2017

On Tuesday, November 14th, 2017, members of Young Professionals in Agriculture gathered at the Iowa Corn Growers Association in Johnston, IA to discuss disruptive agriculture technologies.

 

YPiA welcomed three Iowa based businesses with market supported technologies to share about their company’s missions as they relate to disrupting the agriculture industry. The companies in attendance were Smart Ag represented by founder Colin Hurd, ScoutPro represented by co-founder Stuart McCulloh, and Performance Livestock Analytics represented by co-founder Dustin Balsley. Each company pitched their business to the group. A panel discussion, lead by YPiA President Nathan Katzer, followed the presentations. Check their responses to the questions asked by members.

  • What has been your biggest push back on your technologies?

    • ScoutPro: “We are being challenged by old technologies such as pen and paper that are not technically broken. They are inefficient methods so we have to prove our value.”

       

    • Performance Livestock Analytics: “My customers are not the most technologically advanced individuals. For example, some struggle with turning on an iPad. When I am faced with this, I state ‘I don’t believe you are ready to incorporate this in to your system.’ The customer then pushes back and truly wants to learn.”

       

    • Smart Ag: “Farmers are typically shy or scared of technology that does not provide a lot of value. If the value is there, they will adapt quickly."

 

  • When you started the company, in your mind were you looking to be acquired?

     

    • Smart Ag: “This is the second business I have started and selling out is not an initial thought, but I always strive to create liquidity.”

       

    • Performance Livestock Analytics:  " My goal is to sell for a large sum of money. You have to shoot for the moon and hope you get close. Then there are times I sit back and wonder, do I ever want to sell this; I have my dream job. Even though we have these thoughts, we need to push the idea of selling out behind us because we have to keep driving forward.”

       

    • ScoutPro: “You cannot start a company with full intentions of selling. You cannot exist just waiting to be bought. Your passion has to be much larger then that. We began by trying to solve a problem we were passionate about. When we received our first offer we all suffered a moment of weakness and thought ‘Yes! Send the check,” but we are so glad we respectfully declined the offer.”  

 

  • How did you find a software engineer?

     

    • ScoutPro: “We connected with an individual who was able to build the original software. He then introduced us to a team in India. We currently are still working with this team. 1 individual is in our Iowa office, the other six are located in India. Co-founder Holden Nyhus manages this team. The major benefit of working with a team in India is the lapse period. Holden visits with them for an hour before he goes to bed, they work on the software throughout our night, then they have a skype meeting with Holden for about 3 hours each morning.”

       

    • Performance Livestock Analytics: “Our first program I developed in PowerPoint. We began searching for an intern to get the actual software developed and in the first ten minutes of the first interview we conducted, we realized we did not know what kind of questions we should be asking. Eventually, I pulled out my computer and asked the individual if he could build my PowerPoint into software. He built it in 3 months, when we were budgeting for at least 6 months’ work.”

       

    • Smart Ag: “I began interviewing and found an individual with a great resume and claimed he could build our software. About 3 months in, he had barely completed anything. We were forced to find someone else when our current engineer was no longer able to stay with us. We then hired an Iowa State student who built the first version.”

       

  • Many of you have successfully been accepted into accelerator programs where funding is available. What do you think of the increasing amount of such programs available to entrepreneurs?

     

    • Performance Livestock Analytics: “The value I take away from participating in an accelerator is having the opportunity to work daily next to other entrepreneurs. The money is an added perk, but I thrive in the environment by being surrounded by other successful people.”

       

    • Smart Ag: “I believe accelerators are good for the industry, but there needs to be new sources of funding for them. The funding cannot continue to come from large market players. The capital is very important for design and innovation.”

       

    • ScoutPro: “One down fall of this proliferation is some people thrive in business pitches and accelerators because there is a lot of excitement. I have found once their time is complete in the accelerator, they do not continue to drive forward. They are constantly looking for some new idea every 3-4 years.”

       

  • Looking forward, do you believe technology will go beyond what the consumer is willing to accept?

    • Smart Ag: “Technology has its place. It’s a tool but not the end. It is created to solve a problem and there will always be some things people can do that technology will never be able to do.”

       

    • ScoutPro: “Quality products that work drive this market.”

       

    • Performance Livestock Analytics: “Free market will push these dangerous technologies out of the market place.”

       

A social followed at BeerHouse where pizza was provided. Thank you to all you attended!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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