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Future of Agriculture

Welcome to the Future of Agriculture Podcast with Tim Hammerich. This show explores the people, companies, and ideas shaping the future of agribusiness. If you are curious about innovations in AgTech, rural entrepreneurship, agricultural sustainability, and food security, this is the show for you! For more details on the guests featured on this show, visit the blog at www.FutureOfAg.com. Or, to learn more about career opportunities in agriculture, visit www.AgGrad.com Make sure you’re subscribed so you can catch another fascinating ag innovator next week!
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Now displaying: June, 2020
Jun 24, 2020

We do a lot of agtech episodes on this podcast, but I don’t think we’ve had one quite like this. Today’s episode is primarily focused on the area of agtech that includes site-specific agronomic tools that you’d hear referred to as variable-rate or under the umbrella of precision agriculture.

 

“The agtech industry in general looks pretty glamorous, but it’s a tough, tough business.”

 

My guest is Cory Willness, the President of CropPro Consulting, which is an agronomy consulting services firm in Western Canada, based in Naicam, Saskatchewan. Started in 2003, the company has grown to 30 employees. Along the way, Cory and his team started to develop digital tools to help them be more successful in their agronomy work. Eventually they started a separate business to offer these tools to others. That business is called Croptomistic Technology.

 

“The field never changes. The field is always the same. So when we go out to soil test, there is no crop on the field. What we’re sticking the probe into is soil. So where is the map of soil? A satellite image or yield map does not give you a map of soil. It just gives you a map of variability and you don’t know what that’s due to.”

 

Cory and I talk about the rise of the tech-enabled independent agronomist, how he decided to develop these tools and ultimately market them as a separate business, and some of his frustrations with agtech, which I think many of you will find both unconventional and enlightening.

 

 

Before we dive in though, it might help to define a couple of these technologies for context:

  • SWAT stands for Soil, Water, and Topography, and a SWAT map combines multiple layers of field data into a single map for zone management and variable-rate fertilizer and seed applications.
  • Cory created a SWAT Box, which is a box that is mounted to an ATV, truck, or piece of ag equipment and driven over the field to collect electrical conductivity and elevation data, which are necessary layers for SWAT Maps.
  • Lastly Cory is one of the founding partners of CropRecords, which is a crop consulting system for crop scouting, record keeping, making recommendations and jobs, and synchronizing all of the information between agronomy staff and farm staff. It is an essential part of implementing the SWAT Maps system.

 

“Farmers are smart people. They know their fields. They know what their problems are in any given season. They see them all the time because they’re out there all the time. If you go out there to the farm and say ‘I’ve got a specific solution that’s going to solve this problem on your farm’. They’ll try it.”

 

Cory represents to me, someone who has spent his career working directly with agronomists and farmers, who knows their needs and pain points, and who has strong opinions rooted in firsthand experience. You’ll hear some opinions and perspectives on this episode that may challenge your own when it comes to agtech, especially as it relates to precision agronomy.

 

You can find out more about CropPro and his various offerings at www.CropPro.ca. Also, he’s a great follow on Twitter @CropProCory.

 

Share the Ag-Love!

Thanks for joining us on the Future of Agriculture Podcast – your spot for valuable information, content, and interviews with industry leaders throughout the agricultural space! If you enjoyed this week’s episode, please subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave your honest feedback. Don’t forget to share it with your friends on your favorite social media spots! And be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of ag.

Learn more about AgGrad by visiting:

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

AgGrad on Twitter

AgGrad on Facebook

AgGrad on LinkedIn

AgGrad on Instagram

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 17, 2020

“In a lot of ways ag’s desire to be united is the thing that divides it the most.” - Sarah Mock

 

Sarah Mock has built her career around having difficult discussions and chasing the realities of agriculture. She is committed to not being an enemy or a cheerleader of agriculture creating a more balanced, real reporting style. In a world of fake news, her journalistic integrity is most welcomed. In an attempt to not isolate any particular views, mainstream agriculture media has historically chosen to offer very little divisive content. Unfortunately for some, that has led to an overall apathy towards having difficult conversations and being willing to go out on a limb.

 

“I hear people talk about the need to walk down the middle of the road. But walking down the middle of the road means never saying anything critical about the industry. That’s like the code word in ag media a lot of the time and it's a pushback I’ve gotten from editors before.” - Sarah Mock

 

Rural journalists, while present, tend to be more rare and deal with agriculture on a national basis. As a freelance journalist, Sarah has been able to explore stories that interest her and that she feels needs to be told including more philosophical based questions to more localized topics. With no interest in avoiding difficult conversations, she strives to open up a platform for honest discussion. She remarks that there seems to be a focus on “positivity” in traditional agriculture narratives that can be detrimental to the wellbeing of those in the industry.

 

“You’re creating a misconception for people that it’s normal to be happy and positive all the time and that’s how you should want to feel. And it isn’t always the case.” - Sarah Mock

 

Sarah has given herself a personal pursuit of exploring the possibility of agriculture without exploitation. The use of “exploitation” encompasses time, money, consumers. resources, the environment and the farmers themselves. She doesn’t have an answer to that question but is determined to discover as much as possible towards formulating one. Sarah shares that “we should know the answer to that question” regardless of its outcome in order to better inform our choices. She reflects on what she has observed in agriculture media and the future it might hold.

 

“Ag got this idea in our collective brain 10 years ago that our real problem is that consumers don’t understand about agriculture and….if we could just explain to people what was happening then we wouldn’t have any problems anymore which seems like a fundamental misread of the whole situation at this point.” - Sarah Mock

 

The agriculture industry has attempted to bridge the gap between the producer and consumer by providing explanations for practices rather than addressing the specific concerns the public might have. She promotes engaging people by being open to questions and criticism alike. Sarah predicts that the future of agriculture media will be “individuals that have interesting compelling personalities and perspectives that can go straight to their audience themselves.”

 

This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:

  • Meet Sarah Mock, a rural journalist not afraid to take on difficult topics
  • Sarah reflects on her experiences within ag media and the shortfalls she sees occurring
  • Explore the future of ag media and marketing

Founder Spotlight: Tyler McGee of Shepherd Farming

Shepherd is a digital labor platform designed specifically for farms and agriculture operations. It allows growers to quickly see what work needs to be done on their farms for that day and to send and receive tasks from other users.”

  • Shepherd Farming aims at making farm labor and farm management more efficient by
  • Through research trials and the Ag Launch Accelerator Program their team has fine tuned what farmer’s need to best optimize their labor forces
  • They are now integrating weather data into their task lists to better schedule what needs to be done and when

Share the Ag-Love!

Thanks for joining us on the Future of Agriculture Podcast – your spot for valuable information, content, and interviews with industry leaders throughout the agricultural space! If you enjoyed this week’s episode, please subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave your honest feedback. Don’t forget to share it with your friends on your favorite social media spots! And be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of ag.

Learn more about AgGrad by visiting:

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

AgGrad on Twitter

AgGrad on Facebook

AgGrad on LinkedIn

AgGrad on Instagram

 

 

 

 

Jun 10, 2020

Pristine Gourmet was formed in 2005 with the vision of supplying the food industry with quality local non-GMO artisan foods. Jason Persall owns Pristine Gourmet in Waterford, Ontario. He converted his 1000 acre strictly traditional commodity soybean farm to support the three pillars of Pristine Gourmet; heritage, passion and craftsmanship. They produce fresh and unique cooking oils for retail, restaurants and bulk ingredients. The major obstacle faced by Pristine Gourmet was finding shelf space in the supermarkets and somehow making their product stand out. Jason quickly understood that was going to be a perpetual obstacle and so chose to pursue a different strategy. Jason shares that he invested slowly and allowed his business “to grow organically.”

 

“That was kind of just the beginning of where we are now. Just starting out with chefs and realizing that that is really our focus of where our brand is going to be widely accepted. Chefs just love new products, something that’s local to them, something that has a story, that’s direct from the farm.” - Jason Persall

 

Chefs and their teams take tours of his farm and engage in the process of developing their products. The bulk ingredient supply side of their business has helped support them during the Covid Pandemic while restaurant need is reduced. They also sell their cooking oils online through their website. Their retail products include cold pressed sunflower and canola oils similar to extra virgin olive oils. The process they use allows for better taste, higher antioxidant levels and an all round better quality product. For food service clients they can also prepare hybrid fryer oils. Each oil has a different purpose in mind. The canola oil is touted as the “queen of oils” with a “very impactful” nice flavor. The soybean oil has a more mild flavor when compared to the canola oil but with additional nutty flavors. It also has the added benefit of an impressive viscosity at room temperature which lends itself to being an excellent garnish. The final oil is a sunflower oil with a light, fresh sunflower taste and has the widest range of use in the kitchen. They also produce a pumpkin seed oil typically used to enhance different flavors.

 

“That’s kind of the reason why we do the oils that we do is because they’re drastically different from each other and their applications are different….It’s really geared towards the chef.” - Jason Persall

This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:

  • Meet Jason Perall, owner of Pristine Gourmet
  • Learn about how Jason moved his commodity based farm towards artisan cooking oil production
  • Explore what makes Pristine Gourmet unique and loved by local chefs

Visit PristineGourmet.com to order your cooking oil direct from the farm!

 

Share the Ag-Love!

Thanks for joining us on the Future of Agriculture Podcast – your spot for valuable information, content, and interviews with industry leaders throughout the agricultural space! If you enjoyed this week’s episode, please subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave your honest feedback. Don’t forget to share it with your friends on your favorite social media spots! And be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of ag.

Learn more about AgGrad by visiting:

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

AgGrad on Twitter

AgGrad on Facebook

AgGrad on LinkedIn

AgGrad on Instagram

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 3, 2020

Fulcrum Global Capital is a venture capital firm focused on global food production. Traditional row crop agriculture, production animal health and agriculture technology are the main interests of their investment thesis. They often find themselves investing in early stage companies that are “not only early stage in terms of a company’s life cycle, but early in terms of where the technology falls in the value chain of the food production.”

 

When they initially heard the pitch by P&P Optica Founder Olga Pawluczyk they were impressed. 16 months later they made their investment. P&P Optica addresses “challenges such as the $4 billion annual loss that takes place in the food processing space around foreign material detection.”

 

“Where we see the long term vision of this company (P&P Optica), is really becoming a data company. The more units a customer will have, call it a Tyson or a Maple Leaf (for example). The more that they have, the more DATA we are able to provide them to make decisions.” - Kevin Lockett, Fulcrum Global Capital

 

This results in catching foreign material at a “much higher rate and at a much smaller size.” The origin of P&P Optica was not in food processing but rather in lens development for detection of different particles in the oil industry. When the oil industry suffered, an opportunity presented to identify fat content in meat. This opened the door to using their detection technology in food production.

 

“If you look at what are the important aspects of food production; you want safety, you want quality and you want to produce exactly what you need to produce.” - Olga Pawluczyk, P&P Optica

“The estimated costs of a single recall is about $10 million on average” in product loss and is commonly compounded by brand damage. Plants will process “hundreds of thousands of pounds” of meat per day so inspecting each piece of meat for safety and quality can be difficult to do thoroughly at that pace.

“So if we can take a step back and look at it with technology that sees chemical composition and can see the gradation of the cells, how all the cells are, how much water there is, what type of protein, and what type of fat; that information can translate into the quality and therefore can sort every single piece on the line.” - Olga Pawluczyk, P&P Optica

This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:

  • Meet Fulcrum Global Capital as they share their philosophy and some of the companies they have been able to invest in
  • Meet Olga Pawluczyk of https://ppo.ca/about-ppo/P&P Optica and learn about the innovations her company is creating and the impact it will have on food production

Share the Ag-Love!

Thanks for joining us on the Future of Agriculture Podcast – your spot for valuable information, content, and interviews with industry leaders throughout the agricultural space! If you enjoyed this week’s episode, please subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave your honest feedback. Don’t forget to share it with your friends on your favorite social media spots! And be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of ag.

Learn more about AgGrad by visiting:

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

AgGrad on Twitter

AgGrad on Facebook

AgGrad on LinkedIn

AgGrad on Instagram

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