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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: January, 2021
Jan 27, 2021

Big shoutout to two new members of the FoA community this week, Italo Guedes and Sara Faivre, thank you both for your involvement and support. If you’d like to support this show and join a community of some really smart people passionate about ag, you can do so at www.patreon.com/agriculture

For years, I have been on a somewhat public quest to understand regenerative agriculture. Where is the line between regenerative and not regenerative? Are these claims I’m hearing of more profit with very few inputs credible? Where is the science that backs all this up? Where does ag innovation and technology fit into this model? These are just a few of the many questions I have asked. This goes back to episode 44 in 2017, and shows up again and again in episodes 64, 109, 135, 182, 199, 216, 222, and 232...just to name a few. Frankly, I’m often left with more questions than answers. Not because my guests haven’t been forthcoming - they have. I think it’s more due to the fact that it’s more complicated. As my guest on today’s show will say, it’s not about practices, it’s about principles. 

As it has caught on in popularity, there are a lot of people who have wanted to come on the podcast and talk about regenerative agriculture. But the people that I have gravitated to most on the subject are the practitioners themselves, the farmers making this work. And the scientists trying to provide the data to separate fact from fiction. We have on today’s show, someone who is both a farmer and a scientist, Dr. Jonathan Lundgren. 

Dr. Lundgren is the director ECDYSIS Foundation, and CEO for Blue Dasher Farm in South Dakota. He received his PhD in Entomology from the University of Illinois in 2004, and was a top scientist with USDA-ARS for 11 years. His research and education programs focus on assessing the ecological risk of pest management strategies and developing long-term solutions for regenerative food systems.

Jan 20, 2021

Craig Rupp is the CEO and founder of Sabanto. Prior to founding Sabanto he was a cofounder of 640 Labs where FieldView Drive was originally created. The first part of today’s episode will be about Craig’s journey at 640 Labs and its eventual acquisition by Climate Corp. Despite all of these impressive innovations and industry game-changers, that’s not the only thing he joins us to share about today. His current project, Sabanto, is gaining momentum and continuing to develop its autonomous tractors. 

 

“In the last month, I was just amazed as to how mature our software is and how hands-off we have become. The little tractor that we use is very dependable and our software is very mature.” - Craig Rupp

 

The Sabanto tractors can participate in tillage, cultivation and tine weed and are one of the “hardest working tractors in the US” according to Craig. While initially they required intensive monitoring they have continued to develop and allow for more autonomy. By continuing to develop the technology and allowing Sabanto to take care of some procedures, farmers will be able to repurpose labor needs, expenses and focus on their own efficiency.  

 

“I think everyone’s waiting around to see what the industry brings them…..I wanted to bring autonomy into agriculture and I wanted to completely change the landscape of agriculture.” - Craig Rupp 

 

In conventional farming with large manual equipment, Craig feels that we have “peaked in horsepower” as an industry. While the previous objective for agricultural equipment was to cover as many acres as possible leading to larger equipment, now we see Sabanto prioritizing efficiency, ease of use, connectivity and decreased soil compaction. Craig looks forward to continuing to spread the use of autonomous tractors in more locations and on more operations.

 

This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:

  • Meet Craig Rupp, founder and CEO of Sabanto
  • Learn about the journey and major successes Craig has experienced in his career with agriculture technology
  • Explore the many uses and value Sabanto can bring to a farming operation
  • Follow Sabanto at @sabantoag on Twitter

Join the FOA Community!

Be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of the ag industry. I’m sending out my email newsletter on a more regular basis, focusing on what I call the front lines of agtech: where product meets producer. You can sign up for that at www.FutureOfAg.com. There’s an email icon in the center of the page, just click on that and it will take you to a signup form.

Do you have suggestions for topics to be explored? Tweet them to me @timhammerich or email them to tim@aggrad.com

Find us online!

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

Jan 13, 2021

In recent years, the idea of farmers getting paid based on stewardship has really taken off. Whether that’s the discussion of companies paying for carbon sequestration, soil conservation, water quality or any other number of “ecosystem services”, it seems to be a trend that is not going away any time soon. But how much real demand is there for this vs. just marketing and PR? Obviously, we all want cleaner air and water, but who is lining up to pay for it to create the right incentives to make it happen? And, does this even scale?

Jason Weller is the Vice President of Truterra, LLC, the sustainability solutions business of Land O’Lakes Inc.. Many do not know that Land O’Lakes Inc. is one of the nation’s largest farmer-owned cooperatives. Before joining Truterra, Jason served as Chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the nation’s largest working lands conservation organization. That makes him uniquely suited to talk about the role of both public and private sectors in this sustainability conversation.

 

“I was interested in coming to work for a company that was dreaming and thinking big. So Land O’Lakes was building a sustainability team….It felt like a once in a lifetime career opportunity to come work in agriculture for one of the largest farmer co-ops in the country who was thinking big and not just talking, but actually investing in building out the team to help farmers on a scale that's unprecedented. - Jason Weller

 

Truterra is the name of the business that represents the sustainability arm of Land O’Lakes. Jason highlights that this is a business division and not simply philanthropic. “I think what also frankly is energizing is trying to find that balance between ROI and good natural resource conservation.” So beyond promoting soil health and water conservation, they focus on making it profitable for producers and therefore enticing sustainability on a large scale. 

 

“Our job is to then not just dream big, but to then get tactical and think about how we weave sustainability into that huge enterprise? How do we bring solutions to those local regional retailer owners and individual farming operations that compliment their businesses but also start to address broader issues around soil health, around water quality, water availability and biodiversity?” - Jason Weller 

 

Truterra is blazing new trails in creating incentives, insights and expertise for producers with a goal of financial viability and improved sustainability practices. Jason admits that mandates are not easily accepted or embraced and so his goal is not to force farmers but help them in these efforts with “shared risk and shared opportunity.” The Truterra Insights Engine “connects public information and then private information that the farmer shares.” This information is then amalgamated with management information. This combination then gives farmers a platform to see what adjustments can be made on their operations and what the outcomes could be both financially and environmentally. It also allows them to monitor their progress in these efforts and share them with retailers to improve their value.

 

“We do view farmers as our customer, but we don't charge the farmer for access to the tool because it's really a decision support tool for the farmer. And we don't want cost to be a barrier to access to the information.” - Jason Weller

 

This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:

  • Meet Jason Weller the Vice President of Truterra, LLC, the sustainability solutions business of Land O’Lakes Inc.
  • Explore the initiatives the Land O’Lakes Inc. cooperative are taking to promote sustainability and help producers
  • Learn about the new platform they are developing to support farmers and provide information to retailers

Join the FOA Community!

Be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of the ag industry. I’m sending out my email newsletter on a more regular basis, focusing on what I call the front lines of agtech: where product meets producer. You can sign up for that at www.FutureOfAg.com. There’s an email icon in the center of the page, just click on that and it will take you to a signup form.

Do you have suggestions for topics to be explored? Tweet them to me @timhammerich or email them to tim@aggrad.com

Find us online!

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

Jan 6, 2021

Today we are joined by Naeem Zafar. Naeem is a 7x serial entrepreneur and 5x CEO, with multiple successful exits. He is currently the co-founder and CEO of TeleSense, an IoT company creating real-time wireless sensing and predictive analytics for the stored grain industry. TeleSense is a portfolio company of Fulcrum Global Capital and adds to their story that we have had the privilege to share with you so far.

A lot of the attention has been paid to sensors in agronomy with soil, water, etc. But think about this with stored grain: every year we produce billions of bushels of corn, soybeans, and wheat, just in the U.S. alone. A lot of that is stored and handled multiple times: maybe in farm bins, in a local grain elevator, on a barge or rail car, at a processing facility, or export house where it goes on to further handling. So there are several opportunities for the grain quality to be affected, and a lot of current solutions of checking quality are still mostly manual: meaning sending someone up to look at and even smell the commodity. 

“Knowledge is king. When you know what's going on, you can make a sensible choice. That's what it all is about. Avoid the surprise.” - Naeem Zafar 

TeleSense has developed technology to monitor grain storage conditions and upload those findings to the cloud. This gives farmers the opportunity to adjust as needed for the conditions of the grain during storage reducing loss of product or quality. Naeem understands that “margins are thin” in the grain industry so his goal is to make it not just affordable but ultimately profitable for the producer. Their target is that the price should reflect approximately 2 cents per bushel which is recognized as a reasonable discount for a loss of quality making this technology more than feasible. “The data science and the alerts level will change based on the type (of grain), but the hardware is the same and the basic software is the same.” Alerts will be sent to the producers mobile device if a finding is a concern. You can access your data over time and at any instant on your desktop or mobile device. 

Phase 2 of their technology will be a device that creates a “smart bin” to collect the data, analyze conditions and make its own adjustments to rectify an issue if found. Beyond that, Naeem is looking forward to creating a reward for higher quality grains in general.

“So we are coming up with an index, a fine grain index, which will tell you what's the quality of the grain…..If you can do that, that opens up all kinds of interesting ideas.” Naeem Zafar

This value can expand into knowing which bin is best to sell and when. This also adds value to the extra effort you have put into the timing and storage of your grains. “It’s going to take a couple of years but that's the direction” TeleSense is headed towards. 

 

This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:

  • Meet Naeem Zafar the co-founder and CEO of TeleSense
  • Explore the problem TeleSense solves for those in the grain industry
  • Learn about the technology they have developed and the advantages this can give producers
  • Hear about the entrepreneurial journey Naeem took to get where he is now as a CEO, co-founder and professor.

If you enjoyed that conversation with Naeem Zafar of TeleSense, check out their website at Telesense.com. Thanks as well to Fulcrum Global Capital who partnered with me on this episode. Learn more about Fulcrum at www.FGCVC.com

 

Join the FOA Community!

Be sure to join the new Future of Agriculture Membership for even more valuable information on the future of the ag industry. I’m sending out my email newsletter on a more regular basis, focusing on what I call the front lines of agtech: where product meets producer. You can sign up for that at www.FutureOfAg.com. There’s an email icon in the center of the page, just click on that and it will take you to a signup form.

Do you have suggestions for topics to be explored? Tweet them to me @timhammerich or email them to tim@aggrad.com

Find us online!

Future of Agriculture Website

AgGrad Website

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