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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: February, 2021
Feb 24, 2021

The question of “what are the real problems in agriculture that need to be solved?” is one we ask often here on this show. If you ask that to a dozen people, you’ll probably get about 20 different answers. But herbicide resistance is one that hits home for many. As you’re about to hear, the tools we’ve been using for decades are becoming less and less effective, and the pipeline for new active ingredients has been empty for a long time. Every year more and more weeds show signs of resistance - which is not a trend that can continue. 

Today’s guests are the co-founders and co-CEOs of Israel-based WeedOut, a biological herbicide company which uses proprietary pollen to sterilize weeds like Palmer Amaranth, otherwise known as pigweed. Dr. Efrat Lidor Nili and Dr. Orly Noivirt-Brik are both accomplished scientists who have already been a part of one successful exit: they worked at Rosetta Green which was purchased by Monsanto in 2013. WeedOUT is a portfolio company of Fulcrum Global Capital, who partnered with me on this episode.

 

“As we continued to focus on (weed resistance) we understood that this a very significant problem not only in the US but also in Europe, also in China, Australia, South American and all over the world. Out of the 26 modes of action of herbicides 23 have already reported resistance.” -Dr. Orly Noivirt-Brik

 

“In order to slow down this process of resistant development, it’s very important to combine new tactics.” WeedOut has produced a biological pollen that works with the weeds biology to obstruct their reproductive cycle. This is a new mechanism of action that the weeds will not have developed any resistance to. It will also be difficult for weeds to create resistance because they will not be capable of producing more generations that could evolve and adapt. “We are actually reducing significantly the seed bank year after year.” Their main focus so far has been to target Palmer Amaranth as it is a weed of significant resistance and wide dissemination. They do not plan to replace chemical herbicide but rather increase its efficacy by not solely relying on it. 

 

“By blocking resistance using our own methods, then you can extend the lifetime of the chemicals that are currently used instead of switching to more toxic chemicals...So actually by blocking resistance, we are preserving the entire set of products that are available today making them efficient for many more years.” -Dr. Efrat Lidor Nili

 

“Our strategy is first to fit our technology to the standard tools that all farmers have. And with the second layer we will continue and explore this opportunity to spray it using drones.” As well as developing different methods of delivery they hope to expand to different weeds. Weeds most susceptible to this technology would reproduce via cross or wind pollination. WeedOut has found success in finding investors that will allow continued expansion and development with a hopeful launch in 2023.

 

This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:

  • Meet Dr. Efrat Lidor Nili and Dr. Orly Noivirt-Brik, co-CEOs of WeedOut
  • Explore the concern regarding herbicide resistance and the lack of progress being made in that space
  • Learn about the biological solution WeedOut has proven and will be providing to producers globally to combat herbicide resistance of Palmer Amaranth

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

Feb 17, 2021

Today Janette Barnard co-hosts to bring us an innovative virtual fencing product for cattle ranchers. Frank Wooten joins us as the founder of Vence. Vence offers producers optionality in their grazing operations whether large or small. This technology provides for rotational grazing opportunities while bridging obstacles such as large uneven terrain, poor connectivity and weather dynamics. The ramifications of this opportunity may allow US producers to better compete in the grass fed and grass finished product market. 

 

“At a high level we are solving the problem of increasing yield and land management for cow-calf and cattle operators around the world…..we are enabling the ability to set up animal control at a very granular level without the need for physical fences or manual labor.” - Frank Wooten

 

“It’s not that physical fences are an insufficient solution. It's that they are a static solution to a dynamic problem.” To be able to adapt your ranching practices to changes in your land and terrain allows for more flexibility and improved land stewardship. “There are more livestock on the planet than there are cars on the road” leading to their management and land use being of the utmost significance. Producers would be able to access the location of their animals and schedule their proposed movement to best suit their needs. 

 

The cattle become trained to the sound emitted by individual collars to be able to know where they can move without stimulating an electric shock. GPS chip technology and a tower built at a high location makes cell coverage not an issue for producers to connect with their animals.  Only the tower itself needs cell coverage. Each collar then communicates with their assigned tower like a walkie-talkie. “We have yet to find a farm that in the right position we can’t get some sort of cell coverage on.” 

 

“A cattleman’s job is to translate grass into a saleable final product….the increase in grass productivity is driven via managing the grass in a particular way and it is also driven via the soil….that allows customers to increase the productivity of the land. ” - Frank Wooten

 

“We spend a lot of time making sure that we understand exactly what the cost structure looks like for our customers and making sure that we are giving them something that is materially better than what they have currently and that it is cost justified.” One expected financial benefit is that producers are seeing a decrease in needing external sources of feed for their animals. However, Frank does explain that there “is a process there” and that the land will take some time to recover as weather, water and grass species allow. The flexibility Vence allows for will allow for optimization of land management practices from a convenient platform the producer can access from their mobile devices.  

 

“We're in this for the long run with (producers) as well. We're not making money off those collars on day one, or even year one or year two, for that matter. It's a long-term business relationship that we're looking to have and establish with customers.” - Frank Wooten



This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:

  • Meet Frank Wooten, co-founder of Vence 
  • Explore the different obstacles this technology has overcome and the opportunities in virtual fencing available to cattle producers
  • Learn about available techniques to better contribute to land stewardship in the cattle production industry

 

Subscribe to Janette’s newsletter: PRIME FUTURE.

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

Feb 10, 2021

Today’s show connects back to episode 241 with Craig Rupp of Sabanto, where we talked about, among many other things, how the Climate Corp has been able to become a central data collection platform on so many large scale farms.  Ranjeeta Singh, the Chief Product Officer of The Climate Corp joins us to further explore data ownership, product strategy and design thinking. Ranjeeta was hired last year to drive the product strategy and roadmap for Climate’s digital farming solutions. She has more than two decades of background in hardware and software at the intersection of IoT, AI and data science with companies like Intel and Teradata. She holds five patents at Intel, and multiple publications. She is also the recipient of the “Top 50 under 50 most powerful women in technology”. Her perspective as someone coming from a career in tech to now a career in agtech is something I found interesting and insightful. 

 

“People only think of Climate as a Fieldview platform...I have talked about the three lines of business. We talk about software as a service which is a Fieldview platform, data as a service which is the actual platform and how you organize and store data...and then we have professional services where you’re more focused on tailored solutions.” - Ranjeeta Singh

 

Ranjeeta highlights design thinking principles in developing new products whereby you focus on customer pain points and design solutions with a go-to market approach.

“Product really helps you define the business case and the requirements so it helps define why you’re doing something before you get into the what and the how.” Data as a service is a hot topic now among producers including what happens after the data is collected and analyzed. “The concern has always been about what constitutes proper notice to the consumers that the data is being collected and the privacy of that data….the producers are understandably worried about the information getting in the hands of the wrong people.”

 

“Our view has always been that the data collected to the digital farming tools belongs to the farmers....You can anonymize the data and you can leverage the insights based on it but do not share the data without the consent of the farmers.” - Ranjeeta Singh

 

Insights from this data analysis can for example establish calculated recommendations as to what inputs, at what rate and in which location can be most beneficial to their operations. “We are giving value to them through professional services.” The current focus of her team is evolving the software to best address the needs of producers and creating pilot programs to optimize the benefit to individual operations and their exposure to these new technologies.

 

“I think we need to build out this ecosystem of players and ecosystem of products and technology, but people should be able to choose what they want to.” - Ranjeeta Singh

 

Ranjeeta believes that by making a compelling product producers will be able to accomplish multiple goals within one system. If a company is unable to fill a specific void and provide that type of service then producers should have the choice to use and combine different technologies together. While they may be deemed competitors, Ranjeeta supports not locking producers into any one system but rather focusing on making the best product for her customers and allowing them to choose the system that best fits their needs. 



This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:

  • Meet Ranjeeta Singh, the Chief Product Officer of The Climate Corp
  • Explore the intricacies and considerations regarding collecting, analyzing and disseminating producer generated data.
  • Learn about the core belief systems and three lines of business Climate Corp is engaged in
  • Learn more about Climate Corp at www.climate.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

Feb 3, 2021

This is one of two short episodes I’m releasing for you today, both exploring some aspect of farm data. You may have already listened to the first part with Dr. Terry Griffin at Kansas State University.

Now we turn our attention to another Purdue graduate, Aaron Gault, cofounder and agronomy manager of Advanced Agrilytics. Advanced Agrilytics offers agronomy services equipped with their analytics platform, which helps farmer customers get a better picture of what’s working and not working in their agronomic practices. 

Aaron focuses on in-season crop management and the understanding of real-time crop performance influenced by the environmental conditions of any given growing season. Aaron’s ability to integrate yield response probability with in-field stimuli is a key component of Advanced Agrilytics sub-acre approach to understanding yield. Before joining Advanced Agrilyitcs, Aaron worked as a professional agronomist for leading agriculture companies.

Aaron and I discuss what makes Advanced Agrilytics approach different from others, how this aspect of the precision agriculture industry has evolved, and how the farmer can best utilize their own data to improve their operation.

 

JOIN THE FOA COMMUNITY: www.Patreon.com/agriculture

Feb 3, 2021

For the first time, I’m releasing two episodes on the same day. I’ve trimmed each of the two episodes down to about half of my normal length so the total time commitment on your part is still about the same as a regular week, but if you’re a subscriber, you probably already noticed, there are two today. 

There’s a few reasons for this, but mostly it’s to try something new. This isn’t something I’m planning to keep doing on a regular basis, but maybe occasionally, if you like it, so let me know what you think. 

Both of today’s episodes are about farm data. This one you’re about to hear is on the economics of farm data with Dr. Terry Griffin, and the next one is on the analytics of farm data with Aaron Gault, which I encourage you to listen to after this one.  

I’ve been meaning to bring Dr. Terry Griffin on the show for a long time, because he is not only well-researched and data-driven, but as you’ll hear he’s not afraid to explore ideas that may be somewhat unconventional or even unpopular.

Terry is associate professor and cropping systems economist at Kansas State University specializing in farm management and agricultural technology. For his achievements in advancing digital agriculture, Griffin has received the 2014 Pierre C. Robert International Precision Agriculture Young Scientist Award, the 2012 Conservation Systems Precision Ag Researcher of the Year, and the 2010 PrecisionAg Award of Excellence for Researchers.

Terry and I discussed how farm data should be valued, some of the nuances of adoption of variable rate technology, and why he doesn’t advise farmers to jump headfirst into joining a data service. 

 

JOIN THE FOA MEMBERSHIP COMMUNITY: www.Patreon.com/agriculture

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