Prime Future Newsletter: https://primefuture.substack.com/
Our guest on today’s show Jordan Lambert actually mentioned back on episode 261. She has a technology that is easily installed in a milking parlor that collects milk data at the individual cow level. Not just on milk quality - which is one big factor, but also on cow health. It turns out, the milk can tell us a lot about how that cow is doing. This way, a dairy producer can see trends in not just their herd as a whole, but also in individual cows.
Bethany Deshpande is on the show. She is the CEO of SomaDetect, which is the company doing all that stuff I just mentioned. Bethany completed her PhD in Biology, and isn’t from a dairy background originally, but started SomaDetect when she saw an opportunity in the industry to apply some technology originally developed by her father. We’ll get more into that background later in the episode.
But she’s certainly dove headfirst into the dairy industry these past five years since starting the company. This is a great profile of what’s possible as we continue to find new ways to both collect data, but really to put it into management practices. I think there’s a lot of lessons to be learned here about the future of agriculture, whether dairy is of interest to you or not.
Here is my conversation with SomaDetect CEO Bethany Deshpande.
Benson Hill: https://bensonhill.com/
Today’s episode features Matt Crisp, CEO and co-founder of Benson Hill. Benson Hill describes themselves as a food tech company unlocking the natural genetic diversity of plants with its cutting-edge food innovation engine. Basically, they are trying to improve plant-based ingredients by attacking every aspect of the value chain from seed to processing to sales.
The “plant-based” movement so far, has been trying to mimic the flavors and nutrition of the products they are trying to replace. Matt Crisp’s vision at Benson Hill that you’ll hear today on this show, is that they have the chance to surpass those products, but they will have to do so with better ingredients - which can only come as a result of better genetics and processing.
Matt’s road into health, nutrition, and agriculture actually came from his early career in venture capital. Hearing about how those things tie together is how we’ll start today’s episode with Benson Hill CEO and co-founder, Matt Crisp.
Matt has also appeared on a couple of other agtech podcasts recently:
The Modern Acre
AGCO Corp: https://www.agcocorp.com/
Upstream Ag Insights: https://upstreamaginsights.substack.com/
Software is Feeding the World: https://rpethe.substack.com/
Today’s guest is Louisa Parker-Smith, who is the Global Head of Sustainability for AGCO Corporation. Most of you listening know all about AGCO - they are a major farm machinery designer, manufacturer, and distributor, including tractors, combine harvesters, hay & forage machinery. This includes brands like Fendt, Massey Furgeson, Challenger, Valtra, Gleaner, and many others. They also have a growing grain and protein division which offers grain storage, seed processing, and protein production equipment.
In Louisa’s role as head of sustainability, she sets strategy for AGCO’s sustainability programs and ESG which stands for environmental, social, and governance. It’s a very hot topic especially among publicly traded companies, which AGCO is. Sustainability roles like Louisa’s are unique, in that she is constantly engaging with all of the key stakeholders surrounding the business: customers, dealers, AGCO colleagues, and investors. It’s also a role that requires her to be thinking much further out than most others. She says she’s regularly thinking 10 years out or longer, which brings a very interesting perspective on the future of agriculture.
In today’s episode, we talk about ESG and the interest of investors to know what AGCO is doing in terms of sustainability, where AGCO is focusing their efforts particularly on reducing emissions including scope 3 emissions which includes the footprint of their customers who use their products, future innovations in farm machinery, and her time in Africa where she held multiple roles with the company including Director of Distribution Development on the continent.
Visit Bushel online: https://bushelpowered.com/
Today’s episode takes a peak inside one of the hottest agtech companies to come along in recent years: Bushel. I’ve known about Bushel for a couple of years now, and originally just understood them to be a company that was digitizing scale tickets, which is actually how they started. Scale tickets, for those of you who don’t know, are the paper receipt that accompanies a load of an agricultural commodity that usually includes how much was delivered to where, what the grade factors were, etc. It’s really important because historically this is what is used to get paid properly, to keep effective records, and to have a paper trail for bankers, etc.
Then this year they raised a $47M series B round and acquired long time farm management software company FarmLogs, and it became clear that I needed to get them on the show to explain all of these pieces and how they fit together.
Joining me is Bushel co-founder and CEO Jake Joraanstad as well as Jesse Vollmar, who was the cofounder and CEO of FarmLogs and now is the VP of Farm Strategy at Bushel after the acquisition. We discuss why a company that is focused on supply chain would get into the farm management software business, what is digital infrastructure and how it makes money, why they don’t see blockchain as the answer for this digital infrastructure, and how they might use the data they’re collecting to provide unprecedented insights back to their customers.
Bushel has some pretty impressive feathers in their cap: they’ve raised a total of around $75M now, much of it from corporate venture capital arms of large grain companies such as Cargill, Scoular, The Andersons, and Continental Grain (which I actually think is more of an investor and holding company than a grain company nowadays, but we’ll count them anyway). Even more impressive is that Bushel boasts 60,000 active users on its platform, which is used at 2,000 grain buying locations throughout the US and Canada. They reach 40% of grain origination in the US and handle $22 billion of grain contracts each year.
Learn more about SWAT Maps: https://www.swatmaps.com/
Fieldwalker Agronomy: https://fieldwalker.ca/
Jonathan on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ZRAgri
Today’s episode is all about precision agriculture, so if you’re into agronomy and variable rate technology, or what our guest would prefer to call optimal rate technology, you’re in for a real treat. If these terms are new to you, at a basic level we are talking about technology that is being used to understand the variability of a field so that the precise (hence the name precision) amounts of a given seed, fertilizer, or other input can be applied in a way that maximizes the crop response, and of course, overall profitability. Plants don’t grow by the acre, they grow on an individual basis and may respond differently based on site-specific factors. For more on precision ag, find these previous FoA episodes: 256, 244, 243, 218, 211, 200, 196, 179, 175, 108, 25.
Today’s episode is part of a series I’m doing called the Tech-Enabled Advisor. These are episodes I’m releasing once per month with the intention of better understanding agtech through the lense of the buyers and users rather than just the entrepreneurs or investors. We’ve done four of these so far: 255, 259, 264, and 269, and from what I’ve been hearing the reception has been excellent.
Joining me on today’s episode to talk about precision ag is Jonathan Zettler, who is an agronomist and the founder of Fieldwalker Agronomy Limited, a private crop consultancy in Minto, Ontario. After 17 seasons in ag retail, Jonathan launched the company to provide “profitable, actionable advice” to farmer customers.
To make sure we hear from different types of guests on this Tech-Enabled Advisor series, I’ve asked various agtech companies to partner with me on these episodes. For today’s episode, I’m fortunate to be partnering with Croptmistic Technology, the creators of SWAT Maps. Some of you may remember Croptimistic from my interview with company president Cory Willness last year in episode 211, or the separate podcast I do in partnership with them called SWAT Agronomy. Jonathan at FieldWalker was the first provider to test and start offering SWAT Maps in Eastern Canada.
For a brief refresher on SWAT Maps, SWAT stands for soil, water, and topography. These maps are high resolution soil foundation maps used to execute variable rate fertilizer, seed, soil amendment, herbicide, and precision water management. Instead of just using imagery of vegetation, also known as NDVI imagery, SWAT Maps takes an integrated soil-based approach that starts with RTK or LIDAR elevation, soil color sensors, and electrical conductivity. Then they use that data to build more useful layers: topography models, water flow paths, normalized EC layers, and soil organic matter. With a patented process and proprietary software tools, layers are modeled into a single encompassing map that depicts soil properties, water influences, and topography of the field. Croptimistic Technology is the company that created SWAT Maps and they partner with companies like Jonathan’s to implement the technology and combine it with local agronomic advice. Learn more about them at SWATMaps.com.
In today’s episode, Jonathan and I discuss the evolution of precision agriculture adoption in his area of Ontario. How he is building his agronomy business using SWAT Maps as part of his foundation. His agronomy tech stack, what tool he still would like to see created, and why tech will never fully replace the agronomist. Oh, and why he prefers the term “optimal rate” over the term “variable rate”.