Salinas, Calif., June 28, 2018—SVG Partners announced Philadelphia based startup Augean Robotics as the winner of the 2018 THRIVE AgTech Innovation Award early this morning during the fourth annual Forbes AgTech Summit. In addition to Augean Robotics, precision agriculture company Aker and microbiome company Intrinsyx Bio received honorable mentions.
SVG Partners Founder and CEO John Hartnett and THRIVE Platform Director Mareese Keane presented the award on the Forbes main stage as day two of the summit kicked off. “Each year we are continually impressed not only by the innovative technologies of these companies but also the caliber and level of leadership of each team,” Hartnett said. “The THRIVE Innovation Award is awarded to companies exemplifying the best in technology and leadership.”
Jennifer Oelfke, Communications and Marketing student at MNSU, Mankato, shares her visions for the future of the agricultural industry, especially for her generation. Along with her foresight, she stresses the importance in upcoming generations to innovate within agriculture. Oelfke has always had close connections to this topic, from being raised on her family’s dairy farm to her involvement in her local 4H chapter. She continued her passion for agriculture by being a founding member of AgToday, an organization designed to promote the growth and awareness of economic vitality shaped by the opportunities within agriculture.
What is your background in agriculture?
I grew up on my family’s dairy farm and was actively involved in youth agriculture associated organizations. For 12+ years I was involved in 4-H focusing my projects on dairy and later took interest in beef. I joined my local FFA chapter and competed in CDE’s for dairy judging, taking top team titles at a state convention, along with leadership positions in the local chapter. I also worked closely with the mission of Midwest Dairy Association during my time as a Finalist for Minnesota’s ambassador program. For as long as I’ve known, I’ve always been actively involved in the promotion of dairy and agriculture.
Why are you interested in pursuing an education with an Agriculture emphasis?
There are many reasons why I’m interested in pursuing a degree with an emphasis in agriculture, personal and objective. Personally, it’s an industry that I have deeps roots in, and have always had a passion for seeing the progression and innovation in agriculture. Objectively, agriculture is not and will not be a disappearing industry. The need for food and other products of agriculture will always be there. There are many actions that are taken place to produce a sustainable product, and a lot of those don’t even involve the farmer. I’m pursuing a communications degree with an emphasis in marketing, and with all the opportunities in agriculture, I know that my degree can directly impact this industry without needing to be on the farm.
What do you wish your generation knew about careers in agriculture?
My generation is actually about 3-4 [generations] removed from the farm, so there are a lot of things I wish they were more aware of, but the main one is that careers in agriculture don’t have to mean putting on work boots and heading out to field or barn. Even though I wish there was more respect from my generation for the people producing our food, it’s just not realistic that will come first. The mission of AgToday, newly started MSU organization, focuses on the business, science, engineering and technical side of the industry. It’s our members’ intent that we can educate our peers about the innovation and opportunities in agriculture.
How do you see your generation influencing the industry?
My generation is generally more adaptable to change, and we want to be a part of the next big thing, and for most, innovation in agriculture can be that. Sustainability is a common top of the conversation, especially for individuals in my generation. We’re very environmentally conscious, so as long as we learn and understand what farming practices will benefit the environment, and ourselves, we can create great change and innovation.
Aker participated in a recent event hosted by FARM Illinois, “AT THE FOREFRONT: Propelling the Agri-Food Data Revolution.”
The two dominant themes for this event were (1) Agriculture data as a currency and considerations as it moves from farm to fork, and (2) How will this group seize the opportunity to enhance leadership and promote sustainable innovation in Illinois?
Rob Dongoski from Ernst and Young was the most provocative of the presenters with is challenge and scorecard on Agri-Food data; Who owns it? Why do consumers and producers care about it? What data is relevant and for what purpose? On average Rob gives C- on how the industry, in general, is dealing with these questions.
Important to note that agriculture data is not a commodity (limited by supply-demand market dynamics) but rather a currency with virtually an infinite dimension.
As a currency, Rob maintains that the study of agriculture data should center around data value, security and fraud, and how this information transacts frictionless at high velocity within this supply chain.
Data has the potential to transform the way we produce, process, manufacture, and distribute the food of the future. Technology is enabling the creation and proliferation of data across the entire agri-food supply chain. Supply chains, however, are traditionally linear with a discrete order of progression – input, produce, source, make, deliver, consume. To maximize the potential of data in the agri-food landscape, we must enable frictionless, transparent, and effective movement of data from farm-to-fork.
Kyle Doodley from CNH Industrial spoke next. Kyle has a background in human factors/ergonomics, yet he is responsible for the CNH’s overall data strategy and analytics. This skill set was a perfect match for his perspective. Kyle explained that the industry needs to work backward to understand valid use cases from the data to guide the collection and analysis. He also established that data acts as an exogenous factor to exert influence on its economic value. He asserted that agriculture data impacts the Total Factor Productivity (TFP) where there is a portion of output that cannot be explained by the input used in production.
I enjoyed visiting at our table with Kyle and listening to his wit. He shared how the largest companies in an industry often are not responsible for the means of data production or infrastructure, but rather create value from the transaction and transfer of data across the supply chain; Facebook is the largest content company, yet they don’t produce any. Uber is the largest transportation company and they do not own cars, etc.
Mark Beckmann, Director of Industry Solutions at Microsoft showed a map with players and actors across the industry and impressed that technology isn’t holding us back, people, cultural barriers, and process are what is holding the industry from full integration. According to Mark, the biggest challenge Microsoft is facing is how do we, as users of data, change behavior to create the most value out of data? Mark anticipates several breakthroughs with personalized data vault and greater adoption of related technologies to create transparency and opportunities for content owners – the farmers – to participate in the monetization stream of their data.
Aker is thrilled to be part of this effort. We bring a unique dataset to support in-season crop management to improve grower efficiency and customer service platform for Ag retailers and suppliers. Here are some my biggest takeaways from this event:
- Trust is the glue and the grease to help hold and mobilize agriculture data and the intrinsic value across the supply chain.
- Technology is not an answer. The real effort is exploring shared values to overcome barriers to adoption and change.
- My take: FARM Illinois has a unique opportunity to be not only an industry convener but also take an active role as a publisher and storyteller consolidating industry knowledge for the benefit of educating consumers.
Illinois has a lot of assets to support the industry move from participant to innovator with shared values that can engage the rest of the world in this conversation.