By Taranis AcreForward Podcast
AcreForward PodcastSep 20, 2023
An AcreForward Conversation with Landus GROW Lead, Jamie Orr
If you missed the Farm Progress Show this year, you missed more than the latest in machinery and agriculture innovation. Our Taranis team was onsite and recorded live interviews for the AcreForward podcast with members of our partnership network.
With a growing number of acres enrolled in the AcreForward Crop Intelligence, Landus is the “forward-leaning, progressive cooperative working with the farmers who want to be here tomorrow and will be here tomorrow,” says GROW Lead, Jamie Orr, who joined Mike on stage to talk technology, innovation, and what sets Landus apart in the cooperative marketplace.
“The main difference is the phone number that (customers or potential customers) can call. Someone will answer the phone most hours of the day,” he says. “We have experts behind the phone that can answer anything about Landus and our products.”
Orr cites technological advancements and Landus’ commitment to providing customers with the new and innovative solutions those technologies deliver as another distinguishing driver of the company—a driver Taranis aligns perfectly with.
As a one-time resident of the Innovation Center, located at the Landus headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa Taranis and Landus have a history. And Orr offers that the advantages Taranis provides help him and his team better serve their customers.
“Managing a virtual team, we can be sitting behind a desk, whether in a farmer’s office or our office, and understanding what is happening in a farmer’s field, down to an insect level,” Orr explains the value Taranis brings to his team. “No one, no matter how good of a scout you are, can find everything. Taranis takes a lot off our sales staff. It makes them more efficient and can bring better customer service to the farmer.”
With a family farm in northeast Iowa and Orr located in Illinois, being part of the farming operation can be challenging. Taranis is a connection Orr has found that helps him stay engaged in what is happening in the fields and a part of the management conversation.
“I can take a look at our family fields every day, and I can ask, “What’s going on in this field” from four hours away. I can look at a lot of acres in a short amount of time,” he says.
To hear more about how Orr’s team is putting Taranis AcreForward Intelligence to work to expand the expertise of senior agronomists, more effectively and efficiently train new sales and agronomic team members, and take the guesswork out of conversations from the buddy seat of the combine, tune in to this episode of the AcreForward Podcast.
Behind the Scenes of the Farm Progress Show 2023 with Show Director Matt Jungmann
“It’s special to be a part of something that is emulated around the world.” – National Event Director, Matt Jungmann
Join Matt and Mike for a behind the scenes look at this year’s Farm Progress Show. They talk about attendance, playing favorites between Boone and Decatur, and how President George W. Bush has been involved in the show.
A Retailer Focus on Dialed-In Customer Service
If you’re a fan of TikTok, Tyler Tobald of JTAC Farms does a great job of breaking through the marketing to give honest on-farm reviews. The young musician-turned-farmer lends a unique perspective to his family’s farming operation that includes capitalizing on out-of-the-box opportunities and practices with a focus on technology.
Dr. TikTok, as our host, Mike DiPaola, Chief Commercial Officer, jokingly refers to Tobald, has been making waves on the social channels and, in doing so, inadvertently sharing a message that is near and dear to the Taranis mission: making agriculture better by bringing small communities together through information and using service to bring people closer.
A Central Valley Ag customer, the north central Kansas farmer, tells us that the 2023 growing season was his 10th year of farming, sharing that his road back to the tractor cab took the long way around the barn.
“I was a musician growing up. I went to Kansas State University on multiple musical scholarships, but burnout brought me back to the farm, looking for what I wanted to do with my life. I realized about four months into working on the farm that I had found myself more than I had in the past four years of college,” he shares, adding that the career change didn’t come without a learning curve.
“Farming was not an easy thing to do, especially my first two years—I don’t enjoy being the dumbest person in the room, and I found myself listening to people talk about herbicide rates and fertilizer blends. I knew that I had a lot of self-learning to do.”
Service-Based Journalism: A Conversation with Ag Broadcasting Legend, Chip Flory
If you follow ag radio, news, and crop reporting, you’ve heard the name Chip Flory. The iconic voice is quickly discernable, as are the insights and no-nonsense outlooks it provides farmers around the country twice a day every weekday.
This week, Mike is joined by Chip to talk through what continues to fuel his journalistic fires today,
where the industry is headed, and the ins and outs of the Pro Farmer Crop Tour—from where it started to how the team arrives at the “magic number” every August.
We’re talking “soybeans with beaks,” the swamp full of rich men north of Richmond, and service-based journalism in this jam-packed AcreForward hour of knowledge and insights.
Communication + Accountability + Leveraging the Right Tools = Achieved Yield Goals
In this week’s AcreForward podcast, Chief Commercial Officer, Mike DiPaola sits down with Stateline Cooperative’s Jody Soma and Kelli Barnett to talk about what it takes to provide agronomic insights that make a difference for every acre.
“It’s about bringing the right products and interacting with the grower at the farmgate,” Stateline Regional Account Manager Jody Soma told Mike in this week’s AcreForward podcast. “We want to make sure that our customers are going to get the highest level of customer service, but also the quality advice that really helps them maximize their performance and crops.”
Soma and Kelli Barnett serve in the same role on opposite sides of the Stateline Iowa-Minnesota territory. Both agree that customer needs don’t vary, customers need products that work, and all involved want to ensure that corn and soybean plants don’t see a bad day. Both leaders grew through agronomy retail opportunities, including seed sales, throughout their careers to position them to lead a team of agronomists that know what their customers need before the customers themselves do.
To ensure that their team drives efficiency behind the scenes for the farmers they serve, Soma and Barnett make accountability a vital part of their leadership.
“We make sure that we are holding our team accountable. We want to ensure that we give that extra two-to-three-week outlook as we forecast what we need to be looking for and project that out to our sales team of what they might be seeing in the field in those next few weeks,” Barnett says. “We want them to be able to have those conversations with growers to be on top of what needs are.”
Stateline Co-Op is unique because the cooperative works within a very diverse portfolio of companies; the team and business strive to deliver the best products with the value their customers need.
“We don’t hold our agronomy staff to having to sell a certain product from a certain company. We have diversity within multiple brands to ensure that we allow our agronomists, in their local markets, to do what’s best for their growers,” Soma tells us.
Helping to decide what’s best for their growers isn’t one that is taken lightly—a lot goes into making sure advice is solid and valuable. That’s why the Stateline team leverages data heavily to learn from what the numbers—from soil tests to yield monitors—are telling them. Their team understands that some things can’t be changed in a season, but what they learn better prepares them for future crop seasons.
“The beauty of being a good agronomist is being able to analyze different things,” says Soma. “We talk a lot in the industry about what a normal year looks like anymore—there isn’t such a thing. But we, as agronomists, have to use the tools in our toolbox to be the best we can be out in the country. We know that we can’t be perfect, but there’s a lot we can do to mitigate risk for our customers.”
Soma tells us that focusing on yield goals has helped agronomists reach for every tool available and notes that the results have been nothing short of impressive.
“We have been able to have high-producing crops in tougher years. It’s mindboggling that in two years of droughts, we’re still putting out over 200-bushel field averages; 20 years ago, we would’ve had 100-bushel yields on those same acres in these droughts. We’ve really made leaps and bounds to start achieving higher yields, and to do that, we’ve had to adjust our practices, which include looking at different fertility programs, different hybrid, and variety selections—micronutrient, foliar feeds, fungicide treatments—all of that and how we can do it on a bigger geography.”
More than Service: The Formula for Becoming a Trusted Advisor
The 100-year-old business that we know today as Southern States first laid roots in Richmond, Virginia when a group of farmers came together looking for a better way to farm. The necessitated entrepreneurship was funded by a $11,000 pool of funds that each of the 150 member-founders contributed to, and the Virginia Seed Service, as it was called, built a business supplying seed that would thrive in the mid-Atlantic area. A tradition of service and innovation was born.
Over the years, the member-owned cooperative added fertilizer, fuel, feed, and farm supplies, becoming a 2-billion-dollar full-service retail powerhouse; Southern States has never forgotten its roots.
In this week’s AcreForward podcast, Mike sits down with Steve Patterson, a 39-year veteran of Southern States who retired just this past year, to talk about service, loyalty, ag tech, and the leadership it takes to provide each one.
Reflecting on his tenure with Southern States, Patterson tells us that some of the most exciting parts of his career were centered around the launch of precision agriculture and the evolution of how the company focuses on the farmer.
“It makes me think about what you’re doing with Taranis…when precision ag came along it fundamentally changed agriculture. Everyone was running with it, not knowing every answer, but knowing that it would be a huge benefit to our growers and members,” he says.
People Make the Biggest Difference
Over the course of his career, Patterson has seen advancements in every sector of agriculture and prided himself on keeping up with new technologies and innovations that would better serve the Southern States customer base. Becoming certified in many facets of agronomic production and holding several prestigious board appointments, Patterson says that it was the people he was able to work with that he found to be the most rewarding and educational – and essential to the success of any business.
“Certifications are great, but the way you really grow and win is when you take a group of people from point A to point B – when you can lead people,” Patterson recalls what he says is one of the most valuable lessons ever shared with him by a fellow industry professional. “That was a teachable moment. I was so focused on agronomy that I wasn’t focusing enough on the people. You have to be a student of leadership.”
Patterson’s leadership helped to drive and grow Southern States into the customer-member-employee focused organization it is today, a focus he attributes to the company’s ongoing success.
“Southern States’ employees care, and when employees care, you can do big things,” he explains. “Every business will have challenges, you’ll always have a lot of issues, but when everyone’s giving it their all and trying hard, it’s hard to fail.”
More than a business leader, Patterson is also a published author of the book “Street Smarts for Success”. The book, he says, is a guide to focusing on how to move, lead and work with other people. The leadership philosophy shared in his book has served Patterson well in what he says is an industry without many service differences.
From the coastal plains to the plains of Nebraska, geography, production practices, and certainly field size differs significantly. From a retail perspective, Patterson tells us that there isn’t a lot of difference—retailers exist to take care of farmers and their members.
“Retailers want to know how they can help. That’s why they wear a lot of hats—it’s easy to have a conversation about agronomy, but a farmer’s biggest concern is profitability, just like an ag retailer’s, without profit, you both go away,” he says. “A retail staff has to have the ability to add value both to your business and the grower. As a retailer, you have to add value and be able to charge a margin for that value.” And he says that there are two types of salespeople.
Listen to the podcast or read more at AcreForwardPodcast.com.
Connecting Eye in the Sky Opportunities to Entrepreneurs Across the Country
Nationwide aerial data capture across multiple business sectors developed by the man who “was Moneyball before Moneyball”?
Sign us up to hear more about that.
This week Mike sits down with Fly Guys founder and CEO, Joe Stough, to learn more about Joe’s vision to connect people who want to fly and can fly with the opportunities to do that work across many business verticals.
A native of Lake Charles, Louisiana, Joe Stough is the quintessential outdoorsman. Duck hunting, “chasing red snapper”, shrimping, and crabbing are just a few of the pastimes you’ll find him and his family enjoying between the months of March and August. For the remainder of the year, you’ll find Stough on his 1,000-acre rice farm.
Baseball took Stough to California, an address change he credits as instrumental to his career.
“I found myself really interested in writing software, and California was a great place to be a software developer back in the late eighties, early nineties,” he says. “While in grad school, I wrote a software program, which ran the housing department, and realized that writing software was what I wanted to do.”
A love of baseball intersected with a love of math and statistics to create what Stough joking calls the Moneyball before the Moneyball.
“(College baseball and a love for statistics) intersected and the very first program I designed was a baseball statistics application,” he says. “It was too early—the Moneyball that didn’t come to fruition before the real one did. I had to pivot because coaches, at that time, weren’t ready for that sophisticated level of data capture.”
AcreForward is a lot like baseball Taranis Chief Operating Officer and host, Mike DiPaola says, “In agriculture, we’ve always had the stats. But it’s only been the last three years that the right tech has come together to enable us to start really looking at them.”
DiPaola and Stough talk about risk and software’s role in defining and mitigating risk to loss, and Stough’s commitment to operational excellence.
In 2020, after creating software that served the biggest of oil and energy players in the sector to growing a food delivery app startup from conception to a 200-million-dollar public company, Stough found himself sitting on numerous boards, one of which was Fly Guys.
“I saw the same signals. I was seeing the front end of the demand curve in an organization that was young and needed to rapidly mature to have more scalable processes and technology, and I saw an opportunity to bring my skills,” Stough says. “I made the decision to go from a full-time board member, scattered across a half dozen companies, to a full-time CEO.”
Fly Guys, an aerial data capture company connects with companies and individuals who need aerial data. Working across many industry sectors, Fly Guys supplies aerial data to construction, real estate, agriculture, energy—wherever demand for the data exists, with Stough sharing that the company serves more than 30 vertical markets.
“We’re specifically looking for those companies that have high-frequency demand, and agriculture represents high-frequency demand because of the nature of the work that you’re doing where you want to fly the same acreage multiple times as the growing season progresses,” he says. “On the supply side, we have about 300,000 individuals with an FAA license to fly a drone commercially. And in the middle, is the analytics company, like Taranis – if all a farmer had was the data, they would get little value from it. Taranis provides the AI and the know-how to identify problems and opportunities. Those three pieces, make up the design that we have for the Fly Guy’s marketplace.”
Listen to the episode or continue reading at AcreForwardPodcast.com.
Telling the Stories of American Agriculture
Every acre tells a story, and that story shouldn’t stop at the farm gate or the desk of the farm office. To make an impact, the story of every acre and how farmers and their team of advisors and retailers are growing more with less need to be front and center in the mainstream conversation. That’s where Leah Beyer has carved her niche: telling those stories. From the fields and pastures to the kitchen table and R&D lab, Beyer made it her mission to put the stories of American agriculture and the technologies that help to prop it up where they are most visible to the widest and most diverse audience: the Internet.
Finding Perspective: The Changing Agricultural Value Chain
Sarah Beth Aubrey joins the AcreForward conversation this week to share her role in helping build the support blocks that strengthen the agriculture value chain. As the owner of Elevate Ag, LLC. and the recently formed IN-Climate, Aubrey lends a unique perspective to leadership and the path forward for ag retailers.
Starting her career in the crop protection business, Aubrey worked in sales before pivoting to start her own business. And while she admits that a sales role wasn’t the best fit for her, what she learned from her time in the space, working within teams to accomplish common goals and serve farmers, is invaluable to her.
“What I loved about crop protection was the conversations,” she says. “And that has translated well to what Elevate Ag is and does. We do work on customer engagement strategy and build coalitions around important dialogues. I haven’t had a job since 2004; they say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
In her work with retailers and their customers, Aubrey says two things are evident: The customer is changing, and the value chain is changing. Finding perspective is one of the most powerful things a grower can do to position themselves for success, a first step in Aubrey's work.
“The first thing that farmers need to understand is that every farm is a global business, big or small. The product we put out from every farm goes out as a global product in some way. It’s a crucial element to think about,” she says. “Retail has also changed. There are things that retail advisors can do at the local level that large companies physically cannot do and compete with. Service is probably the biggest—it’s personal, it’s physical, and it’s face-to-face. Retail will never go away.”
But that doesn’t mean that all retailers will continue to see success. Aubrey says key indicators and adoption strategies are paramount to an ag retailer's success and longevity. First and foremost is evolution: retailers who don’t evolve to serve farmers’ needs better and who do not continue to improve their value proposition will struggle to find a place in the rapidly changing dynamic of the retailer-farmer relationship.
What’s also changing are the farmers themselves. A modern grower, Aubrey says, is a farmer that is looking at what they do through a global and holistic lens.
“A modern farmer is talking about legacy, where their business is growing, and they have a long view of what they are going to do and a step-by-step action plan,” a plan that she shares more times than not involves their advisement team.
Host Mike DiPaola, Chief Commercial Officer, agrees.
“What growers need is an advisor, and that role is here to stay. To be successful, you have to marry the logistics and the pain points a farmer has,” he says. “An advisor helps to provide something that they can’t get elsewhere. To be a trusted advisor, you have to earn it. The more you know someone, the more you love them, and the more you want to serve them. Retailers aren’t going away because they are integral parts of the communities. No big company or technology can replace that.”
To hear more about the “niching down that every farmer needs to do,” how retailers can better serve farmers, the bullet points of a successful sales and support team, and even a discussion on carbon markets, where they are headed and how advisors should be talking to their customers about them, listen to the full podcast.
Economic Development and the Changing Workforce in Agriculture - Featuring Don Lamb
Don Lamb leads teams that act as advocates and cheerleaders for agriculture and work to protect soil and water. He does this while farming his own land and serving his calling to help farmers in other parts of the world better understand practices and principles that can improve their yields. He’s a champion for all of agriculture and shares that he holds the story of Taranis and the opportunities the technology delivers near and dear to his heart.
In this week’s AcreForward, Mike DiPaola is sitting down with him to learn more about how he gets it all done. Lamb, who serves as Director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture talks about what agriculture technology means to his farm, how he sees Indiana and other states benefitting from the value of technology and the ripples it makes: from a changing workforce need with new challenges to the education and communication that agriculture needs to reach its potential, Lamb shares his insights on how agriculture can move the acre forward. A native of Lebanon, Lamb says that his calling isn’t only supporting and bolstering agriculture in the state of Indiana. As a husband and father of four daughters, Lamb realized early on that sharing his passion for both agriculture and Christianity outside of the U.S. could have a great impact.
“AgriStewards was really something that God started. I don’t think we had a strategy to get it started, but He did, and it’s been a blessing to watch it grow. The idea is to teach subsistence farmers around the world how to take better care of their soil. We do that through a curriculum called Farming in God’s Way,” Lamb says. “We’re not trying to moderate, westernize, or mechanize agriculture for them, we’re teaching a person that’s farming half an acre to better care for their primary food source.”
The basis of agriculture, at its core, the agronomic and soil health education that Lamb and the volunteers who support the mission teach to subsistence farmers can and does double their production. The mission has served 30 countries to date and is led by Brian Smith, who spends time both leading AgriStewards and helping on Lamb’s family farm.
Lamb talks about the undeniable technology connection and how humbling it was to spend time in Uganda helping farmers, just this past February, and return to conversations of Taranis flying his own acres.
“I taught farmers in Uganda to do a better job of farming with a hoe, and then I get back that next week and we’re talking to Taranis; thinking about using drones on our farm to identify weeds and tell us what our stand count is in our corn and soybean fields. You just think about that perspective—it blows me away,” he confides. “What we do is as simple as using a hoe and putting a seed in the ground with the right inputs. In many ways, we’re doing the same thing with a seed and a hoe and specific inputs as we are a 24-row planter and a drone to monitor the crop. The perspective is just incredible.”
FaceTime was still something only realized in sci-fi movies a decade ago, certainly not an application farmers would think of as a monitoring opportunity for their fields. Today, that unfathomable communication tool, is the yield of multiple technologies intersecting with an affordability threshold that makes them viable for on-farm use. The farm is evolving, and with it is coming the season-long knowledge of what is happening in a field, on an acre, and to a leaf. Today, FaceTime is what DiPaola likens the communication and connection Taranis provides both growers and the retail ag partners they work with.
Lamb tells us that he’s most excited about Taranis heading into his third year of AI-driven insights. Why? Because his farm has fully embraced utilizing the insights, has developed the discipline to use it, and, as he shares, changed management strategies to fully incorporate what is being learned.
What Does It Take to Provide Value to Your Customers?
Taranis’ Mike DiPaola sits down with Scott Downey, Purdue University, to talk ag technology, sales, and what it takes to truly provide value to a customer in this week’s AcreForward podcast. What we learn is that the agriculture value chain has changed, as have those who make up the links of service within it. True differentiation, Downey tells us, comes from not just knowing your product, but knowing your place in the value chain, knowing your customer, and, most importantly, knowing and having a passion for how you connect to their goals.
Forward Thinking Farming featuring Damian Mason
In this episode of AcreForward, host and Taranis COO, Mike DiPaola sits down with professional speaker, podcast host, and creator of the Business of Ag success group, Damian Mason. This forward-thinking conversation tackles the challenges of communication across the value chain, labor shortages and unbalance, and how the “Amazon Effect” has and continues to disrupt the retail ag channels. The conversation starts at Mason’s early beginnings and broaches the future of production agriculture.
Mason, who grew up on a farm in northeast Indiana, also says that corporate America wasn’t for him, abandoning the “normal” 8-5 for a hopeful career as a political comedian. You read that right, Mason says that his stand-up included a Bill Clinton impression complete with grey hair, padding for his slimmer 20-something frame, and aging make-up. That experience: learning to read his audience, invest in what mattered to them and translate those messages into his work is what Mason credits as his stepping stones to where he is now.
Today, Mason’s accolades include an impressive bookshelf of works that include Food Fear: How Fear is Ruining Your Dinner and Do Business Better, host and producer of the XtremeAg.farm network, and a list of thought-provoking speaking opportunities that span beyond agriculture.
Regardless of your association with agriculture, no matter your grocery preferences, this is a conversation that ultimately affects us all and is one you won’t want to miss.
AcreForward: Unbiased Decisions for a Profitable Season
In the inaugural AcreForward podcast, host and Taranis Chief Operating Officer, Mike DiPaola, sits down with Luke Carlson, Board Chairman for Central Valley Ag Cooperative (CVA), York, Nebraska, to discuss the ins and outs of technology’s role in value delivery.