AgTech…So What

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AgTech…So What Podcast – Murray Scholz on the GMO and Sheep Controversies

Murray Scholz farms with his wife Emma in Southern NSW and the Eastern Riverina on the foothills of the snowy mountains. They grow wheat, canola, lupins, and barley, and run beef cattle and prime lambs.

Murray’s family is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year, after his great-grandfather came to the area in 1919. They’ve always been an innovative family, adopting new practices and striving to run a profitable and sustainable business. In this episode, Murray shares several stories of how his thinking has changed through overseas travel and exposure to new perspectives, and the business decisions he’s made as a result.

Tune in to learn about:

  • What it’s like to be in the middle of the GMO controversy, where no one seems to listen to what you’re really saying
  • Why Murray decided to run sheep, after publicly criticizing them for years
  • How a hiking trip in Switzerland challenged his views on ag policies
  • The decisions you can make when you’ve been collecting data for over 30 years
  • Tips for agtech startups to better engage with farmers

To hear more from Murray or follow what Scholz farming is up to, check out:

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AgTech…So What Podcast – Victor Friedberg on Systems Investing and Transition from Commodity

There aren’t very many Venture Capital funds focused on food systems transformation, but today’s guest co-founded one of them. Victor Friedberg is the co-founder of S2G ventures, a Chicago-based firm that has backed companies across the ag and food industries such as Beyond Meat, Maple Hill Creamery, X, and Y. Victor is also the founder of Foodshot Global, a non-profit consortium of companies focused on creating a food system that’s more healthy, sustainable, and equitable.

Victor’s background is as a tech entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, where he built one of the early social networks and raised money from corporates like Motorola and Venture Capital firms. But now Victor is interested in helping revolutionize the food system, bringing technology, systems thinking, and capital to support game changing innovations.

In this episode, Victor and I chat about a range of things, from how he became interested in the food system (hint: it involves a vacation), to the opportunities he sees for farmers as more technologies and new business models challenge the status quo of the current system.

He also shares a story about the intersection of new technologies and established practices. You’ll have to listen to the episode to hear the story, but here’s the result 🙂

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To learn more about Victor and what he’s up to, check out these additional resources:

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Agtech…So What Podcast – Tim Hammerich on Careers in AgTech

Tim Hammerich is the Founder of AgGrad and the host of the Future of Agriculture podcast. Tim grew up on a hobby farm in Northern California selling pigs, goats and ducks. After 8 years working in a feed and grain business, Tim saw an underserved market for helping young people get jobs in ag and agtech. He founded AgGrad to fill the gap.  

AgGrad began as a ‘traditional’ recruiting company where Tim would do the legwork of recruiting talent for agribusiness. It’s since become about helping employees find their place in modern agriculture through a wealth of content for job seekers and employees. 

In this episode, Tim shares his insights on what agtech companies are looking for, tips for getting and staying hired, and ideas for how all ag companies, including farms, can hire ‘right’ from the start.

What are agtech companies looking for? 

Most agtech companies are struggling with customer adoption. Tim’s clients often have a great product, but they’re struggling to get it into the hands of customers. This means that agtech companies are looking for talent that can help with marketing and sales. 

More specifically, agtech companies are looking for employees with a mix of empathy and drive. Empathy, because they need to understand what producers are going through. Drive, because they need to want to see the product be adopted and help the producer succeed. They also must be open to new ideas and able to take complex ideas and make them simple. 

“Agtech requires you to be teachers and consultants rather than traditional marketing or sales roles, you’re really in partnership with the people you sell to”

Culture and Content are Kings

In today’s world, the closest you can come to the proverbial silver bullet that will score you a dream job is content. Employers want to see that you have an ability to think outside the box, not just what your college degree is.   

With the tools available today, it’s easier than ever to create engaging content that helps you build a brand and share your unique perspectives. Whether it’s a funny Tweet or an insightful LinkedIn post, it’s an opportunity to build a new connection.

This same tip applies to companies as well, who can use the power of social media to share their culture with future employees. Gone are the days where a job is one dimensional with a sole focus on salary. Employees, especially young people, want to work for a company that stands for something greater than themselves. 

The biggest mistake that companies in agriculture make, according to Tim, is being too transactional in the hiring process. Like the rest of agriculture, it’s about relationships. Come in with a genuine exchange of value, not just an ask or offer. 

Watch out for the D word

Another pitfall that Tim has seen agtech companies fall into is using the D word: disruption. This can be off putting to future customers as well as employees. While the intention may be around innovation, employees might think, “do I really want to be a part of a business that disrupts?” or “I’m not sure that agriculture needs ‘disrupting’.” 

Listen to the full episode for more tips from Tim on getting a job and finding talent, as well as some of what the future holds for Ag Grad. 

For more from Tim, check out:

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Agtech….so what podacast – Rachel Hay on the role of women in agtech adoption

Dr. Rachel Hay is a social scientist at James Cook University who has uncovered some insights into agtech adoption through her work in behaviour change. 

Rachel‘s PhD focused on agtech adoption, highlighting the importance of grazier women in the use and adoption of agtech. She found that women play a vital role in unlocking the potential of agtech adoption on-farm. 

Though the research is now a bit dated (it was published in 2014), Rachel’s insights still hold true and may be helpful for agtech companies looking to understand the industry and develop marketing strategies that can cut through the noise. 

Here are a few tips from Rachel’s research to help agtech vendors to reach their target audience and drive adoption:

  • Build trust and meaningful relationships with your producers. Though it may seem like this has to take time, Rachel highlights that content is king and relationships can be built digitally as well as in person. 
  • Be approachable and be seen. AgTech companies need to get out to producer events and engage with their customers, not just sell. 
  • Widen your marketing net, as decision makers are not always male! In fact, her research shows that it’s often the females who are doing the research and driving product adoption, both on-farm and for the back office. 
  • Don’t tell farmers what they need, listen to what they want. This should go without saying, and yet it’s something that tech vendors and extension agents alike get wrong. 


Do you have a story of women driving agtech adoption? Are there other tips that you’ve learned for building trust with producers? We’d love to hear them! 


You can find Rachel, a boutique pig farmer when she’s not writing or researching, on social media here: 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DrRach4Research

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/drrachelhay/

Facebook page: The Engagement of Women & Technology in Agriculture

To delve more into Rachel’s research click here

Technology adoption by rural women in Queensland, Australia: women driving technology from the homestead for the paddock

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AgTech….So What Podcast – Peter Thompson (responding to climate risk)

Peter Thompson and his wife Nicki run EchoCattle, a roughly 18,000 acre property  located 80km northeast of Roma, in southern central Queensland, Australia. They run a grass-fed beef operation and crop around 3,000 acres, depending on the season, with an additional 6,00 acres of wilderness country. 

As of this year, their house block (~10,000 acres) will have been in the Thompson family for 70 years. They’ll also celebrate their 42nd anniversary together. 

The Thompson’s have been farming regeneratively long before it was a ‘thing’. In this episode, Peter shares his hard-earned insights about:

  • Finding compromises that are truly win-win;
  • Avoiding the temptation of silver bullet solutions;
  • The long list of technologies they’ve adopted; and
  • The importance of balance. 

“I see the technology being able to give us the ability to help people understand and connect people so that they realize that it’s not me as the farmer doing whatever might be perceived as bad for the environment. It’s you and me and everyone else that eats and drinks and lives. We’re all complicit in it, so if we can virtually connect everyone and connect people back… I still believe we’ve got significant time to turn things around, if we start now”

Searching for Win-Wins and Breaking Tradeoffs

The Thompson’s property is home to forty coal seam gas wells, which are some of the first drilled in Australia. Knowing that the world needs energy, and because they loved where they lived, Peter and Nicki made the conscious decision to find a way to have the wells and still look after the land. 

They started by putting some principles in place. First, protect the land. Second, ensure the property continued to be livable for the family. And finally, make sure their operation wasn’t at risk. They also did their homework to ensure that they understood the impact these wells would have on the environment. 

Once Peter decided to have the wells, he needed to figure out a new model for compensation. The original approach from the gas company was to pay producers with “a few cartons of beer and tickets to the rugby.” That didn’t fly with the Thompsons. Instead, they worked with the gas company to develop a compensation package that took the well from being worth a few thousand dollars per year, to “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The financial benefits of the gas wells have been a significant support, especially during dry times. Further, Peter is proud of the compromise that they reached, and that they were able to reach it without compromising the wellbeing of the land or the water. Peter’s approach was pragmatic, but grounded in a commitment to sustainability and vision that the environment and enterprise can work hand in hand.  

“We must consider humanity and the environment in everything we do”

Beware of ‘Silver Bullets’

Back in the 90’s, hormone growth promotants (HGP’s) were all the rage, enabling producers to get top dollar for glossy, muscled cattle. For Peter and Nicki, this just didn’t seem right, so they turned to grass fed production instead. Some called him mad, but he stuck to his guns. 

It turned out to be a great decision that has paid off. Just two years later, the big supermarkets were refusing to sell any beef with traces of growth promotants. And now, Peter’s grass fed beef commands a premium.  

As much as we all wish there was a silver bullet, farming- like life- just doesn’t work that way. Farming practices and technologies that take time and consideration are more often than not where producers strike gold.

Netflix and No Till

Conversations about connectivity in agriculture often focus on the potential productivity benefits from the technologies that an internet connection can enable. Peter has certainly explored these new and emerging tools, from walk over weighing to pasture mapping to water monitoring, Echo Cattle is a progressive operation in terms of technologies as well as practices. They also recently hosted a field day where, despite being “80kms from anywhere,” guests had “city style” wifi access. 

With the significant investment Peter has made into connectivity comes another benefit: Netflix. Farmers and their staff don’t farm 24/7, and so, like the rest of us, they love a chance to rewind with a movie at the end of the day. A fast internet connection also helps staff keep in touch with family and friends. Peter has seen the benefits in terms of quality of life as well as retention.

In the future? Maybe he’ll be live streaming from his drone, too.

Want to learn more about Peter and some of the technologies he’s using? Check these out:


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This episode is the fourth in the theme, responding to climate risk, brought to you in partnership with Australian Farm Institute, an independent organisation conducting research into the strategic issues facing Australian farmers and the agriculture sector. Find them on social media @AustFarmInstitu an online

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AgTech..So What Podcast – Live Q&A with Dan Harburg of IndigoAg

Our guest for the August Sydney Agtech Meetup was Dan Harburg. Dan is a Senior Director of Systems Innovation at Indigo Ag, one of agtech’s biggest startups. Born in Boston, Indigo Ag has raised over $650 million and employ over 1,000 staff. They are now expanding internationally, making their way into the European, Australian and South American markets. 

Originally from a tech background and an engineer by training, Dan was bitten by the ag bug while working in robotics. After a stint as a VC, Dan been focused on how to harness emerging technologies to improve agriculture. Dan was visiting Australia from Boston, Massachusetts to attend the National Carbon Farming Conference and we were lucky enough to steal him for a Friday night at the Meetup to chat about the IndigoAg journey and their recently launched Terraton Initiative that’s making waves across the agtech industry.

Check out this episode to hear: 

  • What IndigoAg does to achieve their missing of ‘helping farmers harness nature to sustainably feed the planet’
  • The evolutions of the IndigoAg business model, from selling a microbial seed coating, to marketing grain, to developing on-farm storage and freight and logistics offerings. 
  • Just how fast IndigoAg is growing, and the challenges that a startup faces during rapid expansion
  • What IndigoAg is doing to help growers benefit, and whether this is (or isn’t) working in Australian agriculture 
  • The Terraton Initiative, including what it is, why growers have already pledged 3 million acres, and how agtech startups can get involved
  • Dan’s view on the shift that farmers are making from focusing on driving yield, to optimizing profits

You can check out Dan Harburg on Twitter and LinkedIn and IndigoAg on Twitter.

Thank you to SproutX who sponsor the meetup and to Grow Love Project for producing this episode.

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