174: Rancher, Advocate, Ultra Runner – Beef Runner

This is a good one. On today’s episode, I chat with Ryan Goodman, aka Beef Runner, on all things beef, how farmers are building relationships with consumers, the importance of diversity in Ag, and his tips on getting into running. Ryan is a rancher, Ag speaker, and ultra runner that is highly active online in helping educate others in the industry on how to better build communities.

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https://podkite.link/FarmTraveler

Show Notes:

Ryans background

Speaking engagements

COVID’s impact on speaking engagements and conferences

Internet issues in rural America

The importance of Starlink

Growing up on a cattle ranch

Current beef industry issues

Preventing food supply chain issues

Regenerative farming vs feed yards

Misinformation on labels that lead to perceptions

Price impacts of food and food access

Diversity in AG

How you can take action and be an ally

LGBTQ community in Ag

Ultra marathons

Tips on starting out running

Changing your mindset

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https://www.facebook.com/TheFarmTraveler

https://www.youtube.com/farmtraveler

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Call to Action

Want to stay up to date on the show, consider following our newsletter.  As a thank you for signing up, you’ll receive a FREE guide on 5 simple steps you can do to support farmers.  Sign Up HERE!

Transcript

173: Does Regenerative Farming Lead to Better Meat?

Can better-raised beef (and even just meat in general), lead to better health? What about the impact of regenerative farming on livestock and ecosystems? Those are just a few of the topics we’ll cover in today’s interview with Eric Prener, from Rep Provisions, a direct-to-consumer company providing regeneratively raised meats. In our interview today, Eric and I will chat about how he grew up on the farm and started a career in the oil and gas industry before coming back to the farm to try his hand at regenerative ranching. We’ll also talk about how these regenerative practices are measured, why our diets have been worsened over the years, how Rep Provisions pivoted from shelf-stable products to fresh meats to meet consumer demand, and why nature actually needs cattle to graze (despite what crazies like the Impossible CEO have to say).

Check out Rep Provisions at the links below

Rep Provisions Website

Sauces and Marinades

Rep Provisions on Instagram

Subscribe here:

https://podkite.link/FarmTraveler

Show Notes:

Eric’s background – From growing up on the farm to going into oil and gas industries before returning to the farm

What are regenerative farming practices?

Challenges to regenerative farming

Is this getting back to basics with raising livestock?

What standards govern regenerative practices?

Can regenerative farming realistically feed the world?

Visiting Will Harris at White Oak Pastures

Regenerative Ag revitalizing small town America

The relationship between meat and health (which is often misunderstood)

The impacts of monocrops and seed oils on our health

Encouraging other farms to go regenerative

Be sure to follow us on social media!

https://www.instagram.com/farm_traveler/

https://www.facebook.com/TheFarmTraveler

https://www.youtube.com/farmtraveler

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Call to Action

Want to stay up to date on the show, consider following our newsletter.  As a thank you for signing up, you’ll receive a FREE guide on 5 simple steps you can do to support farmers.  Sign Up HERE!

Transcript

171: Ending the Debate: how do you pronounce “Pecan”?

In today’s interview, I chat with Alejandra and Mackenzie from Pecan Grove Farms. We’ll chat about the start of Pecan Grove Farms, how it takes sometimes 7-10 years until some trees can be harvested, and finally settle the age-old debate is it “Pee-can” or “Puh-khan”.

Check out Pecan Grove Farms at the links below

Website

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https://podkite.link/FarmTraveler

Show Notes:

  • Background of Pecan Grove Farms
  • What makes Texas a good place for growing pecans?
  • Working as an Agronomist
  • Marketing Pecans
  • Growing pecan trees
  • How long does it take for pecan trees to start producing?
  • The machinery involved in harvesting
  • Supplying container trees
  • Working with other companies to sell pecans
  • Packaging and shipping
  • Farm Tours

Be sure to follow us on social media!

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https://www.facebook.com/TheFarmTraveler

https://www.youtube.com/farmtraveler

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Call to Action

Want to stay up to date on the show, consider following our newsletter.  As a thank you for signing up, you’ll receive a FREE guide on 5 simple steps you can do to support farmers.  Sign Up HERE!

Transcript

3 Agritourism Marketing Mistakes

This is a guest post from Rachel Foster

Which of These 3 Agritourism Marketing Mistakes Are You Making?

Ah, the first hint of orange on the leaves…

And we all act like we’ve never seen a pumpkin before! So, the frenzy begins.

Busy moms far and wide take to the internet, looking for nearby agritourism opportunities…

Your website pops up. She clicks, then begins to scroll around, mumbling to herself…

“We need pumpkins for the front porch… and, hmm… a centerpiece for Thanksgiving. When is this place open? Do they do hayrides for the kids?”

She clicks around your website looking for the answer… in between text message alerts and an unexpected call from work… all while the dog stands at the door whining to be let out.

Your website is competing for her attention. You’ve got about 3 seconds to show her why her family needs to come to your farm this weekend. Will your marketing efforts get the job done?

Clear benefits, plus a personal connection, equals online sales success.

The words you use matter. They must:

  • Quickly grab the attention of the website visitor.
  • Show the reader how she benefits from purchasing a ticket for a farm tour.
  •  Include a call to action.

It’s a shame that so many agritourism businesses fail to communicate quickly and efficiently with potential customers, because small farms are the heart of a community.

Plus, it’s such an easy thing to fix if you just understand a few simple principles.

Mistake #1: Listing Features Instead of Benefits

The typical web page will have a list that looks something like this:

  •  Produce for sale
  •  Gift shop
  • Playground
  • Barrel train
  • Corn maze
  • Petting zoo

But there’s a problem with feature lists…

Your customer isn’t interested in what you offer, only how she benefits from what you offer. That’s just human nature.

So, your list of features leaves a gap. The customer must build a mental bridge to overcome that gap before making a buying decision:

A portion of your website visitors will build that thought bridge, but many of them will not.

Close the gap for them.

List the benefits according to the customer’s perspective rather than listing the features. Here are a few examples:

  • Make meal-time easy, delicious, and nutritious. Grab fresh leafy greens, sweet organic carrots, and savory beets – farm to table wholesale pricing and superior quality!
  • Fill your home with the warmth of gratitude this fall when you pick out the perfect, handmade, harvest wreath or centerpiece – available in our gift shop while supplies last.
  • Children laugh, play together, and burn off energy while enjoying the outdoors. Unlimited playground access is included with every ticket.

Get 30 more examples for free. The Copywriter’s Secret List of 30 Agritourism Event Descriptions That Sell More Tickets is available to you as a pdf download.

Mistake #2: Grouping Similar Events Together, and Describing the Group With Broad Terms

Ah, so many cliches apply here…

  • If you chase two rabbits, you won’t catch either.
  • If you try to reach everyone, you’ll reach no one.
  • If you try to sell school field trips in the same paragraph as a family outing, you won’t sell either.

Okay, so that last one isn’t really a cliché… but it should be!

The field trip and family outing grouping mentioned above is an example of mashing together two events based on their similar features – petting zoo, hayride, playground, etc.

But consider these two critical differences:

1)     One buyer is a school administrator. The other buyer is a parent.

2)     One buyer is focused on class management, budgeting, scheduling, and travel logistics. The other buyer is simply looking for affordable weekend fun with her kids.

You can’t use a single, generalized block of text to successfully persuade two very different types of buyers. One or both are likely to lose interest.

The solution – use well-defined menu options or crystal-clear thumbnails to separate events based on buying habits, then write specific benefits that appeal directly to the needs of the customer who is most likely to book that event.

Example:

Mistake #3: Choosing Not to Have a Lead Magnet/Optin Before the Fold, or as a Pop-Up

It sounds more complicated than it actually is…

Lead magnets (usually a discount coupon or free download) and op-tins (a place to enter a name and email address) work together to turn website visitors into future customers through automated email marketing.

An opt-in that is placed at the top of a landing page or homepage is described as being “before the fold”.

A pop-up opt-in does exactly what the name implies. It pops up, either after a set amount of time, or when the website visitor starts to close the tab.

An opt-in can be placed just about anywhere, but they don’t perform as well when the visitor has to scroll in order to see them.

Here’s an example:

Grabbing a new prospect’s email address, incentivizing them to come experience your farm, and growing a warm audience of customers is a game-changer when:

  • You have events with tickets that need to be sold.
  • There is extra product inventory that needs to be liquidated prior to expiration.
  • You are considering adding farm education or crafting classes, and you need to do some market research to measure the demand.

Any web developer can take care of the technical aspects of adding this feature. Even DIY web builders, using drag-and-drop platforms, can easily add an opt-in after a short tutorial. Your website will get to work for you, building your email list, even while you sleep.

If you’re a busy farmer, who’s trying to do it all – planting, harvesting, selling, and raising livestock – then you deserve a break…

Get the entire list of 30 Agritourism Event Descriptions That Sell More Tickets to start using the power of words that sell to supersize your marketing efforts.

It’s 100% free for you, written by a Certified Direct Response Copywriter. Just follow this link and tell us where to send your list.

About the Author

Rachel Foster is a Certified Direct Response Copywriter who founded Wordsthatsellclasses.com to support business growth for providers of family-friendly fun and education. Interests include organic gardening, raising hens, and front porch swinging with a hot cup of coffee. 

Ep 170: The Challenges of Raising Beef Near Lake Michigan

Today, I chat with Rachel Harmann about raising beef near Lake Michigan, the opportunity of selling direct-to-consumers, how consumers can find farmers near them, and much more!

Check out Rachel at the links below

Facebook Page

Subscribe here:

https://podkite.link/FarmTraveler

Show Notes:

  • Rachel’s Background
  • Experience raising beef
  • Challenges of farming close to Lake Michigan
  • Process of selling direct
  • Also challenges you faced when first selling direct and working with stores
  • Thoughts on climate change and ag
  • Sustainability practices on your farm

Be sure to follow us on social media!

https://www.instagram.com/farm_traveler/

https://www.facebook.com/TheFarmTraveler

https://www.youtube.com/farmtraveler

Subscribe here:

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Call to Action

Want to stay up to date on the show, consider following our newsletter.  As a thank you for signing up, you’ll receive a FREE guide on 5 simple steps you can do to support farmers.  Sign Up HERE!

Transcript

Ep 168: Can farmers increase yield while reducing fertilizer usage? YES!

My guest today is Adam Litle from Sound Agriculture, a company helping farmers do more with less. Adam and I will chat about the importance of soil microbes, how Sound Agriculture has used chemistry to create their product, and how this can impact consumers at the grocery store.

Check out Sound Agriculture at the links below

SoundAg.com

Subscribe here:

https://podkite.link/FarmTraveler

Photos taken on July 7, 2022, at Paulman Farms in North Platte Nebraska, by Lucas Oliver Oswald.

SOURCE can be used to gain more yield or to reduce synthetic fertilizer while maintaining yield

sound.ag

Show Notes:

  • Adam’s Background
  • Start of Sound Agriculture
  • Chemistry in Ag
  • Working with soil microbes
  • Importance of nitrogen and phosphorus in plant development
  • Increasing plant nutrients without fertilizers
  • What problems is this looking to solve?
  • The importance of soil fertility for crops
  • Reducing fertilizer usage while increasing yields thanks to soil health
  • Effects on mono-crops and crop rotation
  • How this technology can impact regenerative farming and climate change
  • Does this apply to organic farming?
  • Evolution vs Disruption in Ag
  • Feedback from farmers
  • How will this impact consumers?

Be sure to follow us on social media!

https://www.instagram.com/farm_traveler/

https://www.facebook.com/TheFarmTraveler

https://www.youtube.com/farmtraveler

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Call to Action

Want to stay up to date on the show, consider following our newsletter.  As a thank you for signing up, you’ll receive a FREE guide on 5 simple steps you can do to support farmers.  Sign Up HERE!

Transcript

Ep 167 – Can better crop sale strategies reduce food waste?

On today’s show, I’m chatting with Pablo Borquez. Pablo is the founder of ProducePay, a new financing solution providing farmers, who grow fresh fruits and vegetables, with immediate access to liquidity for enhanced cash flow. In our chat today, Pablo and I will talk about the issues with the current way farmers sell and profit from crops, the lack of digital infrastructure in this market, how food waste can be greatly decreased, and how technology like this can result in cheaper food for consumers

Check out ProducePay at the links below

ProducePay.com

Pablo’s company enables growers to obtain 96% value of their shipments and they also underwrite farming and trading risks – like weather destroying crops, etc. – something nobody was willing to touch.

  • Matching retailers to growers – reducing waste:
    • ProducePay takes the middle man out of the equation so grocers can receive produce more efficiently, at lower prices, and have visibility into a grower’s capacity and sustainability practices.
    • They’re changing the typical distribution model where produce travels ~1,600 miles to your plate, handled 4x – 8x, marked up 3x – 6x because of changing hands, and rebranded 2x making it difficult to trace where produce came from and how it was grown. All this contributes to the 40% of wasted produce.

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https://podkite.link/FarmTraveler

Show Notes:

  • Pablos Background
  • Inspiration behind ProducePay
  • How this empowers growers
  • A lake of a digital infrastructure for selling crops
  • Impact on the food supply chain
  • What can consumers gain from this technology?
  • Reducing food waste – 4-6 middlemen are involved in your food
  • How farmers can monetize their crops better
  • What’s controlling ost – supply/demand, pricing index, weather, etc

Be sure to follow us on social media!

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https://www.youtube.com/farmtraveler

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Call to Action

Want to stay up to date on the show, consider following our newsletter.  As a thank you for signing up, you’ll receive a FREE guide on 5 simple steps you can do to support farmers.  Sign Up HERE!

Transcript

EGO is the Enemy

I’ve been on a stoic’s kick lately thanks to following the Daily Stoic newsletter. Long story short, author Ryan Holiday shares wisdom from ancient philosophers and teachers us how we can apply it to modern-day life. Habits like learning to let go of things you can’t control, beginning with the end in mind, and a lot of other deep and practical views.

The first book of his I am reading is Ego is Enemy, how our ego can be contained so that it doesn’t ruin us. It’s a great read so far. Ryan gives examples of ancient stoics and their ideas on submitting the ego. Stoics like the Roman emperor Marcus Aralias, Seneca, and others have invaluable ideas on not letting your ego get the best of you so that you are truly able to grow and learn from those around you.

Ryan also shares stories from historical figures who did or didn’t control their ego and how that impacted their lives. Many figures like Benjamin Franklin, an absolute GOAT, struggled with controlling his ego for many years. Only after learning to not let it get the best of him, was he able to finally become the man we all know him as.

The book is full of great quotes and exerts, but I’ll leave you with one that I’ve found extremely useful and almost sums up the book perfectly.

“Practice seeing yourself with a little distance, cultivating the ability to get out of your own head.”

Ryan Holiday, Ego is the Enemy

Our ego often makes us believe we are better than we are. That we are or should be the smartest person in the room. In reality, we can strive to be super smart and super accomplished, as long as we don’t let the ego get the best of us. We can always learn something from someone and can always improve from where we are today.

If you haven’t already, go check out Ryan Holiday and the DailyStoic on social media and maybe go check out his books. I recently ordered two of his other books, The Obstacle is the Way and Discipline is Destiny. Super excited to read them and I’ll be sure to let you know how they are!

Thanks for reading this and happy Monday.

-T

Ep 166 – The Witty Farmer’s NEW Grab and Go Greenhouse

Jenny, aka the Witty Farmer, is back on the show with some cool info to share about her new Grab And Go Greenhouse! This greenhouse offers customers a chance to buy some locally grown flowers, pumpkins, goodies, and other products. Talk about a cool way to diversify a business. This greenhouse concept has gained the attention of customers all around West Central, IL, and is growing a lot faster than Jenny every thought. Also, hear a super exciting announcement from Jenny about something to do with BEEF!

Check out Jenny and this awesome Greenhouse at the links below!

https://www.instagram.com/thewittyfarmer/

https://www.facebook.com/thewittyfarmer/

https://www.tiktok.com/@thewittyfarmer?lang=en

https://www.thewittyfarmer.com/

Listen Below

Subscribe here:

https://podkite.link/FarmTraveler

Show Notes:

  • What has Jenny been up to?!
  • The inspiration behind the greenhouse
  • Build a greenhouse vs buying one
  • Starting a Grab and Go Business
  • Perks of using Ring cameras
  • Selling fresh cut flowers, locally baked goods, etc
  • Selling direct-to-consumer beef
  • Process of getting certified to sell meat
  • Building on to the greenhouse
  • Expanding but not by too much
  • Future plans!

Be sure to follow us on social media!

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https://www.facebook.com/TheFarmTraveler

https://www.youtube.com/farmtraveler

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Call to Action

Want to stay up to date on the show, consider following our newsletter.  As a thank you for signing up, you’ll receive a FREE guide on 5 simple steps you can do to support farmers.  Sign Up HERE!

Transcript

00;00;04;16 – 00;00;22;02
Trevor
Hello and welcome to the Farm Traveler podcast. I’m your host, Trevor Williams. And today on the show, we’re going to be learning about kind of a cool technology that’s been around for a while that’s really revolutionizing how farmers are able to keep track of spraying crops, data, food safety, all of that good stuff.
So today we are interviewing Bristol Wells from Highland AG Solutions and Bristol and everybody at Highlands creates a software or rather multiple softwares that really help farmers track so much stuff for their business and for their operation. So they have a bunch of different software like Crop IQ, Food Safety and their Highland Hub, which all keep track of various data that you might have on at a farm. And, you know, a lot of consumers think that, you know, maybe a lot of farmers use the old school pen and paper, record tracking when things like this, the Highland Hub, the food IQ and all that good stuff have really revolutionized how farmers are doing business because of things like COVID. You know, you have auditors that need to come on to the facilities, but because of COVID, they can’t do that. And so these technologies allow those auditors and allow various people like food safety inspectors to kind of check the records to see what those farmers are doing.

And so this technology is awesome. It’s so fun. And so Bristol and I are going to talk today about kind of the background. What was the inspiration behind all this, some success stories that have been had and also kind of what the process is like for them, showing farmers how powerful this software is and how it can keep track of their spray data, their crop rotations, all that good stuff. So this is a great conversation for anybody that’s, you know, a farmer or that really likes to see the intersection of technology and agriculture. And so if you want to learn more about Highlands AG Solutions, go in the description and you’ll see a bunch of different links as well as their podcast, The Cream of the Crop podcast, which Bristol does. And we’re going to talk more about that as well. So this is such a fun interview. I hope you enjoy it and thanks for listening.

00;02;10;22 – 00;02;14;05
Trevor
All right. Well, Bristol Wells, welcome the Farm Traveler podcast. How are you doing?

00;02;14;06 – 00;02;15;26
Bristol
I am great. Thanks for having me.

00;02;16;07 – 00;02;31;24
Trevor
Yeah, excited to chat with you. So you are a fellow podcaster and you work in the ag space specifically with Hyland Agriculture and you guys offer a bunch of technology for farmers and kind of before we dove into that, tell us kind of a little bit about your background and how you got started with Hyland AG Solutions

00;02;31;26 – 00;02;48;06
Bristol
? Sure. I’m so excited to be here and it’s always fun to chat with other podcasters. We started a podcast right before the pandemic hit and it just kind of took off. And so The Cream of the Crop is our podcast name, but similar to you just really talking to others in the ag space and what kind of ingenuity they’re implementing on their operations and things like that. So really good to be here. A little bit about Hyland AG Solutions. This is one of my favorite things to talk about, so I could ramble on forever about all the amazing things that Hyland AG does.

But we are a software provider for the ag industry and what that means is we go and help operations really with what we’re doing most is virtualizing their documentation as far as their pre harvest inspections and all the papers and binders and things they’re keeping up with really in preparation for regulatory audits and all the things that everyone gets so excited to talk about. All those things we’re helping kind of make that process a lot easier, but more so than easier, really streamlining that into what’s next, right? So we all live in 2022 and we’re like using technology in every aspect of our life.
So we kind of took that same process into the farm. About five years ago. We were still flying drones. We started our company after we sold a packaging company and we started flying drones in the specialty crop industry. And there was just so a lot in that time of people trying to do this and there was just a lot to be learned still. So we took that and moved on to doing the software and you can read about it on our website. We did. We made all the mistakes, we did all the things right. We outsource developers, we did all the stuff and came back. And really the center of our business is really understanding production. AG And it was challenging to get software developers and code writers that understood production.
AG That also could write code because that’s not me. So we hired in-house and now we’re off to the races. We have customers like Grumpy Farms, you know, they’re one of the world’s leading care producers. And so we have them and lots of other smaller and larger as well.

So that’s kind of the cliff note version that’s perfect.

00;04;42;29 – 00;05;00;12
Trevor
Yeah, I think that intersection of technology and farming is so cool. I mean, I was a software developer for a while and so I love software. And of course being in agriculture, like I love everything about AG and so I love when the two combine because a lot of people think, I mean, probably even currently in production agriculture, a lot of people think it’s just, you know, written documents. It’s the old school binders that, you know, kind of the old school farm, old school farmers use. But there’s so many technologies out there and you guys are offering such a cool tool for farmers where they can I mean, like you were saying, have digital records for everything. And so, I mean, is that really kind of a necessity that farmers need to I don’t know, kind of like get on the ball with.

00;05;22;21 – 00;05;41;05
Bristol
Yeah, I will. I’ll tell you a story and let you make the decision. Now when we’re just really I do a lot with like Farm Bureau and a lot of different, you know, associations and organizations. And we constantly are fighting the battle of getting the farmers going in a field with the pitchfork mentality out of people’s minds Right? Like we have to move past that and realize where we are as a society and the tools that we use. I mean, think about going to McDonald’s now. I use an iPad. When I walk into McDonald’s, I pick my order, I pick it up on the counter and I never engage with a piece of paper or a person, you know, same concept with AG. So we created this part of our software called Auditor Access. So most of your listeners being in the ag industry know what goes into auditing and regulatory bodies. Come on your facility.

And they, they look around at all of your paper documentation and your physical, you know, the space that you’re working in. And the list can be hundreds of pages long if they’re checking. And when they do that, they’re there for days on end a lot of times.

So we created auditor access, which took all of the documentation and the paperwork, and it basically sent a link to the auditor and they could view all of that before they even got to your facility. So our customers are saying it’s cutting down 75 to 80% of their auditing times.

And we were realizing this before COVID and then COVID hit and everyone’s like, Oh my gosh, auditor can’t come on my facility, but my retailer won’t take my product unless it’s audited. So then they’re like, okay, we need a digital solution.

So I think that kind of answers the question is like, is this necessary for the ag industry? And I think the answer is absolutely, because we don’t know what’s going forward. And even now, with COVID regulations still being a thing, auditors are getting into this space where they’re using technology to complete their jobs.

And what’s been really cool, unfortunately, you know, COVID has not been an exciting ride by any means, but us kind of being ahead of the ball just a little bit. And then our business picked up, you know, because we were ahead of the game there.

So I think that it’s certainly the industry is headed in that direction. I mean, you guys could look at fields and see tractors driving themselves, right? You know, I can be responding to emails and still doing spur application on the farm, so I think so.

00;07;36;10 – 00;07;46;28
Trevor
Yeah. You know, I’m sure that auditing turn was such a huge selling point for a lot of farmers are like, hold up. I can don’t have to do all the papers. Like the auditor doesn’t even have to come here.

I can just send them a link for the all the records like I’m sure I’m sure that made a lot of people like, well, you know what, I’m definitely going to do this.

00;07;53;15 – 00;08;09;18
Bristol
Right? Yeah, it definitely was. That was the point in our business where we were like, okay, we could give ourselves the high five, but we’re doing it like, you know, people need what we’re offering. So yeah, I would agree auditing has changed a lot in the last two years and I honestly think that it’s going to change even more.

00;08;10;19 – 00;08;17;19
Trevor
Oh, I can imagine. And so you guys correct me if I’m wrong, but you offer three software. It’s Highland Hub, food safety and then Crop IQ, is that right?

00;08;17;25 – 00;08;28;28
Bristol
Yeah. So our Highland Hub is like our a big umbrella is like how I like to explain it. It’s like our platform. You could think of like Microsoft Office and then you have all these different features inside of Microsoft Office.

So we actually have seven products within Highland Hub being that big one. But food safety, which is best 365 and Crop IQ, are the two big ones that really kind of go across an entire operation. So those are the big two that you had, food safety and then crop IQ.

00;08;45;13 – 00;08;54;22
Trevor
Okay, gotcha. And so what would those look like? It like if a farmer’s using food safety, for example, like what exactly are they using that for? And then kind of what is the user experience like?

00;08;54;28 – 00;09;05;24
Bristol
Absolutely. And I love to talk to user experience. We recently developed a team at Highland UI, UX, and you having software background know exactly what that means. But yeah.

00;09;05;29 – 00;09;08;11
Trevor
That user experience, those are definitely some key terms.

00;09;08;21 – 00;09;23;02
Bristol
So user experience, user interface, we have a team completely dedicated to just how it looks and feels as a user. And I think that speaks volumes when software companies go the extra mile to do that. Right. We don’t like using clunky software, I certainly don’t.

So our team has taken a lot of time to do that. But for food safety, that side of the business, every food safety plan looks different across the country and certainly outside of the country. As far as what is your commodity, what is your process line?

You know, are you packing, is there water introduced on the packing line? The food safety questions could go on and on. So with all of those, the first 365, which basically stands for Food Safety 365 days a year, that platform allows users to take all their checklists, all their cooler temperature logs and their pre-op inspections and their cleaning and sanitation logs and all those things they’re having to fill out every day and sometimes every hour. You know, if you implement a dump tank or there is an P level, you have to check, those things have to be checked hourly while the production line is running.

So all of that becomes then digital. And our software basically we can set up with, you know, the customer can do all of this, but setting up notifications where it says, Hey, it’s 5:00 on Wednesday, it’s time to do your food safety meeting, you know, and text you and notify you that with your dump tanks it would say, Hey, so-and-so on line seven has missed filling out their dump tank. Do you want to remind them to do it? You know, so it’s just taking that not only virtualizing and digitizing it, but taking it a step further and helping customers remain compliant.

And we are not regulatory, right? We’re not the people that are like, oh, you’re in trouble because you didn’t do it. That’s not the goal at all. The goal is that we give the industry the tools they need to do what they’re supposed to be doing and do what’s required of them so that if they do get an unannounced inspection, you know, with our platform, every question for their audit is already preloaded in there. And the answer to that question, like the document that answers that question is right there next to it. So if they were to get, you know, USDA walk and say they’re doing an unannounced inspection, they’re knocking on the door, what we’re empowering these these industry folks to do is open the door and say, like, yeah, come on in, we’re ready for you. Everything’s right here. We’re not having to go down where the folded paper in his pocket about what the dump tank level was 3 hours ago.

So that’s kind of what food safety looks like.

00;11;35;04 – 00;11;46;06
Trevor
I got you. And so would would something like this help whenever there’s, like, a foodborne illness outbreak, you know, where where? I mean, you know, for example, you see a lot with Chipotle, with lettuce, and then they trace it all the way back to the farm.

So it’s something like this really help anytime there might be a foodborne illness outbreak.

00;11;50;26 – 00;12;04;25
Bristol
Yes. So we’ve actually had a few customers that unfortunately have had some recalls and things of that nature that we’ve been able to use our software in that traceback process and really able to to go back and say, number one, where did the product originate?
Number two, where was it packed? And then where was the problem introduced? And they’re able to look. And trend those reports and say, okay, well, here is when our cooler temperature got too high and we had our temperature wasn’t regulated for 6 hours and this product wasn’t here, or, hey, this line tested positive for E coli the day that we ran this product. So, yes, that’s a very much an opportunity to use technology to help prevent those is the goal. But when they do happen, trace them back, find the root and change the behavior.

00;12;35;25 – 00;12;51;26
Trevor
Now, I’m sure something like that is extremely helpful versus like an old school paper tracking catalog where you know, where you have a foodborne illness and you’ve got to go through hundreds of pages of records to kind of figure out what’s going on instead of this super handy digital experience.

00;12;51;27 – 00;13;09;11
Bristol
Yeah, I would agree. I would think that united fresh food safety immersion program two years ago now, I think, gosh, I’m getting old, time is going too fast, whatever. So I think it was two years ago I was in that class and we were with mentors who are very influential food safety professionals, and we had to sit with those mentors and do like a mock recall and a mock traceback and figure out where the root of our recall happened. And let me tell you with like, I genuinely don’t know how it’s possible without a digital solution, whether it’s Highland or, you know, a different company.

Nonetheless, a digital platform is so necessary and being able to insure that stuff because like, for instance, those leafy green growers, a lot of them, you know, I’m from central Florida and we have in south Florida a lot of lettuce.

Right. Well, then you go to California. There’s a ton of lettuce. There’s businesses that operate in both of those. Could you imagine trying to be the food safety professional in California, figuring out why a recall happened in Florida without access to digital records like.

00;13;50;27 – 00;13;52;00
Trevor
That would be a nightmare.

00;13;52;21 – 00;14;06;21
Bristol
It really is. So I just that’s and we hate we never want to use like the fear tactic to sell people. Right. Like, that’s not it at all. But the reality is if it’s not digital, like it can’t be accurate sometimes because it’s not in front of you. You don’t have direct access to it in real time.

00;14;09;19 – 00;14;23;23
Trevor
Yeah. I mean, I can’t imagine how it would be to have like a huge operation and then you’re still doing it on paper when there’s software does I mean, of course, like I’m sure that there are people out there that have like, you know, a perfect recordkeeping system that they’ve been using for generation after generation.

But then you have cool software like you guys that really does it for you.

00;14;26;17 – 00;14;44;03
Bristol
Yeah. Yeah. That’s the goal is to to make your jobs easier, to make your job more effective, optimize your time that you spend. I know, I guess in safety consulting for a little while and I would go and do operations and you know, they say till 1030 at night filling out all the records for the day because

they know they have to have it done before tomorrow. And it’s like, do you have a cell phone? Cause if you have a cell phone, you can do it. When you’re standing at the line, you know you don’t have to do it at the end of the day.

00;14;54;12 – 00;15;00;05
Trevor
Which is so convenient. And then kind of going on. Tell us more about Crop IQ. So what is the main purpose of that software?

00;15;00;15 – 00;15;14;22
Bristol
Yeah, so Crop IQ is more like just a farm focus inside of our software and that’s where like the growers and we’re primarily in produce, that’s the business we work in right now. Of course, plans to grow, but right now produce on the farm side.

This is an application that really allows you to monitor the like the crop application and put so your chemicals, fertilizers, all of that we see more so now than ever, regulatory requiring like nitrogen and phosphorus inputs and how much of that is going in the land and things of that nature.

So not only that, but it helps manage all of those as a farm, like a farm manager, you’re able to schedule out your sprays and send them electronically to your sprayers so they know what the tank mix is and what to mix, what to load, what fields to go spray, at what rate, that kind of thing.

But taking it one step further and all of our the cool thing about Hyland is that all of our tools talk to each other. So like our crop IQ system will notify your food safety system if you have an active area in your field, which obviously meaning you have chemical residues still there, you can’t harvest or you can’t be in that field yet. So if you got to create a pre harvest inspection on Field A and you have an active RTI and you going to do that pre harvest inspection, it’s going to trigger you and say, hold on, you have an active area in that field.

So that is probably my favorite part of of crop IQ is really being able to tie the whole business together, really using it as a a business management tool, but communicating. Right. So now your food safety guy is not hunting down every time you spray and he knows what’s going on.

There’s that complete transparency of, okay, this, this is what we’re doing. We’re good. We’re going to go we’ll harvest zero harvest there and make that for that full business plan.

00;16;46;12 – 00;17;01;01
Trevor
That’s huge. And I feel like that interconnect ability are interconnected inner to interconnectedness. I believe like all the different apps and everything is like a huge selling point and a huge tool. I mean, I can imagine how much time that saves whenever.

I mean, like you were saying, like you can communicate with their sprayers, communicate what’s going on, keep track of if there is any residuals in the fields like that’s a huge.

00;17;09;15 – 00;17;25;09
Bristol
Cool. Yeah. And it’s something that is required now. I mean, for the guys that are sending to any large retailer or main retailer, you know, they have to have these records, too, passes inspections and, you know, as simple as on on one of those applications.

Now, Primus, which is an auditing body, they require that you have the justification for your spray on the record so that you’re not complaining sprays for no reason. So we went and developed a part of our software that you can do recommendations and scouting reports, and that talks to Crop IQ and tells Crop IQ why you’re spraying

that, which then talks to food safety, you know, so it’s this constant like you were saying, just I like to say that Highland Hub is a business management tool because it really is.

00;17;54;09 – 00;18;08;12
Trevor
That sounds like it. And so I wrote this down because I really wanted to talk about this. Like, is this software kind of a one size fits all or how much can each operation kind of customize? It kind of fit their needs, especially, I guess fit the needs of the crops and what they’re doing.

00;18;08;27 – 00;18;26;10
Bristol
Yeah. So luckily we started in specialty crops, so we started hard first and when we developed. So just a little bit of the story of how like the heart of Highland and how we got here, because I think that’s important to kind of answer your question on what it what it looks like as far as customization.

Steve Maxwell, who’s our owner, and John Durham, we sat down on the table, you know, when when we started this part of the business and said, what do what does the industry need? And so we brought those guys in and we’re in central Florida, like I said, and winner strawberry capital of the world.

Right. So we bring in a lot of strawberry growers and we’re like, what is the hinderance? What’s what is the burden right now? And time and time again, it was that the need for a digital solution to keep up with the regulatory burden as well as manage the business.

And so when we got to that, we realized that not every single operation operates like a strawberry farm. Right? It’s very different. So we brought a lot of blueberry guys in and we said, oh, my gosh, okay. So blueberry operations are so different than strawberry.

And so we continued to do that. And this like this this phase where we were building the business that we then realized, let’s just build a tool that they can then build what they need. So it’s very similar, like I said in the beginning, to using like Microsoft forms, right?

So they give you the tool, you go in and you determine what you have to check at your operation. You determine what the thresholds for things are at your operation. You determine what the the supplies are at, where you work.

So it’s really just a platform that can then be completely customized to the needs of every commodity. I mean, we have avocados and leafy greens and all the berries were big and various because that’s where we started. But every commodity you can think of potatoes, right?

Like all these processes are so different. And that was one of the big things for us was that we did not want to box this tool in to one industry. We wanted every I mean, everyone in produce at this point to be able to use it and grow.

Crop guides can use it as well. I know their food safety regulations are not near as strenuous, so the need for that isn’t as important for them right now. But we even have visions of like, where could this tool take us?

Could it take us out of produce? Absolutely. Can it take us into meat? Meat production? Well, one day I’m sure you know, the platform is there. So.

00;20;32;27 – 00;20;47;16
Trevor
Yeah. And, you know, I mean, come to think of it, I’m sure that starting off in Florida was a huge advantage because a lot of people don’t realize. But Florida agriculture is super duper diverse. I mean, up here in north Florida, I’m here in Panama City, and, you know, we’ve got a lot of like beef ranches, a ton of timber. I mean, not a whole lot of like fruit and vegetable crops, but a little bit here and there. And of course, you go to central Florida, you’ve got a ton of citrus, you’ve got watermelon, you’ve got the strawberry, the winner, strawberry capital of the world.

And then you’ve also got more ranches and stuff down in South Florida. And so Florida’s super diverse. And so I’m sure that was a really great tool for you guys whenever you started developing the software.

00;21;10;14 – 00;21;26;14
Bristol
Yeah, I like to tell people we’re more than the beach and Disneyworld. Like there’s so much that happens here as far as AG goes. I mean, we grow over 300 commodities in the state. And so something that we take a lot of pride in is we actually take our developers, we call them field trips just as funny, but we take them on field trips literally to the field. And our software developers, our co-writers, go and stand next to farmers and the field. What is this process look like for you? And in that moment, like they’re writing down and you come from this world and I don’t of like all this code stuff and I’m like, Thank God we have these people being stopped, but they’re right there on the field. And that was the super advantage for us, is being in this garden state of any kind of commodity we wanted our development team had direct that has still has direct access to these guys.
And I can not express to listeners like how much, but first off like it just blows my mind how brilliant the ag industry is. And like farmers blow my mind every day. Like I’m just like, how do you guys even think through this stuff?

So being able to pick their brain really helps us build a more robust system.

00;22;19;15 – 00;22;38;10
Trevor
You know, that’s a very good point. I mean, I feel like farming and software are two vastly different tools and two vastly different industries. So it’s great that the developers and the farmers can kind of interact and explain their processes more like a farmer can explain what goes on, how important it is to track spraying and all the regulations you’ve got to follow. And then a software developer can kind of explain how the software would work, how, I don’t know, one module would interact with another one and how it would be very easily to do to track relationships with tasks and.

Verse is like old school pen and paper. And so those are two very different worlds. And so it’s cool that you guys are able to have those field trips and help them communicate as best as possible.

00;23;03;03 – 00;23;18;00
Bristol
Yeah, when those worlds collide, it’s actually like a beautiful thing to see and just kind of be a bystander in that because the day to day stuff, you know, we at the company that come from AG, which over 80% of us have ag backgrounds, we speak for the farmer, right?

We say, okay, I have a production ag degree. So I’m like, No, this is the process, right? We’re speaking for them. But when those developers get to go and stand right there at the farm and they get to see like lettuce cut impact for the first time and it just like is insane to them because they’re like, what in the world like? I have no idea that all of this went into getting my food to the table, which kind of leads me a little bit to just talk about like that consumer awareness piece and knowing that, number one, like for the software developers, they’re realizing how much more goes into farming than they could think. Number two, the farmers are realizing how much more goes into technology than they could think, and then how to marry those is just so cool. So consumers are now seeing both sides of that coin, not only the farming side and how intense that is, but then the technology that these farmers are implementing.

Like, it’s it’s a beautiful thing for me.

00;24;10;28 – 00;24;24;09
Trevor
Yeah, that’s true. That’s such a good point. And so, I mean, do you have any success stories that you could share about farmers here in Florida or wherever else? I have kind of implemented this. All of these tools that you guys are making and the how it’s really changed, how they do business.

00;24;24;25 – 00;24;36;02
Bristol
Yeah, I mean, I can think of quite a few and you know, just naming some of our customers, like I said earlier, Graham Way and Litman being, you know, a number one leader in the tomato space and these large companies.

But also I can’t forget to leave out people that like Miss Beth, she’s one of our customers. She has Anna’s garden blueberries in south Georgia. And she’s one of our biggest advocates. She’s a retired schoolteacher. She’s a teacher, I believe, for 40 years.

And she started a small blueberry farm. She started with four acres, and now they’re at 74 acres. And so she tells us, you know, that a lot is contributed to the fact that they were able to implement technology, because she says if it wasn’t for Highland Hub like she would not be able to manage it.

There’s no way she could keep up with it all. And she’s a small grower, right? So she wears a lot of hats on the operation. She does the food safety, she does the yield estimations. She I mean, she does everything.

So being able to see someone like that and she jokingly says, well, if I can do it, anybody can do it with the technology. Because she came from being an English teacher for 40 years. So a totally different space for her.

But just thinking through some of those, you know, we’ve had customers that have had very large scale operations that have lost their food safety managers and they haven’t missed a beat because they had the software implemented, they had the reminders implemented.

They had all of these things that we help them provide that way when they’re food safety person. You know, there was a lapse between them having someone in that seat. None of their food safety practices fell behind because they had all of this implemented ahead of time.

So that’s I mean, just two simple ones. But there’s I mean, there’s hundreds that I can tell you. And being able to go on these operations and see just the I mean, it’s physical. You can physically see the relief that a lot of these guys feel when they know that if the EPA walked on, they could say, well, yeah, I mean, just pull it up on my phone, I’ll show you what I’ve sprayed. You know, it’s right there. They’re not panic and calling their wives like, where the heck is this paper? I don’t know where you put it kind of deal, because we’ve seen that side of the coin, too.

So that’s just a few.

00;26;25;29 – 00;26;40;28
Trevor
Well, that’s awesome. Yeah, I can imagine. That’s crazy. That’s so cool. And so what’s the whole like? Let’s say a farmers interested in your software? What is that whole sales process like? Do they get to kind of see what it would look like and then they can implement it for a while, like a trial period, I guess before if they want to go ahead and go and purchase it.

00;26;43;16 – 00;26;59;16
Bristol
Absolutely. So our like our sales process is very simplistic. So a lot of times, which I’m sure this is similar to the events that you get to meet people at, but we’re all the trade shows and all of the, you know, ISP events and all that mingling and just getting to meet people.

But when we do and we have someone that shows interest, we do a sales demo. So with one of our team members who ironically enough, I just got off a sales meeting. So this made me think of this.

But all of us come from using the software like so the other three were customers of ours before they came to work for us. And then I’ve been here since the beginning and when I was doing some food safety consulting, I was actually using Highland Hub to do that.

So we’ve all used the system which is so unique before we went to the sales roles, but we do a demo, so we log in and, you know, screen, share a resume, or we do it in person depending on the operation, but showing them the software, the intricacies, what it looks like, what it feels like. Demos are certainly an option if a customer wants to click on themselves and see that once they say yes, we turn them over to our service specialist team. So they’re the team that really holds the hands on implementation.

So I was on that team previous to this role and honestly it was one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had, I think because it was so boring to go. So we basically go to the operation over Zoom or screen share or whatever and we say, okay, send us all of your food safety logs. And I saw a piece that you have. Send us your farm maps, send us everything, and we help them. We do the initial lift, so we help them build out all those logs and records onto the system, and then we train them with their own documents.

So we’re not saying like here, watch some videos and learn how to use this. We’re saying let’s get on a screen share and I’m going to click through and then you’re going to click through behind me and show me, you know, how to do this. And something that Highland really pride themselves on is like, again, we give them the tool to help themselves and we teach them how to edit things and add things and delete things. With a lot of other software companies that are hard coded, they’re required to put in a request to add an SOP or to add a log

for us. The tool is yours at your disclosure. If it’s 2 a.m. and you’re up trying to watch frost protection and you need to add a new log, you can build it right there on your phone. You know, you don’t have to contact one of us. So we work really hard to train and empower our customers to know how to use the system to its full potential. And then through that, we check in and go visit. We love customer visits. It’s something that I wish could just be my full time job.

I love going to see customers and how they’re implementing it because again, it looks so different depending on the operation.

00;29;24;01 – 00;29;35;02
Trevor
I bet. And that’s awesome that you guys, it seems like you have a very good relationship with the people that use the software. I know one, software companies get kind of too big. They kind of get, I guess, not very personable. And so it seems like you guys kind of are very personable in telling them how to use the software and also the power that they have of kind of customizing it and using it however they see fit is huge.

00;29;45;16 – 00;30;01;23
Bristol
Yeah. Our our owners, they are very much boots on the ground kind of guys. And they believe that business is only built with boots on the ground. And I 1,000% agree. I feel the same way because we recognize that during COVID it was a lot harder.

Aside from the fact that we had a tool that a lot of people needed at the time. But as far as just like being able to show the person like the personality of our teams and the heart of Highland, as I like to say, being able to show that during hovered over a screen was really challenging.

So it’s been really cool to get back out, get back to farms, you know, get back on the road. And our CEO tells us it’s the ground game. It’s the ground game. You know, you have to be on the road and running around and seeing people.

And that’s the part that I think excites us all is when we get to give the resource and the tool to a grower and say, you know, look what look what you’ve achieved because of this tool. I mean, that’s the part that we love and linking arms. That’s what we say. We link arms with our customers like we want to be there. I mean, there’s been times at 3 a.m. where I’ve gotten phone calls because something wasn’t working and they’re trying to save a crop from freezing.

And, you know, we’re there, our team is up and we’re people. We’re not robots on a computer. You know, you’re calling my cell phone when you call me and I’m trying to do what I can to help you.

So very much that personable is so important to us.

00;31;02;18 – 00;31;10;07
Trevor
Yeah, that’s huge. I mean, you’re not getting a one 800 number. You’re actually getting you guys’s phone numbers, like personal phone numbers. That way you can actually get help any time you need it. That’s huge.

00;31;10;13 – 00;31;21;10
Bristol
Yeah, that’s something our teams really work hard to. We say, you know, first when you started selling the software, we’re like, we have 27, like 24/7 support. And there was three of us and when we said it, we meant it.

So it would take like shifts, like, okay, we get late night phone calls with you this week. You know, we’re like, holy cow, we just said we have 24 seven support. Let’s make it happen. So we have tools in place to make sure that that’s certainly planned for and prepared for.

But it’s it’s true.

00;31;37;11 – 00;31;43;27
Trevor
24 seven Well, that’s good. Yeah, I’m sure that’s like, oh, dang, we got it. We actually got to be available 24, seven times, but we can do it.

00;31;44;12 – 00;31;45;10
Bristol
Yeah, exactly.

00;31;45;27 – 00;31;54;06
Trevor
That’s fun. So let’s talk a little bit more about your podcast. So it’s the Cream of the Crop podcast. Like what? What’s the schedule like? Who do you interview? What do you talk about and stuff like that.

00;31;54;21 – 00;32;10;16
Bristol
Yeah. So we started it and like I said, our owner actually started it and he was really involved in like the day to day planning of it and things. And he has a lot of other endeavors. He is an entrepreneur by blood, so he is always doing the next thing and really being innovative.

So I clearly just like to talk a lot and they were like, Bristol, you like to talk, you want to try this? And I was like, Sure. So we did. And here we are like I think 60 episodes later or something. So it’s kind of taken off. And at first it was almost just like, Yeah, I’m going to give this a shot and see what I can do. And now I love it. It’s one of the most it’s, it’s just so enjoyable.

So for us, it looks a little less traditional and than most because it’s really just a little side thing for us. It’s not something that is revenue driving or, you know, something like that. It’s really just something we like as far as like industry awareness and really getting to the heart of our industry.

So we like to talk to top leaders, talk about top ideas and share top trends and. AG That’s like one little things we say. So I’ve talked to the commissioner of AG of Texas, I’ve talked to lawyers, I’ve talked to farmers, I’ve talked to people about mental health and AG.

I mean, we have no boundary except for AG on her podcast. So it’s crazy because it’s so different every time, which I love. But if anyone that’s listening wants to share their story and the heart of their business, you know, we would love to have them. We just do it. We plan over email and get on. Kind of like you just get on here and have a very casual, candid conversation, ask questions. Of course, we do a little bit of homework before and, you know, some talking points.

But as far as the podcast itself, it’s really just dependent on the guest as far as what we talk about, of course, I, you know, really got excited when I talked to the commissioner of AG in Texas because, well, he’s just so fun to talk to. But also I just kind of wait to have really big hair because we did that one over Zoom and I was like, Is it ever bigger in Texas? Like, Oh, just say.

00;33;52;27 – 00;33;54;20
Trevor
Oh, that’s cool. I bet that was fun to do.

00;33;54;24 – 00;34;04;16
Bristol
Yeah, he actually did it from the front seat of his truck. So it was it was awesome. But yeah, funny stories for sure. But it’s it’s been an adventure. Have you how long have you been doing the podcast?

00;34;04;27 – 00;34;16;14
Trevor
Yeah, I’ve been doing this, I think about three years. I think we started in like 2018, 20. 19. It was the fall of 2018, I believe. And so, yeah, we kind of did it right before the start of the pandemic.

So yeah, I guess about three or four years, which is crazy. It’s flown by.

00;34;20;09 – 00;34;20;23
Bristol
Right?

00;34;20;28 – 00;34;33;15
Trevor
It’s fun. I mean, you get to meet so many cool people from around the country, even the world, and just chat about agriculture. And it’s so fun because, you know, a farmer from, I don’t know, Texas might be doing things totally different than a farmer in Oregon or Australia.

And so it’s cool to get kind of their different perspectives.

00;34;36;15 – 00;34;52;27
Bristol
On the issues and the things they struggle with are so different. And I love that part of it because it brings such awareness to like your own bubble, so like your little bubble and ag is, you know, we like, for instance, us in central Florida, we’re constantly talking about like labor and weather, right?

We’re not often talking about the need for water that’s not on our radar. But I talk to customers in New Mexico and California and get them on the podcast and it’s like, oh, my gosh, like they aren’t having as much of these labor and weather things aside from they have no water, you know, it’s just crazy to

see the differences and just the country that we have.

00;35;12;22 – 00;35;22;10
Trevor
Oh, yeah. And it’s so cool. What would you say are kind of the most impactful moments you’ve had on the show, whether it’s like a topic or somebody in particular that you’ve interviewed, what were kind of some of the biggest, impactful moments you’ve had.

00;35;22;24 – 00;35;40;24
Bristol
I think, to come to mind, and I’m jotting him down right now, so don’t forget I’m as I’m talking. But Marshall so he’s he actually I met him through a mutual friend in the industry, but he lost his father to a farm related suicide when he was in I believe it was high school or high school or college. And he came on and shared a lot about mental health and ag and that one really just it stopped me dead in my tracks because of course, it wasn’t one that was like necessarily like exciting you would think to talk about, but it was honestly really encouraging because he’s doing so much.

He has a nonprofit that Bayer sponsors called Mind Your Melon, and they do a lot now and they’re very new off the ground, involved in mental health and really making that awareness for AG because I think that toughness of the farmer kind of gets in the way of making sure that we’re all mentally sound, you know, we struggle too, and having that camaraderie. So that being number one and then number two is probably Cameron Coggins at the time she worked for Grimm Way and her family farms carrots in South Georgia. And we did this podcast and I’m not kidding.

You were like the best of friends. Now, like, we talk all the time. We go and I go babysit her baby and just, like, snuggle with them. And, you know, it’s just so fun. We’re like best friends. So really knowing that, like, podcasting can make you like, some lifelong friends, too.

So those are probably the two things.

00;36;48;12 – 00;37;04;23
Trevor
That’s awesome. Yeah, I know. Marshall So I was a state officer here in Florida. Oh, shoot. Like 2009, 2010, which feels like a lifetime ago. And Marshall was the state president the year before me. And so I know Marshall really like, I mean decently and yeah, he’s got a great story, a great message.

I’ve tried. I think I introduced him to my other friend Jason Meadows, who has got the AG State of Mind podcast, and his is all about mental health and agriculture. And I can’t remember if they have done an episode together.

If not, they need to. But I need to go check out his podcast some more and see if they did one. But yeah, I mean, Marshall covers a lot of really good stuff in AG and he’s got a phenomenal story.

00;37;25;21 – 00;37;29;22
Bristol
Yeah, I was telling him I’m like, Marshall, you need to start a podcast.

00;37;29;22 – 00;37;41;28
Trevor
Yeah, for real. That would be so cool because I mean, I feel like traditional business owners. I mean, absolutely, there’s a lot that goes into it. But for farmers and ranchers, really, nine times out of ten, it’s a family business.

And then you’ve got that added pressure where you don’t want to be the one that it closes. And if it does, that’s, you know, you think that that’s on you and your whole livelihood, your happiness goes into it.
And so there’s a lot there that a lot of people really don’t realize. And there’s just so many mental health issues that I think we’re slowly starting to pay more attention to, which is really healthy.

00;38;02;10 – 00;38;21;04
Bristol
Yeah, I think so. And something that I recently have discovered with that mental health arena and really diving in Marshall got me really devoted to learning more number one about myself, but number two, the industry I work for and something that I’ve come to realize just working with our current customers is that there is a lot of this mental health stigma in the generation that’s starting to take over. That’s like our age. You know, the kids and the grandkids have owners and operators and going back to the family farm and the pressure that it is to say, okay, like you just said, it’s on me.

But now the added pressure of changing things, right? Yeah. So it’s not just, okay, now apply responsibility, but it’s like now it’s my responsibility and I want to change something that’s a whole different space for these very deeply rooted family businesses.

And I think of like great examples. You know, I have a friend, you may know him, too. He was a state officer, but Steven Singleton, he comes from a potato farm. Oh, yeah. Okay. He’s helping out the family farm and and really trying to implement all of that and helping introduce some technologies and whatever.

And I think of the beautiful story that he has because his family is. All about that. They’re all about technology. They’re all about making things better for the next generation. So I think of those stories and I’m like, This is awesome.

I wish everyone could have this case know. So it really opened my mind a lot to what that looks like.

00;39;24;08 – 00;39;33;10
Trevor
I bet that’s awesome. I mean, I think that’s really kind of the power of podcasting. You can build all these relationships. You can cover topics you want to talk about. So I think that’s huge. That’s awesome. And so it’s cool. You guys are doing that podcast. We will link that in the description below. But this has been super awesome. Bristol chatting, everything about Highlands and solutions. If people want to learn more about your software, about the products and everything. And of course like also the podcast, like work. Where can they go? What are the best websites and links for them to find all that stuff out?

00;39;51;10 – 00;40;10;03
Bristol
Yeah. So everything is on our main website which is Hyland has it dot com so WW W dot highland has it dot com. And then you’ll see there’s like a spot that says blogs and podcast. They can go there for a podcast, but then all of our products are listed and then like direct questions, we have sales

00;40;10;03 – 00;40;15;07
Bristol
or info at Highland Park dot com. So any of those emails or websites would work well.

00;40;15;07 – 00;40;26;26
Trevor
Deal. Well, thanks so much for chatting. We really appreciate it. Learned a lot from you guys and best of luck with the podcast. Obviously, I love hearing more about AG Podcast, so best of luck for you guys. Thanks again for chatting with us.

00;40;27;03 – 00;40;29;21
Bristol
Yeah, we’ll have to have you on our episode deal.

00;40;29;22 – 00;40;30;17
Trevor
Sounds like a plan.

00;40;30;26 – 00;40;31;26
Bristol
All right. Thanks to our.

Ep 165: The Freshest, Locally Grown Produce in Your Neighborhood – Local Bounti

Imagine you go to buy a head of lettuce, basil, or some other type of leafy green and that produce is extremely fresh! Fresh because it was harvested just a few hours ago at a greenhouse just up the road from your grocery store. Well, that’s the game plan with it comes to Local Bounti, a company looking to make a dent in the indoor Ag space (and by the looks of it, that dent is going to be HUGE). My guest today is Craig Hurlbert from Local Bounti. In our chat today, Craig and I will talk about his background from working at GE to starting an investment company that eventually lead to him and his business partner getting involved in CEA (Confined Environment Agriculture), Local Bounti’s Stack and Flow technology, and how to balance scaling a business without sacrificing quality.

Local Bounti – The Freshest, Locally Grown Produce in Your Neighborhood

Show Notes:

Growing up in Montana

Worked at GE

Being a CEO very young.

Investing in different companies…

Bright Mark Partners. Lead to CEA (Controlled Environment Agriculture)

3 years from whiteboard to on the NYSE.

Locations around the US.

Consumers have a better relationship with leafy greens.

“CEA is inevitable”

Stack and Flow tech

Buying and working with Pete’s

Juggling scaling, profitability, and product quality.

Positive gross margins in their first year!

“We build Local Bounti for a 100-year run.”

Sharing visions and values with those around you.

“If you have a good story…..you have the ability to attract talent.”

Be sure to follow us on social media!

https://www.instagram.com/farm_traveler/

https://www.facebook.com/TheFarmTraveler

https://www.youtube.com/farmtraveler

Subscribe here:

https://podkite.link/FarmTraveler

Call to Action

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Transcript

00;00;04;16 – 00;00;22;02
Trevor
Hello and welcome to the Farm Traveler podcast. I’m your host, Trevor Williams. And today on the show, we’re going to be learning about kind of a cool technology that’s been around for a while that’s really revolutionizing how farmers are able to keep track of spraying crops, data, food safety, all of that good stuff.
So today we are interviewing Bristol Wells from Highland AG Solutions and Bristol and everybody at Highlands creates a software or rather multiple softwares that really help farmers track so much stuff for their business and for their operation. So they have a bunch of different software like Crop IQ, Food Safety and their Highland Hub, which all keep track of various data that you might have on at a farm. And, you know, a lot of consumers think that, you know, maybe a lot of farmers use the old school pen and paper, record tracking when things like this, the Highland Hub, the food IQ and all that good stuff have really revolutionized how farmers are doing business because of things like COVID. You know, you have auditors that need to come on to the facilities, but because of COVID, they can’t do that. And so these technologies allow those auditors and allow various people like food safety inspectors to kind of check the records to see what those farmers are doing.

And so this technology is awesome. It’s so fun. And so Bristol and I are going to talk today about kind of the background. What was the inspiration behind all this, some success stories that have been had and also kind of what the process is like for them, showing farmers how powerful this software is and how it can keep track of their spray data, their crop rotations, all that good stuff. So this is a great conversation for anybody that’s, you know, a farmer or that really likes to see the intersection of technology and agriculture. And so if you want to learn more about Highlands AG Solutions, go in the description and you’ll see a bunch of different links as well as their podcast, The Cream of the Crop podcast, which Bristol does. And we’re going to talk more about that as well. So this is such a fun interview. I hope you enjoy it and thanks for listening.

00;02;10;22 – 00;02;14;05
Trevor
All right. Well, Bristol Wells, welcome the Farm Traveler podcast. How are you doing?

00;02;14;06 – 00;02;15;26
Bristol
I am great. Thanks for having me.

00;02;16;07 – 00;02;31;24
Trevor
Yeah, excited to chat with you. So you are a fellow podcaster and you work in the ag space specifically with Hyland Agriculture and you guys offer a bunch of technology for farmers and kind of before we dove into that, tell us kind of a little bit about your background and how you got started with Hyland AG Solutions

00;02;31;26 – 00;02;48;06
Bristol
? Sure. I’m so excited to be here and it’s always fun to chat with other podcasters. We started a podcast right before the pandemic hit and it just kind of took off. And so The Cream of the Crop is our podcast name, but similar to you just really talking to others in the ag space and what kind of ingenuity they’re implementing on their operations and things like that. So really good to be here. A little bit about Hyland AG Solutions. This is one of my favorite things to talk about, so I could ramble on forever about all the amazing things that Hyland AG does.

But we are a software provider for the ag industry and what that means is we go and help operations really with what we’re doing most is virtualizing their documentation as far as their pre harvest inspections and all the papers and binders and things they’re keeping up with really in preparation for regulatory audits and all the things that everyone gets so excited to talk about. All those things we’re helping kind of make that process a lot easier, but more so than easier, really streamlining that into what’s next, right? So we all live in 2022 and we’re like using technology in every aspect of our life.
So we kind of took that same process into the farm. About five years ago. We were still flying drones. We started our company after we sold a packaging company and we started flying drones in the specialty crop industry. And there was just so a lot in that time of people trying to do this and there was just a lot to be learned still. So we took that and moved on to doing the software and you can read about it on our website. We did. We made all the mistakes, we did all the things right. We outsource developers, we did all the stuff and came back. And really the center of our business is really understanding production. AG And it was challenging to get software developers and code writers that understood production.
AG That also could write code because that’s not me. So we hired in-house and now we’re off to the races. We have customers like Grumpy Farms, you know, they’re one of the world’s leading care producers. And so we have them and lots of other smaller and larger as well.

So that’s kind of the cliff note version that’s perfect.

00;04;42;29 – 00;05;00;12
Trevor
Yeah, I think that intersection of technology and farming is so cool. I mean, I was a software developer for a while and so I love software. And of course being in agriculture, like I love everything about AG and so I love when the two combine because a lot of people think, I mean, probably even currently in production agriculture, a lot of people think it’s just, you know, written documents. It’s the old school binders that, you know, kind of the old school farm, old school farmers use. But there’s so many technologies out there and you guys are offering such a cool tool for farmers where they can I mean, like you were saying, have digital records for everything. And so, I mean, is that really kind of a necessity that farmers need to I don’t know, kind of like get on the ball with.

00;05;22;21 – 00;05;41;05
Bristol
Yeah, I will. I’ll tell you a story and let you make the decision. Now when we’re just really I do a lot with like Farm Bureau and a lot of different, you know, associations and organizations. And we constantly are fighting the battle of getting the farmers going in a field with the pitchfork mentality out of people’s minds Right? Like we have to move past that and realize where we are as a society and the tools that we use. I mean, think about going to McDonald’s now. I use an iPad. When I walk into McDonald’s, I pick my order, I pick it up on the counter and I never engage with a piece of paper or a person, you know, same concept with AG. So we created this part of our software called Auditor Access. So most of your listeners being in the ag industry know what goes into auditing and regulatory bodies. Come on your facility.

And they, they look around at all of your paper documentation and your physical, you know, the space that you’re working in. And the list can be hundreds of pages long if they’re checking. And when they do that, they’re there for days on end a lot of times.

So we created auditor access, which took all of the documentation and the paperwork, and it basically sent a link to the auditor and they could view all of that before they even got to your facility. So our customers are saying it’s cutting down 75 to 80% of their auditing times.

And we were realizing this before COVID and then COVID hit and everyone’s like, Oh my gosh, auditor can’t come on my facility, but my retailer won’t take my product unless it’s audited. So then they’re like, okay, we need a digital solution.

So I think that kind of answers the question is like, is this necessary for the ag industry? And I think the answer is absolutely, because we don’t know what’s going forward. And even now, with COVID regulations still being a thing, auditors are getting into this space where they’re using technology to complete their jobs.

And what’s been really cool, unfortunately, you know, COVID has not been an exciting ride by any means, but us kind of being ahead of the ball just a little bit. And then our business picked up, you know, because we were ahead of the game there.

So I think that it’s certainly the industry is headed in that direction. I mean, you guys could look at fields and see tractors driving themselves, right? You know, I can be responding to emails and still doing spur application on the farm, so I think so.

00;07;36;10 – 00;07;46;28
Trevor
Yeah. You know, I’m sure that auditing turn was such a huge selling point for a lot of farmers are like, hold up. I can don’t have to do all the papers. Like the auditor doesn’t even have to come here.

I can just send them a link for the all the records like I’m sure I’m sure that made a lot of people like, well, you know what, I’m definitely going to do this.

00;07;53;15 – 00;08;09;18
Bristol
Right? Yeah, it definitely was. That was the point in our business where we were like, okay, we could give ourselves the high five, but we’re doing it like, you know, people need what we’re offering. So yeah, I would agree auditing has changed a lot in the last two years and I honestly think that it’s going to change even more.

00;08;10;19 – 00;08;17;19
Trevor
Oh, I can imagine. And so you guys correct me if I’m wrong, but you offer three software. It’s Highland Hub, food safety and then Crop IQ, is that right?

00;08;17;25 – 00;08;28;28
Bristol
Yeah. So our Highland Hub is like our a big umbrella is like how I like to explain it. It’s like our platform. You could think of like Microsoft Office and then you have all these different features inside of Microsoft Office.

So we actually have seven products within Highland Hub being that big one. But food safety, which is best 365 and Crop IQ, are the two big ones that really kind of go across an entire operation. So those are the big two that you had, food safety and then crop IQ.

00;08;45;13 – 00;08;54;22
Trevor
Okay, gotcha. And so what would those look like? It like if a farmer’s using food safety, for example, like what exactly are they using that for? And then kind of what is the user experience like?

00;08;54;28 – 00;09;05;24
Bristol
Absolutely. And I love to talk to user experience. We recently developed a team at Highland UI, UX, and you having software background know exactly what that means. But yeah.

00;09;05;29 – 00;09;08;11
Trevor
That user experience, those are definitely some key terms.

00;09;08;21 – 00;09;23;02
Bristol
So user experience, user interface, we have a team completely dedicated to just how it looks and feels as a user. And I think that speaks volumes when software companies go the extra mile to do that. Right. We don’t like using clunky software, I certainly don’t.

So our team has taken a lot of time to do that. But for food safety, that side of the business, every food safety plan looks different across the country and certainly outside of the country. As far as what is your commodity, what is your process line?

You know, are you packing, is there water introduced on the packing line? The food safety questions could go on and on. So with all of those, the first 365, which basically stands for Food Safety 365 days a year, that platform allows users to take all their checklists, all their cooler temperature logs and their pre-op inspections and their cleaning and sanitation logs and all those things they’re having to fill out every day and sometimes every hour. You know, if you implement a dump tank or there is an P level, you have to check, those things have to be checked hourly while the production line is running.

So all of that becomes then digital. And our software basically we can set up with, you know, the customer can do all of this, but setting up notifications where it says, Hey, it’s 5:00 on Wednesday, it’s time to do your food safety meeting, you know, and text you and notify you that with your dump tanks it would say, Hey, so-and-so on line seven has missed filling out their dump tank. Do you want to remind them to do it? You know, so it’s just taking that not only virtualizing and digitizing it, but taking it a step further and helping customers remain compliant.

And we are not regulatory, right? We’re not the people that are like, oh, you’re in trouble because you didn’t do it. That’s not the goal at all. The goal is that we give the industry the tools they need to do what they’re supposed to be doing and do what’s required of them so that if they do get an unannounced inspection, you know, with our platform, every question for their audit is already preloaded in there. And the answer to that question, like the document that answers that question is right there next to it. So if they were to get, you know, USDA walk and say they’re doing an unannounced inspection, they’re knocking on the door, what we’re empowering these these industry folks to do is open the door and say, like, yeah, come on in, we’re ready for you. Everything’s right here. We’re not having to go down where the folded paper in his pocket about what the dump tank level was 3 hours ago.

So that’s kind of what food safety looks like.

00;11;35;04 – 00;11;46;06
Trevor
I got you. And so would would something like this help whenever there’s, like, a foodborne illness outbreak, you know, where where? I mean, you know, for example, you see a lot with Chipotle, with lettuce, and then they trace it all the way back to the farm.

So it’s something like this really help anytime there might be a foodborne illness outbreak.

00;11;50;26 – 00;12;04;25
Bristol
Yes. So we’ve actually had a few customers that unfortunately have had some recalls and things of that nature that we’ve been able to use our software in that traceback process and really able to to go back and say, number one, where did the product originate?
Number two, where was it packed? And then where was the problem introduced? And they’re able to look. And trend those reports and say, okay, well, here is when our cooler temperature got too high and we had our temperature wasn’t regulated for 6 hours and this product wasn’t here, or, hey, this line tested positive for E coli the day that we ran this product. So, yes, that’s a very much an opportunity to use technology to help prevent those is the goal. But when they do happen, trace them back, find the root and change the behavior.

00;12;35;25 – 00;12;51;26
Trevor
Now, I’m sure something like that is extremely helpful versus like an old school paper tracking catalog where you know, where you have a foodborne illness and you’ve got to go through hundreds of pages of records to kind of figure out what’s going on instead of this super handy digital experience.

00;12;51;27 – 00;13;09;11
Bristol
Yeah, I would agree. I would think that united fresh food safety immersion program two years ago now, I think, gosh, I’m getting old, time is going too fast, whatever. So I think it was two years ago I was in that class and we were with mentors who are very influential food safety professionals, and we had to sit with those mentors and do like a mock recall and a mock traceback and figure out where the root of our recall happened. And let me tell you with like, I genuinely don’t know how it’s possible without a digital solution, whether it’s Highland or, you know, a different company.

Nonetheless, a digital platform is so necessary and being able to insure that stuff because like, for instance, those leafy green growers, a lot of them, you know, I’m from central Florida and we have in south Florida a lot of lettuce.

Right. Well, then you go to California. There’s a ton of lettuce. There’s businesses that operate in both of those. Could you imagine trying to be the food safety professional in California, figuring out why a recall happened in Florida without access to digital records like.

00;13;50;27 – 00;13;52;00
Trevor
That would be a nightmare.

00;13;52;21 – 00;14;06;21
Bristol
It really is. So I just that’s and we hate we never want to use like the fear tactic to sell people. Right. Like, that’s not it at all. But the reality is if it’s not digital, like it can’t be accurate sometimes because it’s not in front of you. You don’t have direct access to it in real time.

00;14;09;19 – 00;14;23;23
Trevor
Yeah. I mean, I can’t imagine how it would be to have like a huge operation and then you’re still doing it on paper when there’s software does I mean, of course, like I’m sure that there are people out there that have like, you know, a perfect recordkeeping system that they’ve been using for generation after generation.

But then you have cool software like you guys that really does it for you.

00;14;26;17 – 00;14;44;03
Bristol
Yeah. Yeah. That’s the goal is to to make your jobs easier, to make your job more effective, optimize your time that you spend. I know, I guess in safety consulting for a little while and I would go and do operations and you know, they say till 1030 at night filling out all the records for the day because

they know they have to have it done before tomorrow. And it’s like, do you have a cell phone? Cause if you have a cell phone, you can do it. When you’re standing at the line, you know you don’t have to do it at the end of the day.

00;14;54;12 – 00;15;00;05
Trevor
Which is so convenient. And then kind of going on. Tell us more about Crop IQ. So what is the main purpose of that software?

00;15;00;15 – 00;15;14;22
Bristol
Yeah, so Crop IQ is more like just a farm focus inside of our software and that’s where like the growers and we’re primarily in produce, that’s the business we work in right now. Of course, plans to grow, but right now produce on the farm side.

This is an application that really allows you to monitor the like the crop application and put so your chemicals, fertilizers, all of that we see more so now than ever, regulatory requiring like nitrogen and phosphorus inputs and how much of that is going in the land and things of that nature.

So not only that, but it helps manage all of those as a farm, like a farm manager, you’re able to schedule out your sprays and send them electronically to your sprayers so they know what the tank mix is and what to mix, what to load, what fields to go spray, at what rate, that kind of thing.

But taking it one step further and all of our the cool thing about Hyland is that all of our tools talk to each other. So like our crop IQ system will notify your food safety system if you have an active area in your field, which obviously meaning you have chemical residues still there, you can’t harvest or you can’t be in that field yet. So if you got to create a pre harvest inspection on Field A and you have an active RTI and you going to do that pre harvest inspection, it’s going to trigger you and say, hold on, you have an active area in that field.

So that is probably my favorite part of of crop IQ is really being able to tie the whole business together, really using it as a a business management tool, but communicating. Right. So now your food safety guy is not hunting down every time you spray and he knows what’s going on.

There’s that complete transparency of, okay, this, this is what we’re doing. We’re good. We’re going to go we’ll harvest zero harvest there and make that for that full business plan.

00;16;46;12 – 00;17;01;01
Trevor
That’s huge. And I feel like that interconnect ability are interconnected inner to interconnectedness. I believe like all the different apps and everything is like a huge selling point and a huge tool. I mean, I can imagine how much time that saves whenever.

I mean, like you were saying, like you can communicate with their sprayers, communicate what’s going on, keep track of if there is any residuals in the fields like that’s a huge.

00;17;09;15 – 00;17;25;09
Bristol
Cool. Yeah. And it’s something that is required now. I mean, for the guys that are sending to any large retailer or main retailer, you know, they have to have these records, too, passes inspections and, you know, as simple as on on one of those applications.

Now, Primus, which is an auditing body, they require that you have the justification for your spray on the record so that you’re not complaining sprays for no reason. So we went and developed a part of our software that you can do recommendations and scouting reports, and that talks to Crop IQ and tells Crop IQ why you’re spraying

that, which then talks to food safety, you know, so it’s this constant like you were saying, just I like to say that Highland Hub is a business management tool because it really is.

00;17;54;09 – 00;18;08;12
Trevor
That sounds like it. And so I wrote this down because I really wanted to talk about this. Like, is this software kind of a one size fits all or how much can each operation kind of customize? It kind of fit their needs, especially, I guess fit the needs of the crops and what they’re doing.

00;18;08;27 – 00;18;26;10
Bristol
Yeah. So luckily we started in specialty crops, so we started hard first and when we developed. So just a little bit of the story of how like the heart of Highland and how we got here, because I think that’s important to kind of answer your question on what it what it looks like as far as customization.

Steve Maxwell, who’s our owner, and John Durham, we sat down on the table, you know, when when we started this part of the business and said, what do what does the industry need? And so we brought those guys in and we’re in central Florida, like I said, and winner strawberry capital of the world.

Right. So we bring in a lot of strawberry growers and we’re like, what is the hinderance? What’s what is the burden right now? And time and time again, it was that the need for a digital solution to keep up with the regulatory burden as well as manage the business.

And so when we got to that, we realized that not every single operation operates like a strawberry farm. Right? It’s very different. So we brought a lot of blueberry guys in and we said, oh, my gosh, okay. So blueberry operations are so different than strawberry.

And so we continued to do that. And this like this this phase where we were building the business that we then realized, let’s just build a tool that they can then build what they need. So it’s very similar, like I said in the beginning, to using like Microsoft forms, right?

So they give you the tool, you go in and you determine what you have to check at your operation. You determine what the thresholds for things are at your operation. You determine what the the supplies are at, where you work.

So it’s really just a platform that can then be completely customized to the needs of every commodity. I mean, we have avocados and leafy greens and all the berries were big and various because that’s where we started. But every commodity you can think of potatoes, right?

Like all these processes are so different. And that was one of the big things for us was that we did not want to box this tool in to one industry. We wanted every I mean, everyone in produce at this point to be able to use it and grow.

Crop guides can use it as well. I know their food safety regulations are not near as strenuous, so the need for that isn’t as important for them right now. But we even have visions of like, where could this tool take us?

Could it take us out of produce? Absolutely. Can it take us into meat? Meat production? Well, one day I’m sure you know, the platform is there. So.

00;20;32;27 – 00;20;47;16
Trevor
Yeah. And, you know, I mean, come to think of it, I’m sure that starting off in Florida was a huge advantage because a lot of people don’t realize. But Florida agriculture is super duper diverse. I mean, up here in north Florida, I’m here in Panama City, and, you know, we’ve got a lot of like beef ranches, a ton of timber. I mean, not a whole lot of like fruit and vegetable crops, but a little bit here and there. And of course, you go to central Florida, you’ve got a ton of citrus, you’ve got watermelon, you’ve got the strawberry, the winner, strawberry capital of the world.

And then you’ve also got more ranches and stuff down in South Florida. And so Florida’s super diverse. And so I’m sure that was a really great tool for you guys whenever you started developing the software.

00;21;10;14 – 00;21;26;14
Bristol
Yeah, I like to tell people we’re more than the beach and Disneyworld. Like there’s so much that happens here as far as AG goes. I mean, we grow over 300 commodities in the state. And so something that we take a lot of pride in is we actually take our developers, we call them field trips just as funny, but we take them on field trips literally to the field. And our software developers, our co-writers, go and stand next to farmers and the field. What is this process look like for you? And in that moment, like they’re writing down and you come from this world and I don’t of like all this code stuff and I’m like, Thank God we have these people being stopped, but they’re right there on the field. And that was the super advantage for us, is being in this garden state of any kind of commodity we wanted our development team had direct that has still has direct access to these guys.
And I can not express to listeners like how much, but first off like it just blows my mind how brilliant the ag industry is. And like farmers blow my mind every day. Like I’m just like, how do you guys even think through this stuff?

So being able to pick their brain really helps us build a more robust system.

00;22;19;15 – 00;22;38;10
Trevor
You know, that’s a very good point. I mean, I feel like farming and software are two vastly different tools and two vastly different industries. So it’s great that the developers and the farmers can kind of interact and explain their processes more like a farmer can explain what goes on, how important it is to track spraying and all the regulations you’ve got to follow. And then a software developer can kind of explain how the software would work, how, I don’t know, one module would interact with another one and how it would be very easily to do to track relationships with tasks and.

Verse is like old school pen and paper. And so those are two very different worlds. And so it’s cool that you guys are able to have those field trips and help them communicate as best as possible.

00;23;03;03 – 00;23;18;00
Bristol
Yeah, when those worlds collide, it’s actually like a beautiful thing to see and just kind of be a bystander in that because the day to day stuff, you know, we at the company that come from AG, which over 80% of us have ag backgrounds, we speak for the farmer, right?

We say, okay, I have a production ag degree. So I’m like, No, this is the process, right? We’re speaking for them. But when those developers get to go and stand right there at the farm and they get to see like lettuce cut impact for the first time and it just like is insane to them because they’re like, what in the world like? I have no idea that all of this went into getting my food to the table, which kind of leads me a little bit to just talk about like that consumer awareness piece and knowing that, number one, like for the software developers, they’re realizing how much more goes into farming than they could think. Number two, the farmers are realizing how much more goes into technology than they could think, and then how to marry those is just so cool. So consumers are now seeing both sides of that coin, not only the farming side and how intense that is, but then the technology that these farmers are implementing.

Like, it’s it’s a beautiful thing for me.

00;24;10;28 – 00;24;24;09
Trevor
Yeah, that’s true. That’s such a good point. And so, I mean, do you have any success stories that you could share about farmers here in Florida or wherever else? I have kind of implemented this. All of these tools that you guys are making and the how it’s really changed, how they do business.

00;24;24;25 – 00;24;36;02
Bristol
Yeah, I mean, I can think of quite a few and you know, just naming some of our customers, like I said earlier, Graham Way and Litman being, you know, a number one leader in the tomato space and these large companies.

But also I can’t forget to leave out people that like Miss Beth, she’s one of our customers. She has Anna’s garden blueberries in south Georgia. And she’s one of our biggest advocates. She’s a retired schoolteacher. She’s a teacher, I believe, for 40 years.

And she started a small blueberry farm. She started with four acres, and now they’re at 74 acres. And so she tells us, you know, that a lot is contributed to the fact that they were able to implement technology, because she says if it wasn’t for Highland Hub like she would not be able to manage it.

There’s no way she could keep up with it all. And she’s a small grower, right? So she wears a lot of hats on the operation. She does the food safety, she does the yield estimations. She I mean, she does everything.

So being able to see someone like that and she jokingly says, well, if I can do it, anybody can do it with the technology. Because she came from being an English teacher for 40 years. So a totally different space for her.

But just thinking through some of those, you know, we’ve had customers that have had very large scale operations that have lost their food safety managers and they haven’t missed a beat because they had the software implemented, they had the reminders implemented.

They had all of these things that we help them provide that way when they’re food safety person. You know, there was a lapse between them having someone in that seat. None of their food safety practices fell behind because they had all of this implemented ahead of time.

So that’s I mean, just two simple ones. But there’s I mean, there’s hundreds that I can tell you. And being able to go on these operations and see just the I mean, it’s physical. You can physically see the relief that a lot of these guys feel when they know that if the EPA walked on, they could say, well, yeah, I mean, just pull it up on my phone, I’ll show you what I’ve sprayed. You know, it’s right there. They’re not panic and calling their wives like, where the heck is this paper? I don’t know where you put it kind of deal, because we’ve seen that side of the coin, too.

So that’s just a few.

00;26;25;29 – 00;26;40;28
Trevor
Well, that’s awesome. Yeah, I can imagine. That’s crazy. That’s so cool. And so what’s the whole like? Let’s say a farmers interested in your software? What is that whole sales process like? Do they get to kind of see what it would look like and then they can implement it for a while, like a trial period, I guess before if they want to go ahead and go and purchase it.

00;26;43;16 – 00;26;59;16
Bristol
Absolutely. So our like our sales process is very simplistic. So a lot of times, which I’m sure this is similar to the events that you get to meet people at, but we’re all the trade shows and all of the, you know, ISP events and all that mingling and just getting to meet people.

But when we do and we have someone that shows interest, we do a sales demo. So with one of our team members who ironically enough, I just got off a sales meeting. So this made me think of this.

But all of us come from using the software like so the other three were customers of ours before they came to work for us. And then I’ve been here since the beginning and when I was doing some food safety consulting, I was actually using Highland Hub to do that.

So we’ve all used the system which is so unique before we went to the sales roles, but we do a demo, so we log in and, you know, screen, share a resume, or we do it in person depending on the operation, but showing them the software, the intricacies, what it looks like, what it feels like. Demos are certainly an option if a customer wants to click on themselves and see that once they say yes, we turn them over to our service specialist team. So they’re the team that really holds the hands on implementation.

So I was on that team previous to this role and honestly it was one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had, I think because it was so boring to go. So we basically go to the operation over Zoom or screen share or whatever and we say, okay, send us all of your food safety logs. And I saw a piece that you have. Send us your farm maps, send us everything, and we help them. We do the initial lift, so we help them build out all those logs and records onto the system, and then we train them with their own documents.

So we’re not saying like here, watch some videos and learn how to use this. We’re saying let’s get on a screen share and I’m going to click through and then you’re going to click through behind me and show me, you know, how to do this. And something that Highland really pride themselves on is like, again, we give them the tool to help themselves and we teach them how to edit things and add things and delete things. With a lot of other software companies that are hard coded, they’re required to put in a request to add an SOP or to add a log

for us. The tool is yours at your disclosure. If it’s 2 a.m. and you’re up trying to watch frost protection and you need to add a new log, you can build it right there on your phone. You know, you don’t have to contact one of us. So we work really hard to train and empower our customers to know how to use the system to its full potential. And then through that, we check in and go visit. We love customer visits. It’s something that I wish could just be my full time job.

I love going to see customers and how they’re implementing it because again, it looks so different depending on the operation.

00;29;24;01 – 00;29;35;02
Trevor
I bet. And that’s awesome that you guys, it seems like you have a very good relationship with the people that use the software. I know one, software companies get kind of too big. They kind of get, I guess, not very personable. And so it seems like you guys kind of are very personable in telling them how to use the software and also the power that they have of kind of customizing it and using it however they see fit is huge.

00;29;45;16 – 00;30;01;23
Bristol
Yeah. Our our owners, they are very much boots on the ground kind of guys. And they believe that business is only built with boots on the ground. And I 1,000% agree. I feel the same way because we recognize that during COVID it was a lot harder.

Aside from the fact that we had a tool that a lot of people needed at the time. But as far as just like being able to show the person like the personality of our teams and the heart of Highland, as I like to say, being able to show that during hovered over a screen was really challenging.

So it’s been really cool to get back out, get back to farms, you know, get back on the road. And our CEO tells us it’s the ground game. It’s the ground game. You know, you have to be on the road and running around and seeing people.

And that’s the part that I think excites us all is when we get to give the resource and the tool to a grower and say, you know, look what look what you’ve achieved because of this tool. I mean, that’s the part that we love and linking arms. That’s what we say. We link arms with our customers like we want to be there. I mean, there’s been times at 3 a.m. where I’ve gotten phone calls because something wasn’t working and they’re trying to save a crop from freezing.

And, you know, we’re there, our team is up and we’re people. We’re not robots on a computer. You know, you’re calling my cell phone when you call me and I’m trying to do what I can to help you.

So very much that personable is so important to us.

00;31;02;18 – 00;31;10;07
Trevor
Yeah, that’s huge. I mean, you’re not getting a one 800 number. You’re actually getting you guys’s phone numbers, like personal phone numbers. That way you can actually get help any time you need it. That’s huge.

00;31;10;13 – 00;31;21;10
Bristol
Yeah, that’s something our teams really work hard to. We say, you know, first when you started selling the software, we’re like, we have 27, like 24/7 support. And there was three of us and when we said it, we meant it.

So it would take like shifts, like, okay, we get late night phone calls with you this week. You know, we’re like, holy cow, we just said we have 24 seven support. Let’s make it happen. So we have tools in place to make sure that that’s certainly planned for and prepared for.

But it’s it’s true.

00;31;37;11 – 00;31;43;27
Trevor
24 seven Well, that’s good. Yeah, I’m sure that’s like, oh, dang, we got it. We actually got to be available 24, seven times, but we can do it.

00;31;44;12 – 00;31;45;10
Bristol
Yeah, exactly.

00;31;45;27 – 00;31;54;06
Trevor
That’s fun. So let’s talk a little bit more about your podcast. So it’s the Cream of the Crop podcast. Like what? What’s the schedule like? Who do you interview? What do you talk about and stuff like that.

00;31;54;21 – 00;32;10;16
Bristol
Yeah. So we started it and like I said, our owner actually started it and he was really involved in like the day to day planning of it and things. And he has a lot of other endeavors. He is an entrepreneur by blood, so he is always doing the next thing and really being innovative.

So I clearly just like to talk a lot and they were like, Bristol, you like to talk, you want to try this? And I was like, Sure. So we did. And here we are like I think 60 episodes later or something. So it’s kind of taken off. And at first it was almost just like, Yeah, I’m going to give this a shot and see what I can do. And now I love it. It’s one of the most it’s, it’s just so enjoyable.

So for us, it looks a little less traditional and than most because it’s really just a little side thing for us. It’s not something that is revenue driving or, you know, something like that. It’s really just something we like as far as like industry awareness and really getting to the heart of our industry.

So we like to talk to top leaders, talk about top ideas and share top trends and. AG That’s like one little things we say. So I’ve talked to the commissioner of AG of Texas, I’ve talked to lawyers, I’ve talked to farmers, I’ve talked to people about mental health and AG.

I mean, we have no boundary except for AG on her podcast. So it’s crazy because it’s so different every time, which I love. But if anyone that’s listening wants to share their story and the heart of their business, you know, we would love to have them. We just do it. We plan over email and get on. Kind of like you just get on here and have a very casual, candid conversation, ask questions. Of course, we do a little bit of homework before and, you know, some talking points.

But as far as the podcast itself, it’s really just dependent on the guest as far as what we talk about, of course, I, you know, really got excited when I talked to the commissioner of AG in Texas because, well, he’s just so fun to talk to. But also I just kind of wait to have really big hair because we did that one over Zoom and I was like, Is it ever bigger in Texas? Like, Oh, just say.

00;33;52;27 – 00;33;54;20
Trevor
Oh, that’s cool. I bet that was fun to do.

00;33;54;24 – 00;34;04;16
Bristol
Yeah, he actually did it from the front seat of his truck. So it was it was awesome. But yeah, funny stories for sure. But it’s it’s been an adventure. Have you how long have you been doing the podcast?

00;34;04;27 – 00;34;16;14
Trevor
Yeah, I’ve been doing this, I think about three years. I think we started in like 2018, 20. 19. It was the fall of 2018, I believe. And so, yeah, we kind of did it right before the start of the pandemic.

So yeah, I guess about three or four years, which is crazy. It’s flown by.

00;34;20;09 – 00;34;20;23
Bristol
Right?

00;34;20;28 – 00;34;33;15
Trevor
It’s fun. I mean, you get to meet so many cool people from around the country, even the world, and just chat about agriculture. And it’s so fun because, you know, a farmer from, I don’t know, Texas might be doing things totally different than a farmer in Oregon or Australia.

And so it’s cool to get kind of their different perspectives.

00;34;36;15 – 00;34;52;27
Bristol
On the issues and the things they struggle with are so different. And I love that part of it because it brings such awareness to like your own bubble, so like your little bubble and ag is, you know, we like, for instance, us in central Florida, we’re constantly talking about like labor and weather, right?

We’re not often talking about the need for water that’s not on our radar. But I talk to customers in New Mexico and California and get them on the podcast and it’s like, oh, my gosh, like they aren’t having as much of these labor and weather things aside from they have no water, you know, it’s just crazy to

see the differences and just the country that we have.

00;35;12;22 – 00;35;22;10
Trevor
Oh, yeah. And it’s so cool. What would you say are kind of the most impactful moments you’ve had on the show, whether it’s like a topic or somebody in particular that you’ve interviewed, what were kind of some of the biggest, impactful moments you’ve had.

00;35;22;24 – 00;35;40;24
Bristol
I think, to come to mind, and I’m jotting him down right now, so don’t forget I’m as I’m talking. But Marshall so he’s he actually I met him through a mutual friend in the industry, but he lost his father to a farm related suicide when he was in I believe it was high school or high school or college. And he came on and shared a lot about mental health and ag and that one really just it stopped me dead in my tracks because of course, it wasn’t one that was like necessarily like exciting you would think to talk about, but it was honestly really encouraging because he’s doing so much.

He has a nonprofit that Bayer sponsors called Mind Your Melon, and they do a lot now and they’re very new off the ground, involved in mental health and really making that awareness for AG because I think that toughness of the farmer kind of gets in the way of making sure that we’re all mentally sound, you know, we struggle too, and having that camaraderie. So that being number one and then number two is probably Cameron Coggins at the time she worked for Grimm Way and her family farms carrots in South Georgia. And we did this podcast and I’m not kidding.

You were like the best of friends. Now, like, we talk all the time. We go and I go babysit her baby and just, like, snuggle with them. And, you know, it’s just so fun. We’re like best friends. So really knowing that, like, podcasting can make you like, some lifelong friends, too.

So those are probably the two things.

00;36;48;12 – 00;37;04;23
Trevor
That’s awesome. Yeah, I know. Marshall So I was a state officer here in Florida. Oh, shoot. Like 2009, 2010, which feels like a lifetime ago. And Marshall was the state president the year before me. And so I know Marshall really like, I mean decently and yeah, he’s got a great story, a great message.

I’ve tried. I think I introduced him to my other friend Jason Meadows, who has got the AG State of Mind podcast, and his is all about mental health and agriculture. And I can’t remember if they have done an episode together.

If not, they need to. But I need to go check out his podcast some more and see if they did one. But yeah, I mean, Marshall covers a lot of really good stuff in AG and he’s got a phenomenal story.

00;37;25;21 – 00;37;29;22
Bristol
Yeah, I was telling him I’m like, Marshall, you need to start a podcast.

00;37;29;22 – 00;37;41;28
Trevor
Yeah, for real. That would be so cool because I mean, I feel like traditional business owners. I mean, absolutely, there’s a lot that goes into it. But for farmers and ranchers, really, nine times out of ten, it’s a family business.

And then you’ve got that added pressure where you don’t want to be the one that it closes. And if it does, that’s, you know, you think that that’s on you and your whole livelihood, your happiness goes into it.
And so there’s a lot there that a lot of people really don’t realize. And there’s just so many mental health issues that I think we’re slowly starting to pay more attention to, which is really healthy.

00;38;02;10 – 00;38;21;04
Bristol
Yeah, I think so. And something that I recently have discovered with that mental health arena and really diving in Marshall got me really devoted to learning more number one about myself, but number two, the industry I work for and something that I’ve come to realize just working with our current customers is that there is a lot of this mental health stigma in the generation that’s starting to take over. That’s like our age. You know, the kids and the grandkids have owners and operators and going back to the family farm and the pressure that it is to say, okay, like you just said, it’s on me.

But now the added pressure of changing things, right? Yeah. So it’s not just, okay, now apply responsibility, but it’s like now it’s my responsibility and I want to change something that’s a whole different space for these very deeply rooted family businesses.

And I think of like great examples. You know, I have a friend, you may know him, too. He was a state officer, but Steven Singleton, he comes from a potato farm. Oh, yeah. Okay. He’s helping out the family farm and and really trying to implement all of that and helping introduce some technologies and whatever.

And I think of the beautiful story that he has because his family is. All about that. They’re all about technology. They’re all about making things better for the next generation. So I think of those stories and I’m like, This is awesome.

I wish everyone could have this case know. So it really opened my mind a lot to what that looks like.

00;39;24;08 – 00;39;33;10
Trevor
I bet that’s awesome. I mean, I think that’s really kind of the power of podcasting. You can build all these relationships. You can cover topics you want to talk about. So I think that’s huge. That’s awesome. And so it’s cool. You guys are doing that podcast. We will link that in the description below. But this has been super awesome. Bristol chatting, everything about Highlands and solutions. If people want to learn more about your software, about the products and everything. And of course like also the podcast, like work. Where can they go? What are the best websites and links for them to find all that stuff out?

00;39;51;10 – 00;40;10;03
Bristol
Yeah. So everything is on our main website which is Hyland has it dot com so WW W dot highland has it dot com. And then you’ll see there’s like a spot that says blogs and podcast. They can go there for a podcast, but then all of our products are listed and then like direct questions, we have sales

00;40;10;03 – 00;40;15;07
Bristol
or info at Highland Park dot com. So any of those emails or websites would work well.

00;40;15;07 – 00;40;26;26
Trevor
Deal. Well, thanks so much for chatting. We really appreciate it. Learned a lot from you guys and best of luck with the podcast. Obviously, I love hearing more about AG Podcast, so best of luck for you guys. Thanks again for chatting with us.

00;40;27;03 – 00;40;29;21
Bristol
Yeah, we’ll have to have you on our episode deal.

00;40;29;22 – 00;40;30;17
Trevor
Sounds like a plan.

00;40;30;26 – 00;40;31;26
Bristol
All right. Thanks to our.

Ep 163: Regenerative Farming and Decentralizing Food – White Oak Pastures

White Oak Pastures is a regenerative farm that has absolutely changed the game in terms of being a radically traditional farm. In today’s interview, Jenni Harris talks to us about her family’s 6th generation farm, how and why they started regenerative farming practices, how they manage 10 different livestock species, and the countless ways the engage with consumers through lodging, workshops, direct-to-consumer, and dining. Jenni and I will also talk about the importance of decentralizing food, how regenerative farming isn’t just a new buzzword just for marketing, and why country of origin labels might need to come back on some foods.

https://whiteoakpastures.com/

https://www.facebook.com/whiteoakpastures

https://www.instagram.com/whiteoakpastures/

Show Notes:

Background of White Oak Pastures

History of White Oak Pastures – over 156 years!

Livestock – challenges of raising 10 species

What is regenerative agriculture to you?

Selling direct to consumers – what does that process look like?

Processing meat on site

Cool things you’ve done like graze sheep under solar panels, provide leather for Timberland Boots, etc.

Agritourism opportunities at White Oak Pastures

What sort of benefit goes agritourism provide to a farm?

Be sure to follow us on social media!

https://www.instagram.com/farm_traveler/

https://www.facebook.com/TheFarmTraveler

https://www.youtube.com/farmtraveler

Subscribe here:

https://podkite.link/FarmTraveler

Call to Action

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Transcript

00;00;04;16 – 00;00;22;02
Trevor
Hello and welcome to the Farm Traveler podcast. I’m your host, Trevor Williams. And today on the show, we’re going to be learning about kind of a cool technology that’s been around for a while that’s really revolutionizing how farmers are able to keep track of spraying crops, data, food safety, all of that good stuff.
So today we are interviewing Bristol Wells from Highland AG Solutions and Bristol and everybody at Highlands creates a software or rather multiple softwares that really help farmers track so much stuff for their business and for their operation. So they have a bunch of different software like Crop IQ, Food Safety and their Highland Hub, which all keep track of various data that you might have on at a farm. And, you know, a lot of consumers think that, you know, maybe a lot of farmers use the old school pen and paper, record tracking when things like this, the Highland Hub, the food IQ and all that good stuff have really revolutionized how farmers are doing business because of things like COVID. You know, you have auditors that need to come on to the facilities, but because of COVID, they can’t do that. And so these technologies allow those auditors and allow various people like food safety inspectors to kind of check the records to see what those farmers are doing.

And so this technology is awesome. It’s so fun. And so Bristol and I are going to talk today about kind of the background. What was the inspiration behind all this, some success stories that have been had and also kind of what the process is like for them, showing farmers how powerful this software is and how it can keep track of their spray data, their crop rotations, all that good stuff. So this is a great conversation for anybody that’s, you know, a farmer or that really likes to see the intersection of technology and agriculture. And so if you want to learn more about Highlands AG Solutions, go in the description and you’ll see a bunch of different links as well as their podcast, The Cream of the Crop podcast, which Bristol does. And we’re going to talk more about that as well. So this is such a fun interview. I hope you enjoy it and thanks for listening.

00;02;10;22 – 00;02;14;05
Trevor
All right. Well, Bristol Wells, welcome the Farm Traveler podcast. How are you doing?

00;02;14;06 – 00;02;15;26
Bristol
I am great. Thanks for having me.

00;02;16;07 – 00;02;31;24
Trevor
Yeah, excited to chat with you. So you are a fellow podcaster and you work in the ag space specifically with Hyland Agriculture and you guys offer a bunch of technology for farmers and kind of before we dove into that, tell us kind of a little bit about your background and how you got started with Hyland AG Solutions

00;02;31;26 – 00;02;48;06
Bristol
? Sure. I’m so excited to be here and it’s always fun to chat with other podcasters. We started a podcast right before the pandemic hit and it just kind of took off. And so The Cream of the Crop is our podcast name, but similar to you just really talking to others in the ag space and what kind of ingenuity they’re implementing on their operations and things like that. So really good to be here. A little bit about Hyland AG Solutions. This is one of my favorite things to talk about, so I could ramble on forever about all the amazing things that Hyland AG does.

But we are a software provider for the ag industry and what that means is we go and help operations really with what we’re doing most is virtualizing their documentation as far as their pre harvest inspections and all the papers and binders and things they’re keeping up with really in preparation for regulatory audits and all the things that everyone gets so excited to talk about. All those things we’re helping kind of make that process a lot easier, but more so than easier, really streamlining that into what’s next, right? So we all live in 2022 and we’re like using technology in every aspect of our life.
So we kind of took that same process into the farm. About five years ago. We were still flying drones. We started our company after we sold a packaging company and we started flying drones in the specialty crop industry. And there was just so a lot in that time of people trying to do this and there was just a lot to be learned still. So we took that and moved on to doing the software and you can read about it on our website. We did. We made all the mistakes, we did all the things right. We outsource developers, we did all the stuff and came back. And really the center of our business is really understanding production. AG And it was challenging to get software developers and code writers that understood production.
AG That also could write code because that’s not me. So we hired in-house and now we’re off to the races. We have customers like Grumpy Farms, you know, they’re one of the world’s leading care producers. And so we have them and lots of other smaller and larger as well.

So that’s kind of the cliff note version that’s perfect.

00;04;42;29 – 00;05;00;12
Trevor
Yeah, I think that intersection of technology and farming is so cool. I mean, I was a software developer for a while and so I love software. And of course being in agriculture, like I love everything about AG and so I love when the two combine because a lot of people think, I mean, probably even currently in production agriculture, a lot of people think it’s just, you know, written documents. It’s the old school binders that, you know, kind of the old school farm, old school farmers use. But there’s so many technologies out there and you guys are offering such a cool tool for farmers where they can I mean, like you were saying, have digital records for everything. And so, I mean, is that really kind of a necessity that farmers need to I don’t know, kind of like get on the ball with.

00;05;22;21 – 00;05;41;05
Bristol
Yeah, I will. I’ll tell you a story and let you make the decision. Now when we’re just really I do a lot with like Farm Bureau and a lot of different, you know, associations and organizations. And we constantly are fighting the battle of getting the farmers going in a field with the pitchfork mentality out of people’s minds Right? Like we have to move past that and realize where we are as a society and the tools that we use. I mean, think about going to McDonald’s now. I use an iPad. When I walk into McDonald’s, I pick my order, I pick it up on the counter and I never engage with a piece of paper or a person, you know, same concept with AG. So we created this part of our software called Auditor Access. So most of your listeners being in the ag industry know what goes into auditing and regulatory bodies. Come on your facility.

And they, they look around at all of your paper documentation and your physical, you know, the space that you’re working in. And the list can be hundreds of pages long if they’re checking. And when they do that, they’re there for days on end a lot of times.

So we created auditor access, which took all of the documentation and the paperwork, and it basically sent a link to the auditor and they could view all of that before they even got to your facility. So our customers are saying it’s cutting down 75 to 80% of their auditing times.

And we were realizing this before COVID and then COVID hit and everyone’s like, Oh my gosh, auditor can’t come on my facility, but my retailer won’t take my product unless it’s audited. So then they’re like, okay, we need a digital solution.

So I think that kind of answers the question is like, is this necessary for the ag industry? And I think the answer is absolutely, because we don’t know what’s going forward. And even now, with COVID regulations still being a thing, auditors are getting into this space where they’re using technology to complete their jobs.

And what’s been really cool, unfortunately, you know, COVID has not been an exciting ride by any means, but us kind of being ahead of the ball just a little bit. And then our business picked up, you know, because we were ahead of the game there.

So I think that it’s certainly the industry is headed in that direction. I mean, you guys could look at fields and see tractors driving themselves, right? You know, I can be responding to emails and still doing spur application on the farm, so I think so.

00;07;36;10 – 00;07;46;28
Trevor
Yeah. You know, I’m sure that auditing turn was such a huge selling point for a lot of farmers are like, hold up. I can don’t have to do all the papers. Like the auditor doesn’t even have to come here.

I can just send them a link for the all the records like I’m sure I’m sure that made a lot of people like, well, you know what, I’m definitely going to do this.

00;07;53;15 – 00;08;09;18
Bristol
Right? Yeah, it definitely was. That was the point in our business where we were like, okay, we could give ourselves the high five, but we’re doing it like, you know, people need what we’re offering. So yeah, I would agree auditing has changed a lot in the last two years and I honestly think that it’s going to change even more.

00;08;10;19 – 00;08;17;19
Trevor
Oh, I can imagine. And so you guys correct me if I’m wrong, but you offer three software. It’s Highland Hub, food safety and then Crop IQ, is that right?

00;08;17;25 – 00;08;28;28
Bristol
Yeah. So our Highland Hub is like our a big umbrella is like how I like to explain it. It’s like our platform. You could think of like Microsoft Office and then you have all these different features inside of Microsoft Office.

So we actually have seven products within Highland Hub being that big one. But food safety, which is best 365 and Crop IQ, are the two big ones that really kind of go across an entire operation. So those are the big two that you had, food safety and then crop IQ.

00;08;45;13 – 00;08;54;22
Trevor
Okay, gotcha. And so what would those look like? It like if a farmer’s using food safety, for example, like what exactly are they using that for? And then kind of what is the user experience like?

00;08;54;28 – 00;09;05;24
Bristol
Absolutely. And I love to talk to user experience. We recently developed a team at Highland UI, UX, and you having software background know exactly what that means. But yeah.

00;09;05;29 – 00;09;08;11
Trevor
That user experience, those are definitely some key terms.

00;09;08;21 – 00;09;23;02
Bristol
So user experience, user interface, we have a team completely dedicated to just how it looks and feels as a user. And I think that speaks volumes when software companies go the extra mile to do that. Right. We don’t like using clunky software, I certainly don’t.

So our team has taken a lot of time to do that. But for food safety, that side of the business, every food safety plan looks different across the country and certainly outside of the country. As far as what is your commodity, what is your process line?

You know, are you packing, is there water introduced on the packing line? The food safety questions could go on and on. So with all of those, the first 365, which basically stands for Food Safety 365 days a year, that platform allows users to take all their checklists, all their cooler temperature logs and their pre-op inspections and their cleaning and sanitation logs and all those things they’re having to fill out every day and sometimes every hour. You know, if you implement a dump tank or there is an P level, you have to check, those things have to be checked hourly while the production line is running.

So all of that becomes then digital. And our software basically we can set up with, you know, the customer can do all of this, but setting up notifications where it says, Hey, it’s 5:00 on Wednesday, it’s time to do your food safety meeting, you know, and text you and notify you that with your dump tanks it would say, Hey, so-and-so on line seven has missed filling out their dump tank. Do you want to remind them to do it? You know, so it’s just taking that not only virtualizing and digitizing it, but taking it a step further and helping customers remain compliant.

And we are not regulatory, right? We’re not the people that are like, oh, you’re in trouble because you didn’t do it. That’s not the goal at all. The goal is that we give the industry the tools they need to do what they’re supposed to be doing and do what’s required of them so that if they do get an unannounced inspection, you know, with our platform, every question for their audit is already preloaded in there. And the answer to that question, like the document that answers that question is right there next to it. So if they were to get, you know, USDA walk and say they’re doing an unannounced inspection, they’re knocking on the door, what we’re empowering these these industry folks to do is open the door and say, like, yeah, come on in, we’re ready for you. Everything’s right here. We’re not having to go down where the folded paper in his pocket about what the dump tank level was 3 hours ago.

So that’s kind of what food safety looks like.

00;11;35;04 – 00;11;46;06
Trevor
I got you. And so would would something like this help whenever there’s, like, a foodborne illness outbreak, you know, where where? I mean, you know, for example, you see a lot with Chipotle, with lettuce, and then they trace it all the way back to the farm.

So it’s something like this really help anytime there might be a foodborne illness outbreak.

00;11;50;26 – 00;12;04;25
Bristol
Yes. So we’ve actually had a few customers that unfortunately have had some recalls and things of that nature that we’ve been able to use our software in that traceback process and really able to to go back and say, number one, where did the product originate?
Number two, where was it packed? And then where was the problem introduced? And they’re able to look. And trend those reports and say, okay, well, here is when our cooler temperature got too high and we had our temperature wasn’t regulated for 6 hours and this product wasn’t here, or, hey, this line tested positive for E coli the day that we ran this product. So, yes, that’s a very much an opportunity to use technology to help prevent those is the goal. But when they do happen, trace them back, find the root and change the behavior.

00;12;35;25 – 00;12;51;26
Trevor
Now, I’m sure something like that is extremely helpful versus like an old school paper tracking catalog where you know, where you have a foodborne illness and you’ve got to go through hundreds of pages of records to kind of figure out what’s going on instead of this super handy digital experience.

00;12;51;27 – 00;13;09;11
Bristol
Yeah, I would agree. I would think that united fresh food safety immersion program two years ago now, I think, gosh, I’m getting old, time is going too fast, whatever. So I think it was two years ago I was in that class and we were with mentors who are very influential food safety professionals, and we had to sit with those mentors and do like a mock recall and a mock traceback and figure out where the root of our recall happened. And let me tell you with like, I genuinely don’t know how it’s possible without a digital solution, whether it’s Highland or, you know, a different company.

Nonetheless, a digital platform is so necessary and being able to insure that stuff because like, for instance, those leafy green growers, a lot of them, you know, I’m from central Florida and we have in south Florida a lot of lettuce.

Right. Well, then you go to California. There’s a ton of lettuce. There’s businesses that operate in both of those. Could you imagine trying to be the food safety professional in California, figuring out why a recall happened in Florida without access to digital records like.

00;13;50;27 – 00;13;52;00
Trevor
That would be a nightmare.

00;13;52;21 – 00;14;06;21
Bristol
It really is. So I just that’s and we hate we never want to use like the fear tactic to sell people. Right. Like, that’s not it at all. But the reality is if it’s not digital, like it can’t be accurate sometimes because it’s not in front of you. You don’t have direct access to it in real time.

00;14;09;19 – 00;14;23;23
Trevor
Yeah. I mean, I can’t imagine how it would be to have like a huge operation and then you’re still doing it on paper when there’s software does I mean, of course, like I’m sure that there are people out there that have like, you know, a perfect recordkeeping system that they’ve been using for generation after generation.

But then you have cool software like you guys that really does it for you.

00;14;26;17 – 00;14;44;03
Bristol
Yeah. Yeah. That’s the goal is to to make your jobs easier, to make your job more effective, optimize your time that you spend. I know, I guess in safety consulting for a little while and I would go and do operations and you know, they say till 1030 at night filling out all the records for the day because

they know they have to have it done before tomorrow. And it’s like, do you have a cell phone? Cause if you have a cell phone, you can do it. When you’re standing at the line, you know you don’t have to do it at the end of the day.

00;14;54;12 – 00;15;00;05
Trevor
Which is so convenient. And then kind of going on. Tell us more about Crop IQ. So what is the main purpose of that software?

00;15;00;15 – 00;15;14;22
Bristol
Yeah, so Crop IQ is more like just a farm focus inside of our software and that’s where like the growers and we’re primarily in produce, that’s the business we work in right now. Of course, plans to grow, but right now produce on the farm side.

This is an application that really allows you to monitor the like the crop application and put so your chemicals, fertilizers, all of that we see more so now than ever, regulatory requiring like nitrogen and phosphorus inputs and how much of that is going in the land and things of that nature.

So not only that, but it helps manage all of those as a farm, like a farm manager, you’re able to schedule out your sprays and send them electronically to your sprayers so they know what the tank mix is and what to mix, what to load, what fields to go spray, at what rate, that kind of thing.

But taking it one step further and all of our the cool thing about Hyland is that all of our tools talk to each other. So like our crop IQ system will notify your food safety system if you have an active area in your field, which obviously meaning you have chemical residues still there, you can’t harvest or you can’t be in that field yet. So if you got to create a pre harvest inspection on Field A and you have an active RTI and you going to do that pre harvest inspection, it’s going to trigger you and say, hold on, you have an active area in that field.

So that is probably my favorite part of of crop IQ is really being able to tie the whole business together, really using it as a a business management tool, but communicating. Right. So now your food safety guy is not hunting down every time you spray and he knows what’s going on.

There’s that complete transparency of, okay, this, this is what we’re doing. We’re good. We’re going to go we’ll harvest zero harvest there and make that for that full business plan.

00;16;46;12 – 00;17;01;01
Trevor
That’s huge. And I feel like that interconnect ability are interconnected inner to interconnectedness. I believe like all the different apps and everything is like a huge selling point and a huge tool. I mean, I can imagine how much time that saves whenever.

I mean, like you were saying, like you can communicate with their sprayers, communicate what’s going on, keep track of if there is any residuals in the fields like that’s a huge.

00;17;09;15 – 00;17;25;09
Bristol
Cool. Yeah. And it’s something that is required now. I mean, for the guys that are sending to any large retailer or main retailer, you know, they have to have these records, too, passes inspections and, you know, as simple as on on one of those applications.

Now, Primus, which is an auditing body, they require that you have the justification for your spray on the record so that you’re not complaining sprays for no reason. So we went and developed a part of our software that you can do recommendations and scouting reports, and that talks to Crop IQ and tells Crop IQ why you’re spraying

that, which then talks to food safety, you know, so it’s this constant like you were saying, just I like to say that Highland Hub is a business management tool because it really is.

00;17;54;09 – 00;18;08;12
Trevor
That sounds like it. And so I wrote this down because I really wanted to talk about this. Like, is this software kind of a one size fits all or how much can each operation kind of customize? It kind of fit their needs, especially, I guess fit the needs of the crops and what they’re doing.

00;18;08;27 – 00;18;26;10
Bristol
Yeah. So luckily we started in specialty crops, so we started hard first and when we developed. So just a little bit of the story of how like the heart of Highland and how we got here, because I think that’s important to kind of answer your question on what it what it looks like as far as customization.

Steve Maxwell, who’s our owner, and John Durham, we sat down on the table, you know, when when we started this part of the business and said, what do what does the industry need? And so we brought those guys in and we’re in central Florida, like I said, and winner strawberry capital of the world.

Right. So we bring in a lot of strawberry growers and we’re like, what is the hinderance? What’s what is the burden right now? And time and time again, it was that the need for a digital solution to keep up with the regulatory burden as well as manage the business.

And so when we got to that, we realized that not every single operation operates like a strawberry farm. Right? It’s very different. So we brought a lot of blueberry guys in and we said, oh, my gosh, okay. So blueberry operations are so different than strawberry.

And so we continued to do that. And this like this this phase where we were building the business that we then realized, let’s just build a tool that they can then build what they need. So it’s very similar, like I said in the beginning, to using like Microsoft forms, right?

So they give you the tool, you go in and you determine what you have to check at your operation. You determine what the thresholds for things are at your operation. You determine what the the supplies are at, where you work.

So it’s really just a platform that can then be completely customized to the needs of every commodity. I mean, we have avocados and leafy greens and all the berries were big and various because that’s where we started. But every commodity you can think of potatoes, right?

Like all these processes are so different. And that was one of the big things for us was that we did not want to box this tool in to one industry. We wanted every I mean, everyone in produce at this point to be able to use it and grow.

Crop guides can use it as well. I know their food safety regulations are not near as strenuous, so the need for that isn’t as important for them right now. But we even have visions of like, where could this tool take us?

Could it take us out of produce? Absolutely. Can it take us into meat? Meat production? Well, one day I’m sure you know, the platform is there. So.

00;20;32;27 – 00;20;47;16
Trevor
Yeah. And, you know, I mean, come to think of it, I’m sure that starting off in Florida was a huge advantage because a lot of people don’t realize. But Florida agriculture is super duper diverse. I mean, up here in north Florida, I’m here in Panama City, and, you know, we’ve got a lot of like beef ranches, a ton of timber. I mean, not a whole lot of like fruit and vegetable crops, but a little bit here and there. And of course, you go to central Florida, you’ve got a ton of citrus, you’ve got watermelon, you’ve got the strawberry, the winner, strawberry capital of the world.

And then you’ve also got more ranches and stuff down in South Florida. And so Florida’s super diverse. And so I’m sure that was a really great tool for you guys whenever you started developing the software.

00;21;10;14 – 00;21;26;14
Bristol
Yeah, I like to tell people we’re more than the beach and Disneyworld. Like there’s so much that happens here as far as AG goes. I mean, we grow over 300 commodities in the state. And so something that we take a lot of pride in is we actually take our developers, we call them field trips just as funny, but we take them on field trips literally to the field. And our software developers, our co-writers, go and stand next to farmers and the field. What is this process look like for you? And in that moment, like they’re writing down and you come from this world and I don’t of like all this code stuff and I’m like, Thank God we have these people being stopped, but they’re right there on the field. And that was the super advantage for us, is being in this garden state of any kind of commodity we wanted our development team had direct that has still has direct access to these guys.
And I can not express to listeners like how much, but first off like it just blows my mind how brilliant the ag industry is. And like farmers blow my mind every day. Like I’m just like, how do you guys even think through this stuff?

So being able to pick their brain really helps us build a more robust system.

00;22;19;15 – 00;22;38;10
Trevor
You know, that’s a very good point. I mean, I feel like farming and software are two vastly different tools and two vastly different industries. So it’s great that the developers and the farmers can kind of interact and explain their processes more like a farmer can explain what goes on, how important it is to track spraying and all the regulations you’ve got to follow. And then a software developer can kind of explain how the software would work, how, I don’t know, one module would interact with another one and how it would be very easily to do to track relationships with tasks and.

Verse is like old school pen and paper. And so those are two very different worlds. And so it’s cool that you guys are able to have those field trips and help them communicate as best as possible.

00;23;03;03 – 00;23;18;00
Bristol
Yeah, when those worlds collide, it’s actually like a beautiful thing to see and just kind of be a bystander in that because the day to day stuff, you know, we at the company that come from AG, which over 80% of us have ag backgrounds, we speak for the farmer, right?

We say, okay, I have a production ag degree. So I’m like, No, this is the process, right? We’re speaking for them. But when those developers get to go and stand right there at the farm and they get to see like lettuce cut impact for the first time and it just like is insane to them because they’re like, what in the world like? I have no idea that all of this went into getting my food to the table, which kind of leads me a little bit to just talk about like that consumer awareness piece and knowing that, number one, like for the software developers, they’re realizing how much more goes into farming than they could think. Number two, the farmers are realizing how much more goes into technology than they could think, and then how to marry those is just so cool. So consumers are now seeing both sides of that coin, not only the farming side and how intense that is, but then the technology that these farmers are implementing.

Like, it’s it’s a beautiful thing for me.

00;24;10;28 – 00;24;24;09
Trevor
Yeah, that’s true. That’s such a good point. And so, I mean, do you have any success stories that you could share about farmers here in Florida or wherever else? I have kind of implemented this. All of these tools that you guys are making and the how it’s really changed, how they do business.

00;24;24;25 – 00;24;36;02
Bristol
Yeah, I mean, I can think of quite a few and you know, just naming some of our customers, like I said earlier, Graham Way and Litman being, you know, a number one leader in the tomato space and these large companies.

But also I can’t forget to leave out people that like Miss Beth, she’s one of our customers. She has Anna’s garden blueberries in south Georgia. And she’s one of our biggest advocates. She’s a retired schoolteacher. She’s a teacher, I believe, for 40 years.

And she started a small blueberry farm. She started with four acres, and now they’re at 74 acres. And so she tells us, you know, that a lot is contributed to the fact that they were able to implement technology, because she says if it wasn’t for Highland Hub like she would not be able to manage it.

There’s no way she could keep up with it all. And she’s a small grower, right? So she wears a lot of hats on the operation. She does the food safety, she does the yield estimations. She I mean, she does everything.

So being able to see someone like that and she jokingly says, well, if I can do it, anybody can do it with the technology. Because she came from being an English teacher for 40 years. So a totally different space for her.

But just thinking through some of those, you know, we’ve had customers that have had very large scale operations that have lost their food safety managers and they haven’t missed a beat because they had the software implemented, they had the reminders implemented.

They had all of these things that we help them provide that way when they’re food safety person. You know, there was a lapse between them having someone in that seat. None of their food safety practices fell behind because they had all of this implemented ahead of time.

So that’s I mean, just two simple ones. But there’s I mean, there’s hundreds that I can tell you. And being able to go on these operations and see just the I mean, it’s physical. You can physically see the relief that a lot of these guys feel when they know that if the EPA walked on, they could say, well, yeah, I mean, just pull it up on my phone, I’ll show you what I’ve sprayed. You know, it’s right there. They’re not panic and calling their wives like, where the heck is this paper? I don’t know where you put it kind of deal, because we’ve seen that side of the coin, too.

So that’s just a few.

00;26;25;29 – 00;26;40;28
Trevor
Well, that’s awesome. Yeah, I can imagine. That’s crazy. That’s so cool. And so what’s the whole like? Let’s say a farmers interested in your software? What is that whole sales process like? Do they get to kind of see what it would look like and then they can implement it for a while, like a trial period, I guess before if they want to go ahead and go and purchase it.

00;26;43;16 – 00;26;59;16
Bristol
Absolutely. So our like our sales process is very simplistic. So a lot of times, which I’m sure this is similar to the events that you get to meet people at, but we’re all the trade shows and all of the, you know, ISP events and all that mingling and just getting to meet people.

But when we do and we have someone that shows interest, we do a sales demo. So with one of our team members who ironically enough, I just got off a sales meeting. So this made me think of this.

But all of us come from using the software like so the other three were customers of ours before they came to work for us. And then I’ve been here since the beginning and when I was doing some food safety consulting, I was actually using Highland Hub to do that.

So we’ve all used the system which is so unique before we went to the sales roles, but we do a demo, so we log in and, you know, screen, share a resume, or we do it in person depending on the operation, but showing them the software, the intricacies, what it looks like, what it feels like. Demos are certainly an option if a customer wants to click on themselves and see that once they say yes, we turn them over to our service specialist team. So they’re the team that really holds the hands on implementation.

So I was on that team previous to this role and honestly it was one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had, I think because it was so boring to go. So we basically go to the operation over Zoom or screen share or whatever and we say, okay, send us all of your food safety logs. And I saw a piece that you have. Send us your farm maps, send us everything, and we help them. We do the initial lift, so we help them build out all those logs and records onto the system, and then we train them with their own documents.

So we’re not saying like here, watch some videos and learn how to use this. We’re saying let’s get on a screen share and I’m going to click through and then you’re going to click through behind me and show me, you know, how to do this. And something that Highland really pride themselves on is like, again, we give them the tool to help themselves and we teach them how to edit things and add things and delete things. With a lot of other software companies that are hard coded, they’re required to put in a request to add an SOP or to add a log

for us. The tool is yours at your disclosure. If it’s 2 a.m. and you’re up trying to watch frost protection and you need to add a new log, you can build it right there on your phone. You know, you don’t have to contact one of us. So we work really hard to train and empower our customers to know how to use the system to its full potential. And then through that, we check in and go visit. We love customer visits. It’s something that I wish could just be my full time job.

I love going to see customers and how they’re implementing it because again, it looks so different depending on the operation.

00;29;24;01 – 00;29;35;02
Trevor
I bet. And that’s awesome that you guys, it seems like you have a very good relationship with the people that use the software. I know one, software companies get kind of too big. They kind of get, I guess, not very personable. And so it seems like you guys kind of are very personable in telling them how to use the software and also the power that they have of kind of customizing it and using it however they see fit is huge.

00;29;45;16 – 00;30;01;23
Bristol
Yeah. Our our owners, they are very much boots on the ground kind of guys. And they believe that business is only built with boots on the ground. And I 1,000% agree. I feel the same way because we recognize that during COVID it was a lot harder.

Aside from the fact that we had a tool that a lot of people needed at the time. But as far as just like being able to show the person like the personality of our teams and the heart of Highland, as I like to say, being able to show that during hovered over a screen was really challenging.

So it’s been really cool to get back out, get back to farms, you know, get back on the road. And our CEO tells us it’s the ground game. It’s the ground game. You know, you have to be on the road and running around and seeing people.

And that’s the part that I think excites us all is when we get to give the resource and the tool to a grower and say, you know, look what look what you’ve achieved because of this tool. I mean, that’s the part that we love and linking arms. That’s what we say. We link arms with our customers like we want to be there. I mean, there’s been times at 3 a.m. where I’ve gotten phone calls because something wasn’t working and they’re trying to save a crop from freezing.

And, you know, we’re there, our team is up and we’re people. We’re not robots on a computer. You know, you’re calling my cell phone when you call me and I’m trying to do what I can to help you.

So very much that personable is so important to us.

00;31;02;18 – 00;31;10;07
Trevor
Yeah, that’s huge. I mean, you’re not getting a one 800 number. You’re actually getting you guys’s phone numbers, like personal phone numbers. That way you can actually get help any time you need it. That’s huge.

00;31;10;13 – 00;31;21;10
Bristol
Yeah, that’s something our teams really work hard to. We say, you know, first when you started selling the software, we’re like, we have 27, like 24/7 support. And there was three of us and when we said it, we meant it.

So it would take like shifts, like, okay, we get late night phone calls with you this week. You know, we’re like, holy cow, we just said we have 24 seven support. Let’s make it happen. So we have tools in place to make sure that that’s certainly planned for and prepared for.

But it’s it’s true.

00;31;37;11 – 00;31;43;27
Trevor
24 seven Well, that’s good. Yeah, I’m sure that’s like, oh, dang, we got it. We actually got to be available 24, seven times, but we can do it.

00;31;44;12 – 00;31;45;10
Bristol
Yeah, exactly.

00;31;45;27 – 00;31;54;06
Trevor
That’s fun. So let’s talk a little bit more about your podcast. So it’s the Cream of the Crop podcast. Like what? What’s the schedule like? Who do you interview? What do you talk about and stuff like that.

00;31;54;21 – 00;32;10;16
Bristol
Yeah. So we started it and like I said, our owner actually started it and he was really involved in like the day to day planning of it and things. And he has a lot of other endeavors. He is an entrepreneur by blood, so he is always doing the next thing and really being innovative.

So I clearly just like to talk a lot and they were like, Bristol, you like to talk, you want to try this? And I was like, Sure. So we did. And here we are like I think 60 episodes later or something. So it’s kind of taken off. And at first it was almost just like, Yeah, I’m going to give this a shot and see what I can do. And now I love it. It’s one of the most it’s, it’s just so enjoyable.

So for us, it looks a little less traditional and than most because it’s really just a little side thing for us. It’s not something that is revenue driving or, you know, something like that. It’s really just something we like as far as like industry awareness and really getting to the heart of our industry.

So we like to talk to top leaders, talk about top ideas and share top trends and. AG That’s like one little things we say. So I’ve talked to the commissioner of AG of Texas, I’ve talked to lawyers, I’ve talked to farmers, I’ve talked to people about mental health and AG.

I mean, we have no boundary except for AG on her podcast. So it’s crazy because it’s so different every time, which I love. But if anyone that’s listening wants to share their story and the heart of their business, you know, we would love to have them. We just do it. We plan over email and get on. Kind of like you just get on here and have a very casual, candid conversation, ask questions. Of course, we do a little bit of homework before and, you know, some talking points.

But as far as the podcast itself, it’s really just dependent on the guest as far as what we talk about, of course, I, you know, really got excited when I talked to the commissioner of AG in Texas because, well, he’s just so fun to talk to. But also I just kind of wait to have really big hair because we did that one over Zoom and I was like, Is it ever bigger in Texas? Like, Oh, just say.

00;33;52;27 – 00;33;54;20
Trevor
Oh, that’s cool. I bet that was fun to do.

00;33;54;24 – 00;34;04;16
Bristol
Yeah, he actually did it from the front seat of his truck. So it was it was awesome. But yeah, funny stories for sure. But it’s it’s been an adventure. Have you how long have you been doing the podcast?

00;34;04;27 – 00;34;16;14
Trevor
Yeah, I’ve been doing this, I think about three years. I think we started in like 2018, 20. 19. It was the fall of 2018, I believe. And so, yeah, we kind of did it right before the start of the pandemic.

So yeah, I guess about three or four years, which is crazy. It’s flown by.

00;34;20;09 – 00;34;20;23
Bristol
Right?

00;34;20;28 – 00;34;33;15
Trevor
It’s fun. I mean, you get to meet so many cool people from around the country, even the world, and just chat about agriculture. And it’s so fun because, you know, a farmer from, I don’t know, Texas might be doing things totally different than a farmer in Oregon or Australia.

And so it’s cool to get kind of their different perspectives.

00;34;36;15 – 00;34;52;27
Bristol
On the issues and the things they struggle with are so different. And I love that part of it because it brings such awareness to like your own bubble, so like your little bubble and ag is, you know, we like, for instance, us in central Florida, we’re constantly talking about like labor and weather, right?

We’re not often talking about the need for water that’s not on our radar. But I talk to customers in New Mexico and California and get them on the podcast and it’s like, oh, my gosh, like they aren’t having as much of these labor and weather things aside from they have no water, you know, it’s just crazy to

see the differences and just the country that we have.

00;35;12;22 – 00;35;22;10
Trevor
Oh, yeah. And it’s so cool. What would you say are kind of the most impactful moments you’ve had on the show, whether it’s like a topic or somebody in particular that you’ve interviewed, what were kind of some of the biggest, impactful moments you’ve had.

00;35;22;24 – 00;35;40;24
Bristol
I think, to come to mind, and I’m jotting him down right now, so don’t forget I’m as I’m talking. But Marshall so he’s he actually I met him through a mutual friend in the industry, but he lost his father to a farm related suicide when he was in I believe it was high school or high school or college. And he came on and shared a lot about mental health and ag and that one really just it stopped me dead in my tracks because of course, it wasn’t one that was like necessarily like exciting you would think to talk about, but it was honestly really encouraging because he’s doing so much.

He has a nonprofit that Bayer sponsors called Mind Your Melon, and they do a lot now and they’re very new off the ground, involved in mental health and really making that awareness for AG because I think that toughness of the farmer kind of gets in the way of making sure that we’re all mentally sound, you know, we struggle too, and having that camaraderie. So that being number one and then number two is probably Cameron Coggins at the time she worked for Grimm Way and her family farms carrots in South Georgia. And we did this podcast and I’m not kidding.

You were like the best of friends. Now, like, we talk all the time. We go and I go babysit her baby and just, like, snuggle with them. And, you know, it’s just so fun. We’re like best friends. So really knowing that, like, podcasting can make you like, some lifelong friends, too.

So those are probably the two things.

00;36;48;12 – 00;37;04;23
Trevor
That’s awesome. Yeah, I know. Marshall So I was a state officer here in Florida. Oh, shoot. Like 2009, 2010, which feels like a lifetime ago. And Marshall was the state president the year before me. And so I know Marshall really like, I mean decently and yeah, he’s got a great story, a great message.

I’ve tried. I think I introduced him to my other friend Jason Meadows, who has got the AG State of Mind podcast, and his is all about mental health and agriculture. And I can’t remember if they have done an episode together.

If not, they need to. But I need to go check out his podcast some more and see if they did one. But yeah, I mean, Marshall covers a lot of really good stuff in AG and he’s got a phenomenal story.

00;37;25;21 – 00;37;29;22
Bristol
Yeah, I was telling him I’m like, Marshall, you need to start a podcast.

00;37;29;22 – 00;37;41;28
Trevor
Yeah, for real. That would be so cool because I mean, I feel like traditional business owners. I mean, absolutely, there’s a lot that goes into it. But for farmers and ranchers, really, nine times out of ten, it’s a family business.

And then you’ve got that added pressure where you don’t want to be the one that it closes. And if it does, that’s, you know, you think that that’s on you and your whole livelihood, your happiness goes into it.
And so there’s a lot there that a lot of people really don’t realize. And there’s just so many mental health issues that I think we’re slowly starting to pay more attention to, which is really healthy.

00;38;02;10 – 00;38;21;04
Bristol
Yeah, I think so. And something that I recently have discovered with that mental health arena and really diving in Marshall got me really devoted to learning more number one about myself, but number two, the industry I work for and something that I’ve come to realize just working with our current customers is that there is a lot of this mental health stigma in the generation that’s starting to take over. That’s like our age. You know, the kids and the grandkids have owners and operators and going back to the family farm and the pressure that it is to say, okay, like you just said, it’s on me.

But now the added pressure of changing things, right? Yeah. So it’s not just, okay, now apply responsibility, but it’s like now it’s my responsibility and I want to change something that’s a whole different space for these very deeply rooted family businesses.

And I think of like great examples. You know, I have a friend, you may know him, too. He was a state officer, but Steven Singleton, he comes from a potato farm. Oh, yeah. Okay. He’s helping out the family farm and and really trying to implement all of that and helping introduce some technologies and whatever.

And I think of the beautiful story that he has because his family is. All about that. They’re all about technology. They’re all about making things better for the next generation. So I think of those stories and I’m like, This is awesome.

I wish everyone could have this case know. So it really opened my mind a lot to what that looks like.

00;39;24;08 – 00;39;33;10
Trevor
I bet that’s awesome. I mean, I think that’s really kind of the power of podcasting. You can build all these relationships. You can cover topics you want to talk about. So I think that’s huge. That’s awesome. And so it’s cool. You guys are doing that podcast. We will link that in the description below. But this has been super awesome. Bristol chatting, everything about Highlands and solutions. If people want to learn more about your software, about the products and everything. And of course like also the podcast, like work. Where can they go? What are the best websites and links for them to find all that stuff out?

00;39;51;10 – 00;40;10;03
Bristol
Yeah. So everything is on our main website which is Hyland has it dot com so WW W dot highland has it dot com. And then you’ll see there’s like a spot that says blogs and podcast. They can go there for a podcast, but then all of our products are listed and then like direct questions, we have sales

00;40;10;03 – 00;40;15;07
Bristol
or info at Highland Park dot com. So any of those emails or websites would work well.

00;40;15;07 – 00;40;26;26
Trevor
Deal. Well, thanks so much for chatting. We really appreciate it. Learned a lot from you guys and best of luck with the podcast. Obviously, I love hearing more about AG Podcast, so best of luck for you guys. Thanks again for chatting with us.

00;40;27;03 – 00;40;29;21
Bristol
Yeah, we’ll have to have you on our episode deal.

00;40;29;22 – 00;40;30;17
Trevor
Sounds like a plan.

00;40;30;26 – 00;40;31;26
Bristol
All right. Thanks to our.

A deep quote to start the week…

You ever hear a quote so good that you can’t stop thinking about it?

I heard one a few weeks ago from Chris Williamson and I have not been able to stop thinking about it.

“Hell is where who you are meets who you could have been.”

Dang…that’s a deep quote if I’ve ever heard one.

Chris mentioned the quote during his appearance on the Joe Rogan podcast and it even stopped Joe in his tracks.

I think it says a lot about us and how we view ourselves. Who could we be if we stopped procrastinating? What goals could we achieve if we actually sat down and planned them out? And that sometimes, our worst enemy is…ourselves.

I’ve also been reading Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday and it’s so far, an amazing read. Deep dives into how our ego can destroy us if we let it. And how, if we allow our ego to direct our lives, we might not actually become who we are supposed to be.

So as we start this week, what does that quote make you think? Do you have a long ways to go in becoming who you think you can be? Let me know. And, have a great week!

-T

Ep 162: How Software is helping farmers

Today, I’m chatting with Bristol Wells from Highland Ag Solutions. Highland Ag provides farmers with several different software that allow tracking of data like crap spraying, food safety, and much more!

Checkout Highland Ag here: https://www.highlandhasit.com/

Cream of the Crop Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/cream-of-the-crop/id1499903024

Show Notes:

  • History of Highland Ag Solutions
  • From drones to software
  • From paper records to digital
  • Highland Hub, CropIQ, FS365
  • Food Safety Tracking
  • How software can help different teams communicate
  • Does the software make auditing easier?
  • Auditing during COVID
  • Success stories
  • The sales process
  • CropIQ – Managing inputs, scheduling sprays,
  • Is the software one-size-fits-all or is it customizable?
  • Florida Ag – over 300 commodities are grown!
  • Cream of the Crop Podcast
  • Marshall Sewell – Mind your melon

Be sure to follow us on social media!

https://www.instagram.com/farm_traveler/

https://www.facebook.com/TheFarmTraveler

https://www.youtube.com/farmtraveler

Subscribe here:

https://podkite.link/FarmTraveler

Call to Action

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Transcript

00;00;04;16 – 00;00;22;02
Trevor
Hello and welcome to the Farm Traveler podcast. I’m your host, Trevor Williams. And today on the show, we’re going to be learning about kind of a cool technology that’s been around for a while that’s really revolutionizing how farmers are able to keep track of spraying crops, data, food safety, all of that good stuff.
So today we are interviewing Bristol Wells from Highland AG Solutions and Bristol and everybody at Highlands creates a software or rather multiple softwares that really help farmers track so much stuff for their business and for their operation. So they have a bunch of different software like Crop IQ, Food Safety and their Highland Hub, which all keep track of various data that you might have on at a farm. And, you know, a lot of consumers think that, you know, maybe a lot of farmers use the old school pen and paper, record tracking when things like this, the Highland Hub, the food IQ and all that good stuff have really revolutionized how farmers are doing business because of things like COVID. You know, you have auditors that need to come on to the facilities, but because of COVID, they can’t do that. And so these technologies allow those auditors and allow various people like food safety inspectors to kind of check the records to see what those farmers are doing.

And so this technology is awesome. It’s so fun. And so Bristol and I are going to talk today about kind of the background. What was the inspiration behind all this, some success stories that have been had and also kind of what the process is like for them, showing farmers how powerful this software is and how it can keep track of their spray data, their crop rotations, all that good stuff. So this is a great conversation for anybody that’s, you know, a farmer or that really likes to see the intersection of technology and agriculture. And so if you want to learn more about Highlands AG Solutions, go in the description and you’ll see a bunch of different links as well as their podcast, The Cream of the Crop podcast, which Bristol does. And we’re going to talk more about that as well. So this is such a fun interview. I hope you enjoy it and thanks for listening.

00;02;10;22 – 00;02;14;05
Trevor
All right. Well, Bristol Wells, welcome the Farm Traveler podcast. How are you doing?

00;02;14;06 – 00;02;15;26
Bristol
I am great. Thanks for having me.

00;02;16;07 – 00;02;31;24
Trevor
Yeah, excited to chat with you. So you are a fellow podcaster and you work in the ag space specifically with Hyland Agriculture and you guys offer a bunch of technology for farmers and kind of before we dove into that, tell us kind of a little bit about your background and how you got started with Hyland AG Solutions

00;02;31;26 – 00;02;48;06
Bristol
? Sure. I’m so excited to be here and it’s always fun to chat with other podcasters. We started a podcast right before the pandemic hit and it just kind of took off. And so The Cream of the Crop is our podcast name, but similar to you just really talking to others in the ag space and what kind of ingenuity they’re implementing on their operations and things like that. So really good to be here. A little bit about Hyland AG Solutions. This is one of my favorite things to talk about, so I could ramble on forever about all the amazing things that Hyland AG does.

But we are a software provider for the ag industry and what that means is we go and help operations really with what we’re doing most is virtualizing their documentation as far as their pre harvest inspections and all the papers and binders and things they’re keeping up with really in preparation for regulatory audits and all the things that everyone gets so excited to talk about. All those things we’re helping kind of make that process a lot easier, but more so than easier, really streamlining that into what’s next, right? So we all live in 2022 and we’re like using technology in every aspect of our life.
So we kind of took that same process into the farm. About five years ago. We were still flying drones. We started our company after we sold a packaging company and we started flying drones in the specialty crop industry. And there was just so a lot in that time of people trying to do this and there was just a lot to be learned still. So we took that and moved on to doing the software and you can read about it on our website. We did. We made all the mistakes, we did all the things right. We outsource developers, we did all the stuff and came back. And really the center of our business is really understanding production. AG And it was challenging to get software developers and code writers that understood production.
AG That also could write code because that’s not me. So we hired in-house and now we’re off to the races. We have customers like Grumpy Farms, you know, they’re one of the world’s leading care producers. And so we have them and lots of other smaller and larger as well.

So that’s kind of the cliff note version that’s perfect.

00;04;42;29 – 00;05;00;12
Trevor
Yeah, I think that intersection of technology and farming is so cool. I mean, I was a software developer for a while and so I love software. And of course being in agriculture, like I love everything about AG and so I love when the two combine because a lot of people think, I mean, probably even currently in production agriculture, a lot of people think it’s just, you know, written documents. It’s the old school binders that, you know, kind of the old school farm, old school farmers use. But there’s so many technologies out there and you guys are offering such a cool tool for farmers where they can I mean, like you were saying, have digital records for everything. And so, I mean, is that really kind of a necessity that farmers need to I don’t know, kind of like get on the ball with.

00;05;22;21 – 00;05;41;05
Bristol
Yeah, I will. I’ll tell you a story and let you make the decision. Now when we’re just really I do a lot with like Farm Bureau and a lot of different, you know, associations and organizations. And we constantly are fighting the battle of getting the farmers going in a field with the pitchfork mentality out of people’s minds Right? Like we have to move past that and realize where we are as a society and the tools that we use. I mean, think about going to McDonald’s now. I use an iPad. When I walk into McDonald’s, I pick my order, I pick it up on the counter and I never engage with a piece of paper or a person, you know, same concept with AG. So we created this part of our software called Auditor Access. So most of your listeners being in the ag industry know what goes into auditing and regulatory bodies. Come on your facility.

And they, they look around at all of your paper documentation and your physical, you know, the space that you’re working in. And the list can be hundreds of pages long if they’re checking. And when they do that, they’re there for days on end a lot of times.

So we created auditor access, which took all of the documentation and the paperwork, and it basically sent a link to the auditor and they could view all of that before they even got to your facility. So our customers are saying it’s cutting down 75 to 80% of their auditing times.

And we were realizing this before COVID and then COVID hit and everyone’s like, Oh my gosh, auditor can’t come on my facility, but my retailer won’t take my product unless it’s audited. So then they’re like, okay, we need a digital solution.

So I think that kind of answers the question is like, is this necessary for the ag industry? And I think the answer is absolutely, because we don’t know what’s going forward. And even now, with COVID regulations still being a thing, auditors are getting into this space where they’re using technology to complete their jobs.

And what’s been really cool, unfortunately, you know, COVID has not been an exciting ride by any means, but us kind of being ahead of the ball just a little bit. And then our business picked up, you know, because we were ahead of the game there.

So I think that it’s certainly the industry is headed in that direction. I mean, you guys could look at fields and see tractors driving themselves, right? You know, I can be responding to emails and still doing spur application on the farm, so I think so.

00;07;36;10 – 00;07;46;28
Trevor
Yeah. You know, I’m sure that auditing turn was such a huge selling point for a lot of farmers are like, hold up. I can don’t have to do all the papers. Like the auditor doesn’t even have to come here.

I can just send them a link for the all the records like I’m sure I’m sure that made a lot of people like, well, you know what, I’m definitely going to do this.

00;07;53;15 – 00;08;09;18
Bristol
Right? Yeah, it definitely was. That was the point in our business where we were like, okay, we could give ourselves the high five, but we’re doing it like, you know, people need what we’re offering. So yeah, I would agree auditing has changed a lot in the last two years and I honestly think that it’s going to change even more.

00;08;10;19 – 00;08;17;19
Trevor
Oh, I can imagine. And so you guys correct me if I’m wrong, but you offer three software. It’s Highland Hub, food safety and then Crop IQ, is that right?

00;08;17;25 – 00;08;28;28
Bristol
Yeah. So our Highland Hub is like our a big umbrella is like how I like to explain it. It’s like our platform. You could think of like Microsoft Office and then you have all these different features inside of Microsoft Office.

So we actually have seven products within Highland Hub being that big one. But food safety, which is best 365 and Crop IQ, are the two big ones that really kind of go across an entire operation. So those are the big two that you had, food safety and then crop IQ.

00;08;45;13 – 00;08;54;22
Trevor
Okay, gotcha. And so what would those look like? It like if a farmer’s using food safety, for example, like what exactly are they using that for? And then kind of what is the user experience like?

00;08;54;28 – 00;09;05;24
Bristol
Absolutely. And I love to talk to user experience. We recently developed a team at Highland UI, UX, and you having software background know exactly what that means. But yeah.

00;09;05;29 – 00;09;08;11
Trevor
That user experience, those are definitely some key terms.

00;09;08;21 – 00;09;23;02
Bristol
So user experience, user interface, we have a team completely dedicated to just how it looks and feels as a user. And I think that speaks volumes when software companies go the extra mile to do that. Right. We don’t like using clunky software, I certainly don’t.

So our team has taken a lot of time to do that. But for food safety, that side of the business, every food safety plan looks different across the country and certainly outside of the country. As far as what is your commodity, what is your process line?

You know, are you packing, is there water introduced on the packing line? The food safety questions could go on and on. So with all of those, the first 365, which basically stands for Food Safety 365 days a year, that platform allows users to take all their checklists, all their cooler temperature logs and their pre-op inspections and their cleaning and sanitation logs and all those things they’re having to fill out every day and sometimes every hour. You know, if you implement a dump tank or there is an P level, you have to check, those things have to be checked hourly while the production line is running.

So all of that becomes then digital. And our software basically we can set up with, you know, the customer can do all of this, but setting up notifications where it says, Hey, it’s 5:00 on Wednesday, it’s time to do your food safety meeting, you know, and text you and notify you that with your dump tanks it would say, Hey, so-and-so on line seven has missed filling out their dump tank. Do you want to remind them to do it? You know, so it’s just taking that not only virtualizing and digitizing it, but taking it a step further and helping customers remain compliant.

And we are not regulatory, right? We’re not the people that are like, oh, you’re in trouble because you didn’t do it. That’s not the goal at all. The goal is that we give the industry the tools they need to do what they’re supposed to be doing and do what’s required of them so that if they do get an unannounced inspection, you know, with our platform, every question for their audit is already preloaded in there. And the answer to that question, like the document that answers that question is right there next to it. So if they were to get, you know, USDA walk and say they’re doing an unannounced inspection, they’re knocking on the door, what we’re empowering these these industry folks to do is open the door and say, like, yeah, come on in, we’re ready for you. Everything’s right here. We’re not having to go down where the folded paper in his pocket about what the dump tank level was 3 hours ago.

So that’s kind of what food safety looks like.

00;11;35;04 – 00;11;46;06
Trevor
I got you. And so would would something like this help whenever there’s, like, a foodborne illness outbreak, you know, where where? I mean, you know, for example, you see a lot with Chipotle, with lettuce, and then they trace it all the way back to the farm.

So it’s something like this really help anytime there might be a foodborne illness outbreak.

00;11;50;26 – 00;12;04;25
Bristol
Yes. So we’ve actually had a few customers that unfortunately have had some recalls and things of that nature that we’ve been able to use our software in that traceback process and really able to to go back and say, number one, where did the product originate?
Number two, where was it packed? And then where was the problem introduced? And they’re able to look. And trend those reports and say, okay, well, here is when our cooler temperature got too high and we had our temperature wasn’t regulated for 6 hours and this product wasn’t here, or, hey, this line tested positive for E coli the day that we ran this product. So, yes, that’s a very much an opportunity to use technology to help prevent those is the goal. But when they do happen, trace them back, find the root and change the behavior.

00;12;35;25 – 00;12;51;26
Trevor
Now, I’m sure something like that is extremely helpful versus like an old school paper tracking catalog where you know, where you have a foodborne illness and you’ve got to go through hundreds of pages of records to kind of figure out what’s going on instead of this super handy digital experience.

00;12;51;27 – 00;13;09;11
Bristol
Yeah, I would agree. I would think that united fresh food safety immersion program two years ago now, I think, gosh, I’m getting old, time is going too fast, whatever. So I think it was two years ago I was in that class and we were with mentors who are very influential food safety professionals, and we had to sit with those mentors and do like a mock recall and a mock traceback and figure out where the root of our recall happened. And let me tell you with like, I genuinely don’t know how it’s possible without a digital solution, whether it’s Highland or, you know, a different company.

Nonetheless, a digital platform is so necessary and being able to insure that stuff because like, for instance, those leafy green growers, a lot of them, you know, I’m from central Florida and we have in south Florida a lot of lettuce.

Right. Well, then you go to California. There’s a ton of lettuce. There’s businesses that operate in both of those. Could you imagine trying to be the food safety professional in California, figuring out why a recall happened in Florida without access to digital records like.

00;13;50;27 – 00;13;52;00
Trevor
That would be a nightmare.

00;13;52;21 – 00;14;06;21
Bristol
It really is. So I just that’s and we hate we never want to use like the fear tactic to sell people. Right. Like, that’s not it at all. But the reality is if it’s not digital, like it can’t be accurate sometimes because it’s not in front of you. You don’t have direct access to it in real time.

00;14;09;19 – 00;14;23;23
Trevor
Yeah. I mean, I can’t imagine how it would be to have like a huge operation and then you’re still doing it on paper when there’s software does I mean, of course, like I’m sure that there are people out there that have like, you know, a perfect recordkeeping system that they’ve been using for generation after generation.

But then you have cool software like you guys that really does it for you.

00;14;26;17 – 00;14;44;03
Bristol
Yeah. Yeah. That’s the goal is to to make your jobs easier, to make your job more effective, optimize your time that you spend. I know, I guess in safety consulting for a little while and I would go and do operations and you know, they say till 1030 at night filling out all the records for the day because

they know they have to have it done before tomorrow. And it’s like, do you have a cell phone? Cause if you have a cell phone, you can do it. When you’re standing at the line, you know you don’t have to do it at the end of the day.

00;14;54;12 – 00;15;00;05
Trevor
Which is so convenient. And then kind of going on. Tell us more about Crop IQ. So what is the main purpose of that software?

00;15;00;15 – 00;15;14;22
Bristol
Yeah, so Crop IQ is more like just a farm focus inside of our software and that’s where like the growers and we’re primarily in produce, that’s the business we work in right now. Of course, plans to grow, but right now produce on the farm side.

This is an application that really allows you to monitor the like the crop application and put so your chemicals, fertilizers, all of that we see more so now than ever, regulatory requiring like nitrogen and phosphorus inputs and how much of that is going in the land and things of that nature.

So not only that, but it helps manage all of those as a farm, like a farm manager, you’re able to schedule out your sprays and send them electronically to your sprayers so they know what the tank mix is and what to mix, what to load, what fields to go spray, at what rate, that kind of thing.

But taking it one step further and all of our the cool thing about Hyland is that all of our tools talk to each other. So like our crop IQ system will notify your food safety system if you have an active area in your field, which obviously meaning you have chemical residues still there, you can’t harvest or you can’t be in that field yet. So if you got to create a pre harvest inspection on Field A and you have an active RTI and you going to do that pre harvest inspection, it’s going to trigger you and say, hold on, you have an active area in that field.

So that is probably my favorite part of of crop IQ is really being able to tie the whole business together, really using it as a a business management tool, but communicating. Right. So now your food safety guy is not hunting down every time you spray and he knows what’s going on.

There’s that complete transparency of, okay, this, this is what we’re doing. We’re good. We’re going to go we’ll harvest zero harvest there and make that for that full business plan.

00;16;46;12 – 00;17;01;01
Trevor
That’s huge. And I feel like that interconnect ability are interconnected inner to interconnectedness. I believe like all the different apps and everything is like a huge selling point and a huge tool. I mean, I can imagine how much time that saves whenever.

I mean, like you were saying, like you can communicate with their sprayers, communicate what’s going on, keep track of if there is any residuals in the fields like that’s a huge.

00;17;09;15 – 00;17;25;09
Bristol
Cool. Yeah. And it’s something that is required now. I mean, for the guys that are sending to any large retailer or main retailer, you know, they have to have these records, too, passes inspections and, you know, as simple as on on one of those applications.

Now, Primus, which is an auditing body, they require that you have the justification for your spray on the record so that you’re not complaining sprays for no reason. So we went and developed a part of our software that you can do recommendations and scouting reports, and that talks to Crop IQ and tells Crop IQ why you’re spraying

that, which then talks to food safety, you know, so it’s this constant like you were saying, just I like to say that Highland Hub is a business management tool because it really is.

00;17;54;09 – 00;18;08;12
Trevor
That sounds like it. And so I wrote this down because I really wanted to talk about this. Like, is this software kind of a one size fits all or how much can each operation kind of customize? It kind of fit their needs, especially, I guess fit the needs of the crops and what they’re doing.

00;18;08;27 – 00;18;26;10
Bristol
Yeah. So luckily we started in specialty crops, so we started hard first and when we developed. So just a little bit of the story of how like the heart of Highland and how we got here, because I think that’s important to kind of answer your question on what it what it looks like as far as customization.

Steve Maxwell, who’s our owner, and John Durham, we sat down on the table, you know, when when we started this part of the business and said, what do what does the industry need? And so we brought those guys in and we’re in central Florida, like I said, and winner strawberry capital of the world.

Right. So we bring in a lot of strawberry growers and we’re like, what is the hinderance? What’s what is the burden right now? And time and time again, it was that the need for a digital solution to keep up with the regulatory burden as well as manage the business.

And so when we got to that, we realized that not every single operation operates like a strawberry farm. Right? It’s very different. So we brought a lot of blueberry guys in and we said, oh, my gosh, okay. So blueberry operations are so different than strawberry.

And so we continued to do that. And this like this this phase where we were building the business that we then realized, let’s just build a tool that they can then build what they need. So it’s very similar, like I said in the beginning, to using like Microsoft forms, right?

So they give you the tool, you go in and you determine what you have to check at your operation. You determine what the thresholds for things are at your operation. You determine what the the supplies are at, where you work.

So it’s really just a platform that can then be completely customized to the needs of every commodity. I mean, we have avocados and leafy greens and all the berries were big and various because that’s where we started. But every commodity you can think of potatoes, right?

Like all these processes are so different. And that was one of the big things for us was that we did not want to box this tool in to one industry. We wanted every I mean, everyone in produce at this point to be able to use it and grow.

Crop guides can use it as well. I know their food safety regulations are not near as strenuous, so the need for that isn’t as important for them right now. But we even have visions of like, where could this tool take us?

Could it take us out of produce? Absolutely. Can it take us into meat? Meat production? Well, one day I’m sure you know, the platform is there. So.

00;20;32;27 – 00;20;47;16
Trevor
Yeah. And, you know, I mean, come to think of it, I’m sure that starting off in Florida was a huge advantage because a lot of people don’t realize. But Florida agriculture is super duper diverse. I mean, up here in north Florida, I’m here in Panama City, and, you know, we’ve got a lot of like beef ranches, a ton of timber. I mean, not a whole lot of like fruit and vegetable crops, but a little bit here and there. And of course, you go to central Florida, you’ve got a ton of citrus, you’ve got watermelon, you’ve got the strawberry, the winner, strawberry capital of the world.

And then you’ve also got more ranches and stuff down in South Florida. And so Florida’s super diverse. And so I’m sure that was a really great tool for you guys whenever you started developing the software.

00;21;10;14 – 00;21;26;14
Bristol
Yeah, I like to tell people we’re more than the beach and Disneyworld. Like there’s so much that happens here as far as AG goes. I mean, we grow over 300 commodities in the state. And so something that we take a lot of pride in is we actually take our developers, we call them field trips just as funny, but we take them on field trips literally to the field. And our software developers, our co-writers, go and stand next to farmers and the field. What is this process look like for you? And in that moment, like they’re writing down and you come from this world and I don’t of like all this code stuff and I’m like, Thank God we have these people being stopped, but they’re right there on the field. And that was the super advantage for us, is being in this garden state of any kind of commodity we wanted our development team had direct that has still has direct access to these guys.
And I can not express to listeners like how much, but first off like it just blows my mind how brilliant the ag industry is. And like farmers blow my mind every day. Like I’m just like, how do you guys even think through this stuff?

So being able to pick their brain really helps us build a more robust system.

00;22;19;15 – 00;22;38;10
Trevor
You know, that’s a very good point. I mean, I feel like farming and software are two vastly different tools and two vastly different industries. So it’s great that the developers and the farmers can kind of interact and explain their processes more like a farmer can explain what goes on, how important it is to track spraying and all the regulations you’ve got to follow. And then a software developer can kind of explain how the software would work, how, I don’t know, one module would interact with another one and how it would be very easily to do to track relationships with tasks and.

Verse is like old school pen and paper. And so those are two very different worlds. And so it’s cool that you guys are able to have those field trips and help them communicate as best as possible.

00;23;03;03 – 00;23;18;00
Bristol
Yeah, when those worlds collide, it’s actually like a beautiful thing to see and just kind of be a bystander in that because the day to day stuff, you know, we at the company that come from AG, which over 80% of us have ag backgrounds, we speak for the farmer, right?

We say, okay, I have a production ag degree. So I’m like, No, this is the process, right? We’re speaking for them. But when those developers get to go and stand right there at the farm and they get to see like lettuce cut impact for the first time and it just like is insane to them because they’re like, what in the world like? I have no idea that all of this went into getting my food to the table, which kind of leads me a little bit to just talk about like that consumer awareness piece and knowing that, number one, like for the software developers, they’re realizing how much more goes into farming than they could think. Number two, the farmers are realizing how much more goes into technology than they could think, and then how to marry those is just so cool. So consumers are now seeing both sides of that coin, not only the farming side and how intense that is, but then the technology that these farmers are implementing.

Like, it’s it’s a beautiful thing for me.

00;24;10;28 – 00;24;24;09
Trevor
Yeah, that’s true. That’s such a good point. And so, I mean, do you have any success stories that you could share about farmers here in Florida or wherever else? I have kind of implemented this. All of these tools that you guys are making and the how it’s really changed, how they do business.

00;24;24;25 – 00;24;36;02
Bristol
Yeah, I mean, I can think of quite a few and you know, just naming some of our customers, like I said earlier, Graham Way and Litman being, you know, a number one leader in the tomato space and these large companies.

But also I can’t forget to leave out people that like Miss Beth, she’s one of our customers. She has Anna’s garden blueberries in south Georgia. And she’s one of our biggest advocates. She’s a retired schoolteacher. She’s a teacher, I believe, for 40 years.

And she started a small blueberry farm. She started with four acres, and now they’re at 74 acres. And so she tells us, you know, that a lot is contributed to the fact that they were able to implement technology, because she says if it wasn’t for Highland Hub like she would not be able to manage it.

There’s no way she could keep up with it all. And she’s a small grower, right? So she wears a lot of hats on the operation. She does the food safety, she does the yield estimations. She I mean, she does everything.

So being able to see someone like that and she jokingly says, well, if I can do it, anybody can do it with the technology. Because she came from being an English teacher for 40 years. So a totally different space for her.

But just thinking through some of those, you know, we’ve had customers that have had very large scale operations that have lost their food safety managers and they haven’t missed a beat because they had the software implemented, they had the reminders implemented.

They had all of these things that we help them provide that way when they’re food safety person. You know, there was a lapse between them having someone in that seat. None of their food safety practices fell behind because they had all of this implemented ahead of time.

So that’s I mean, just two simple ones. But there’s I mean, there’s hundreds that I can tell you. And being able to go on these operations and see just the I mean, it’s physical. You can physically see the relief that a lot of these guys feel when they know that if the EPA walked on, they could say, well, yeah, I mean, just pull it up on my phone, I’ll show you what I’ve sprayed. You know, it’s right there. They’re not panic and calling their wives like, where the heck is this paper? I don’t know where you put it kind of deal, because we’ve seen that side of the coin, too.

So that’s just a few.

00;26;25;29 – 00;26;40;28
Trevor
Well, that’s awesome. Yeah, I can imagine. That’s crazy. That’s so cool. And so what’s the whole like? Let’s say a farmers interested in your software? What is that whole sales process like? Do they get to kind of see what it would look like and then they can implement it for a while, like a trial period, I guess before if they want to go ahead and go and purchase it.

00;26;43;16 – 00;26;59;16
Bristol
Absolutely. So our like our sales process is very simplistic. So a lot of times, which I’m sure this is similar to the events that you get to meet people at, but we’re all the trade shows and all of the, you know, ISP events and all that mingling and just getting to meet people.

But when we do and we have someone that shows interest, we do a sales demo. So with one of our team members who ironically enough, I just got off a sales meeting. So this made me think of this.

But all of us come from using the software like so the other three were customers of ours before they came to work for us. And then I’ve been here since the beginning and when I was doing some food safety consulting, I was actually using Highland Hub to do that.

So we’ve all used the system which is so unique before we went to the sales roles, but we do a demo, so we log in and, you know, screen, share a resume, or we do it in person depending on the operation, but showing them the software, the intricacies, what it looks like, what it feels like. Demos are certainly an option if a customer wants to click on themselves and see that once they say yes, we turn them over to our service specialist team. So they’re the team that really holds the hands on implementation.

So I was on that team previous to this role and honestly it was one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had, I think because it was so boring to go. So we basically go to the operation over Zoom or screen share or whatever and we say, okay, send us all of your food safety logs. And I saw a piece that you have. Send us your farm maps, send us everything, and we help them. We do the initial lift, so we help them build out all those logs and records onto the system, and then we train them with their own documents.

So we’re not saying like here, watch some videos and learn how to use this. We’re saying let’s get on a screen share and I’m going to click through and then you’re going to click through behind me and show me, you know, how to do this. And something that Highland really pride themselves on is like, again, we give them the tool to help themselves and we teach them how to edit things and add things and delete things. With a lot of other software companies that are hard coded, they’re required to put in a request to add an SOP or to add a log

for us. The tool is yours at your disclosure. If it’s 2 a.m. and you’re up trying to watch frost protection and you need to add a new log, you can build it right there on your phone. You know, you don’t have to contact one of us. So we work really hard to train and empower our customers to know how to use the system to its full potential. And then through that, we check in and go visit. We love customer visits. It’s something that I wish could just be my full time job.

I love going to see customers and how they’re implementing it because again, it looks so different depending on the operation.

00;29;24;01 – 00;29;35;02
Trevor
I bet. And that’s awesome that you guys, it seems like you have a very good relationship with the people that use the software. I know one, software companies get kind of too big. They kind of get, I guess, not very personable. And so it seems like you guys kind of are very personable in telling them how to use the software and also the power that they have of kind of customizing it and using it however they see fit is huge.

00;29;45;16 – 00;30;01;23
Bristol
Yeah. Our our owners, they are very much boots on the ground kind of guys. And they believe that business is only built with boots on the ground. And I 1,000% agree. I feel the same way because we recognize that during COVID it was a lot harder.

Aside from the fact that we had a tool that a lot of people needed at the time. But as far as just like being able to show the person like the personality of our teams and the heart of Highland, as I like to say, being able to show that during hovered over a screen was really challenging.

So it’s been really cool to get back out, get back to farms, you know, get back on the road. And our CEO tells us it’s the ground game. It’s the ground game. You know, you have to be on the road and running around and seeing people.

And that’s the part that I think excites us all is when we get to give the resource and the tool to a grower and say, you know, look what look what you’ve achieved because of this tool. I mean, that’s the part that we love and linking arms. That’s what we say. We link arms with our customers like we want to be there. I mean, there’s been times at 3 a.m. where I’ve gotten phone calls because something wasn’t working and they’re trying to save a crop from freezing.

And, you know, we’re there, our team is up and we’re people. We’re not robots on a computer. You know, you’re calling my cell phone when you call me and I’m trying to do what I can to help you.

So very much that personable is so important to us.

00;31;02;18 – 00;31;10;07
Trevor
Yeah, that’s huge. I mean, you’re not getting a one 800 number. You’re actually getting you guys’s phone numbers, like personal phone numbers. That way you can actually get help any time you need it. That’s huge.

00;31;10;13 – 00;31;21;10
Bristol
Yeah, that’s something our teams really work hard to. We say, you know, first when you started selling the software, we’re like, we have 27, like 24/7 support. And there was three of us and when we said it, we meant it.

So it would take like shifts, like, okay, we get late night phone calls with you this week. You know, we’re like, holy cow, we just said we have 24 seven support. Let’s make it happen. So we have tools in place to make sure that that’s certainly planned for and prepared for.

But it’s it’s true.

00;31;37;11 – 00;31;43;27
Trevor
24 seven Well, that’s good. Yeah, I’m sure that’s like, oh, dang, we got it. We actually got to be available 24, seven times, but we can do it.

00;31;44;12 – 00;31;45;10
Bristol
Yeah, exactly.

00;31;45;27 – 00;31;54;06
Trevor
That’s fun. So let’s talk a little bit more about your podcast. So it’s the Cream of the Crop podcast. Like what? What’s the schedule like? Who do you interview? What do you talk about and stuff like that.

00;31;54;21 – 00;32;10;16
Bristol
Yeah. So we started it and like I said, our owner actually started it and he was really involved in like the day to day planning of it and things. And he has a lot of other endeavors. He is an entrepreneur by blood, so he is always doing the next thing and really being innovative.

So I clearly just like to talk a lot and they were like, Bristol, you like to talk, you want to try this? And I was like, Sure. So we did. And here we are like I think 60 episodes later or something. So it’s kind of taken off. And at first it was almost just like, Yeah, I’m going to give this a shot and see what I can do. And now I love it. It’s one of the most it’s, it’s just so enjoyable.

So for us, it looks a little less traditional and than most because it’s really just a little side thing for us. It’s not something that is revenue driving or, you know, something like that. It’s really just something we like as far as like industry awareness and really getting to the heart of our industry.

So we like to talk to top leaders, talk about top ideas and share top trends and. AG That’s like one little things we say. So I’ve talked to the commissioner of AG of Texas, I’ve talked to lawyers, I’ve talked to farmers, I’ve talked to people about mental health and AG.

I mean, we have no boundary except for AG on her podcast. So it’s crazy because it’s so different every time, which I love. But if anyone that’s listening wants to share their story and the heart of their business, you know, we would love to have them. We just do it. We plan over email and get on. Kind of like you just get on here and have a very casual, candid conversation, ask questions. Of course, we do a little bit of homework before and, you know, some talking points.

But as far as the podcast itself, it’s really just dependent on the guest as far as what we talk about, of course, I, you know, really got excited when I talked to the commissioner of AG in Texas because, well, he’s just so fun to talk to. But also I just kind of wait to have really big hair because we did that one over Zoom and I was like, Is it ever bigger in Texas? Like, Oh, just say.

00;33;52;27 – 00;33;54;20
Trevor
Oh, that’s cool. I bet that was fun to do.

00;33;54;24 – 00;34;04;16
Bristol
Yeah, he actually did it from the front seat of his truck. So it was it was awesome. But yeah, funny stories for sure. But it’s it’s been an adventure. Have you how long have you been doing the podcast?

00;34;04;27 – 00;34;16;14
Trevor
Yeah, I’ve been doing this, I think about three years. I think we started in like 2018, 20. 19. It was the fall of 2018, I believe. And so, yeah, we kind of did it right before the start of the pandemic.

So yeah, I guess about three or four years, which is crazy. It’s flown by.

00;34;20;09 – 00;34;20;23
Bristol
Right?

00;34;20;28 – 00;34;33;15
Trevor
It’s fun. I mean, you get to meet so many cool people from around the country, even the world, and just chat about agriculture. And it’s so fun because, you know, a farmer from, I don’t know, Texas might be doing things totally different than a farmer in Oregon or Australia.

And so it’s cool to get kind of their different perspectives.

00;34;36;15 – 00;34;52;27
Bristol
On the issues and the things they struggle with are so different. And I love that part of it because it brings such awareness to like your own bubble, so like your little bubble and ag is, you know, we like, for instance, us in central Florida, we’re constantly talking about like labor and weather, right?

We’re not often talking about the need for water that’s not on our radar. But I talk to customers in New Mexico and California and get them on the podcast and it’s like, oh, my gosh, like they aren’t having as much of these labor and weather things aside from they have no water, you know, it’s just crazy to

see the differences and just the country that we have.

00;35;12;22 – 00;35;22;10
Trevor
Oh, yeah. And it’s so cool. What would you say are kind of the most impactful moments you’ve had on the show, whether it’s like a topic or somebody in particular that you’ve interviewed, what were kind of some of the biggest, impactful moments you’ve had.

00;35;22;24 – 00;35;40;24
Bristol
I think, to come to mind, and I’m jotting him down right now, so don’t forget I’m as I’m talking. But Marshall so he’s he actually I met him through a mutual friend in the industry, but he lost his father to a farm related suicide when he was in I believe it was high school or high school or college. And he came on and shared a lot about mental health and ag and that one really just it stopped me dead in my tracks because of course, it wasn’t one that was like necessarily like exciting you would think to talk about, but it was honestly really encouraging because he’s doing so much.

He has a nonprofit that Bayer sponsors called Mind Your Melon, and they do a lot now and they’re very new off the ground, involved in mental health and really making that awareness for AG because I think that toughness of the farmer kind of gets in the way of making sure that we’re all mentally sound, you know, we struggle too, and having that camaraderie. So that being number one and then number two is probably Cameron Coggins at the time she worked for Grimm Way and her family farms carrots in South Georgia. And we did this podcast and I’m not kidding.

You were like the best of friends. Now, like, we talk all the time. We go and I go babysit her baby and just, like, snuggle with them. And, you know, it’s just so fun. We’re like best friends. So really knowing that, like, podcasting can make you like, some lifelong friends, too.

So those are probably the two things.

00;36;48;12 – 00;37;04;23
Trevor
That’s awesome. Yeah, I know. Marshall So I was a state officer here in Florida. Oh, shoot. Like 2009, 2010, which feels like a lifetime ago. And Marshall was the state president the year before me. And so I know Marshall really like, I mean decently and yeah, he’s got a great story, a great message.

I’ve tried. I think I introduced him to my other friend Jason Meadows, who has got the AG State of Mind podcast, and his is all about mental health and agriculture. And I can’t remember if they have done an episode together.

If not, they need to. But I need to go check out his podcast some more and see if they did one. But yeah, I mean, Marshall covers a lot of really good stuff in AG and he’s got a phenomenal story.

00;37;25;21 – 00;37;29;22
Bristol
Yeah, I was telling him I’m like, Marshall, you need to start a podcast.

00;37;29;22 – 00;37;41;28
Trevor
Yeah, for real. That would be so cool because I mean, I feel like traditional business owners. I mean, absolutely, there’s a lot that goes into it. But for farmers and ranchers, really, nine times out of ten, it’s a family business.

And then you’ve got that added pressure where you don’t want to be the one that it closes. And if it does, that’s, you know, you think that that’s on you and your whole livelihood, your happiness goes into it.
And so there’s a lot there that a lot of people really don’t realize. And there’s just so many mental health issues that I think we’re slowly starting to pay more attention to, which is really healthy.

00;38;02;10 – 00;38;21;04
Bristol
Yeah, I think so. And something that I recently have discovered with that mental health arena and really diving in Marshall got me really devoted to learning more number one about myself, but number two, the industry I work for and something that I’ve come to realize just working with our current customers is that there is a lot of this mental health stigma in the generation that’s starting to take over. That’s like our age. You know, the kids and the grandkids have owners and operators and going back to the family farm and the pressure that it is to say, okay, like you just said, it’s on me.

But now the added pressure of changing things, right? Yeah. So it’s not just, okay, now apply responsibility, but it’s like now it’s my responsibility and I want to change something that’s a whole different space for these very deeply rooted family businesses.

And I think of like great examples. You know, I have a friend, you may know him, too. He was a state officer, but Steven Singleton, he comes from a potato farm. Oh, yeah. Okay. He’s helping out the family farm and and really trying to implement all of that and helping introduce some technologies and whatever.

And I think of the beautiful story that he has because his family is. All about that. They’re all about technology. They’re all about making things better for the next generation. So I think of those stories and I’m like, This is awesome.

I wish everyone could have this case know. So it really opened my mind a lot to what that looks like.

00;39;24;08 – 00;39;33;10
Trevor
I bet that’s awesome. I mean, I think that’s really kind of the power of podcasting. You can build all these relationships. You can cover topics you want to talk about. So I think that’s huge. That’s awesome. And so it’s cool. You guys are doing that podcast. We will link that in the description below. But this has been super awesome. Bristol chatting, everything about Highlands and solutions. If people want to learn more about your software, about the products and everything. And of course like also the podcast, like work. Where can they go? What are the best websites and links for them to find all that stuff out?

00;39;51;10 – 00;40;10;03
Bristol
Yeah. So everything is on our main website which is Hyland has it dot com so WW W dot highland has it dot com. And then you’ll see there’s like a spot that says blogs and podcast. They can go there for a podcast, but then all of our products are listed and then like direct questions, we have sales

00;40;10;03 – 00;40;15;07
Bristol
or info at Highland Park dot com. So any of those emails or websites would work well.

00;40;15;07 – 00;40;26;26
Trevor
Deal. Well, thanks so much for chatting. We really appreciate it. Learned a lot from you guys and best of luck with the podcast. Obviously, I love hearing more about AG Podcast, so best of luck for you guys. Thanks again for chatting with us.

00;40;27;03 – 00;40;29;21
Bristol
Yeah, we’ll have to have you on our episode deal.

00;40;29;22 – 00;40;30;17
Trevor
Sounds like a plan.

00;40;30;26 – 00;40;31;26
Bristol
All right. Thanks to our.

Ep 161: Rain Bird Agriculture and Water Efficiency

In today’s episode, I’m chatting with Greg Palumbo from Rain Bird Agriculture. In our interview, Greg and I will talk about the history of Rain Bird, the efficiency of irrigation systems, and water issues impacting farmers.

Tree Stories Link: Tree Stories Landing Page | Rain Bird

Instagram Link: Rain Bird Agriculture (@rainbird_agriculture) • Instagram photos and videos

Rainbird website: www.rainbird.com

Rain Bird Video: “A legacy of irrigation innovation”

Show Notes:

  • History of Rain Bird
  • Efficieny of Irrigaiton Systems
  • Drip Irrigation vs Sprinklers
  • Why farmers might choose one system over another
  • Water Issues
  • California droughts impacting farmers and residents
  • Future trends and technology
  • What Greg has learned about farmers
  • Innovation

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Transcript

coming soon!

Ep 160: What is a Microdairy?

I’ve neer heard the term “microdairy” and I’m guessing maybe you haven’t either. Well on episode 160, we are going to learn how a dairy of just 10 cows is using the microdairy technique to supply customers with a great product with a process that just might change the industry. Jesse Vivian is from Lane’s End Creamery, and on today’s episode, Jesse and I will chat about why his family started a microdairy, what makes a dairy “micro”, financial advice from Dave Ramsey, and much more! Don’t forget to check out Lane’s End Creamery at the links below.

Website: https://www.thelanesend.org/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lanes.end.creamery/

Microdairy Designs: https://www.microdairydesigns.com/products/

Show Notes:

  • Jesse’s background – From growing up on a farm to starting his own
  • What is a microdairy?
  • Working with Microdairy Designs.
  • Processes of homogenization and pasteurization
  • Challenges of milking once a day.
  • How the cows response to once a day milkings instead of 2 to 3.
  • The bell curve of dairy production.
  • Starting during COVID
  • Inspired by Dave Ramsey
  • Started making cheese before milk
  • Making chocolate milk and strawberry milk
  • FairOaks farms process, but on a smaller scale.
  • Struggles of a family dairy
  • Importance of diversifying family farms
  • Dairy Tours
  • Pennslyvania

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Transcript

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