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Agrimarketing : June 2015
: Wilbur-Ellis IMPLEMENTING NEW AG TECHNOLOGIES Name: Mike Wilbur Title: Vice President Data Services and Field Technology, Wilbur-Ellis Education: B.S. in Economics, Boston College 1994 Career:With Wilbur-Ellis since 1997 Began in Feed Division before moving to Connell Brothers (CBC) Divison (Import Department); General Manager of CBC Thailand; then moved to Agribusiness Division as National Director of Seed for three years. Current position more than two years. AM: Please tell us about the founding of Wilbur-Ellis and its current activities. MW: Wilbur-Ellis Company is a family-owned business that was founded in 1921 by Brayton Wilbur, Sr., along with his college classmates. The company entered the ag retail market during the 1940s through strategic investments and acquisitions, and today, the Agribusiness Division services growers across 250 crop segments throughout 25 states. We bring a high-value service model to our customers, meaning that we provide the products, the technology solutions, and the people that will help growers run a more efficient operation. Today, the company is focused on growth organically and through acquisition, as well as bringing the most advanced crop production technology to our growers. AM: Tell us about your role at Wilbur-Ellis. MW: As Vice President of Data Services and Field Technology, my role is to lead the development, implementation and strategy of ag technology across Wilbur-Ellis Agribusiness. I lead a team of six regional field technology managers, as well as product specialists, and a large group of software developers. AM: What new technology initiatives does the company have? MW: In 2014, Wilbur-Ellis launched its most comprehensive upgrade of its field technology software, AgVerdict. The latest upgrade 34 Agri Marketing s June 2015 includes significant improvements for data-enabled decisions and planning. Ultimately, we created a mobile software platform that will help growers make more productive decisions to their farming operations and enable them to navigate the complex food safety and security requirements. The differentiator is our field technology team dedicated to giving personal support. AgVerdict is customizable based on the operation, with GPS tracking that includes mapping, input usage on a per field basis, performance monitoring, record keeping, and the convenience to securely store years of data in one place. Earlier this year, we’ve added an exciting new satellite imagery feature to our AgVerdict platform developed by San Francisco-based Planet Labs. This feature significantly improves the delivery of satellite imagery to a grower, making the data available in a matter of minutes rather than days. AM: What is the outlook of precision farming? MW: The agricultural industry is going to face increasing food production challenges due to a variety of issues: growing populations, weather, regulatory requirements and consumer interest in where food comes from and the manner in which it is produced. Ag technology tackles some of these challenges; how we manage, analyze, and utilize farming data will be important in making a farm operation “smarter.” Does a grower have the right amount of nutrients on a crop? Before spraying have you verified the EPAlabel to ensure that your application is legal? These are just some of the questions that a tool like AgVerdict can help a grower answer, thus helping him/her run a more efficient operation. It’s not just about increasing crop quantities, but the quality that a grower can deliver, being good stewards of the environment, and helping to manage increasingly complicated regulatory requirements. AM: What role does marketing communications play at Wilbur-Ellis? MW: Wilbur-Ellis serves as a trusted source for information on the latest trends and other important issues affecting the agricultural industry. Marketing communications plays an important role in the sharing of information from our experts, both inside and outside of the organization. In addition, creating a feedback loop is important to helping us help the grower. For example, when developing the latest version of AgVerdict, we conducted extensive interviews with our customers to better understand their evolving precision needs. This led us to create a tool that has easy monitoring and tracking of inputs and performance within their operations. This process continues as we further develop and refine AgVerdict. AM: What other issues do you think would be of interest to the agricultural industry? MW: One issue that we are challenged with as an industry is talent acquisition. The industry will see 50% of its workforce eligible to retire in the next ten years. So, recruiting, education, training & development (including in field technology) will be important to keeping the industry thriving. At Wilbur-Ellis, we have built a strategy for tackling these issues. While there is a demographic challenge to finding good employees, we’ve built programs to help attract, train and retain the talented people that work for our company. AM
AgCareers Canada 2015