Ag Leadership

Google Startup Grind

By: Julie Radder-Duty

In February, a group of 8 students and one advisor traveled to Redwood City, California, to attend the Google Startup Grind Conference.  It is a full two-day experience that hosted 8,000 attendees, 200 rising startups, 6,000+ minutes of content, and 9,000+ hours of livestream viewed globally.  Truly, an experience not to be missed.

While this event seems to focus directly to the tech world, or business entrepreneurs, it can be applied in the real world to many other industries as well, if you choose to see it.  Going into this event, we were challenged to see how many of these apps could be applied to those in the agriculture business.  At first glance, we saw about four specifically saying they were agriculture applications.  This was a bit disheartening as we were expecting to see more that might be obvious on how they can work in our area and help our industry.  Sharing our disappointment with our advisor, he said there was a way to apply them all to the agriculture industry if we choose to see it. 

Looking over our notes from the first day of the different apps we saw, and the speakers we listened to, we started seeing how the not so obvious at first, was indeed, something we can use in the industry to help our farmers.  For example, there was a real estate app that could give measurements of a room in a house.  You would upload the pictures of the room as needed, and supply the dimensions of one object, say a painting, in the room, and the app could figure out the rest of the space and objects in it.  While that might not seem like something a farmer might need or use, it is.  Farmers buy homes.  Farmers also buy barns.  Farmers buy buildings to build, or store things.  That would be a useful tool for them to know if the space is big enough for their needs.  So, at first glance, it seems the app was something to skip over, as it wouldn’t be of value to the industry, but in fact, it has a great value.

When people think of farming, I’m sure they picture soil, crops, farm animals, tractors, and people in overalls covered in dirt.  This is no longer the case.  There is new technology out there that is helping farmers.  This event proved to be an experience that showed us students, that sometimes you must venture out of your industry, and work with others, to help grow your own.  Before farmers had to find ways to make their rows in the soil straight using objects they followed at different points, but now, they have GPS and lasers to help guide them.  There are apps set up to their water systems to help them turn on and off the water for each section of their field/orchard whereas before, they had to drive out to each field and manually do this…usually at intervals of 6am, 12pm, 6pm, 12am.  If farmers never changed with times and worked with other industries, we wouldn’t have tractors, cotton pickers, hay balers, modular builders, and the list goes on, and on. 

On the other side of this though, those in tech should get to know the industries they are trying to help improve as well.  One of the agriculture apps had no idea about Central California, or the World Ag Expo.  That shocked all of us.  However, that just makes us want to push a bit more, and let the world know what the agriculture industry really does, and how it affects them in their day to day life.  We can’t expect everyone to want to learn about agriculture, so its now our job to inform them about it, teach them, and see why this industry is valuable to them, and how their job depends on ag.

My overall thoughts on this experience is it was an eye-opening event.  One that I didn’t think I would get much from but was proven wrong.  There was value in all those apps that were presented.  Some of them will make it, most won’t.  Many were things that we have already seen or even use, but it just proves that we can all have the same great idea, it’s how you implement it, how you sell it, how you get it out to people that makes the difference.  Many of those at this event never reached out to us as we walked by, they didn’t try to engage us, grab our attention, or even talk to us…some had their heads down in their phones most of the time.  Then there were those few who practically stopped you in your tracks, read your name on your badge (they were huge) and wouldn’t let you keep walking by until you heard their whole pitch. There are a few I’m personally following to see how they do.  All in all, this was a great experience.  I saw many ideas for things I never would have thought to do, but should have, and heard speakers that only were given 15 minutes to give a presentation but had us so entranced we were disappointed when their time was up.  If ever given the opportunity to attend this event again, I will gladly go, over and over and over again.