Jason Tatge of Farmobile

An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Jason Tatge, the co-founder, CEO, and president of Farmobile, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Farmobile – what problem were you trying to solve and why?

When two colleagues and I originally started Farmobile, we were looking for a way to create a market for science worthy, ground-truthed, real-time data directly from American farmers’ machines. The data needed to be in an interoperable format so that it could be further consumed by other industries and businesses that needed it most, like a farmer’s trusted advisors (agronomists, retailers, etc) or a data buyer they may have never known existed.

Despite the fact that agriculture is one of the oldest industries in existence, the digital revolution has been slow to come to it. I saw firsthand how many farmers had machinery and tools that were collecting rich data for the operator in the cab to view on their dashboard, but most of this data never left the cab. It was locked in the complicated onboard computers and if you were very good at following specific directions, you might be able to export the data to a jump drive. The data, however, rarely ever made it out of the tractor cab and into a database where it could begin to directly benefit the farmer and not just the companies that manufacture the machinery or sell the farmer their inputs. We knew we wanted to help farmers take control of their data and use it to the advantage of their farm operations and for others in the agricultural value chain.

What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?

When we started Farmobile, I really thought the problem was that the data was getting stuck in the cabs of tractors instead of making it to somewhere useful. What we came to realize is that data in agriculture is just a complete mess. Every proprietary system had its own format, which required its own set of boundaries, and there were no standardized data sets, which made interoperability a real mess if you wanted to merge datasets from different brands of machines. Also, internet connectivity in rural America was preventing precision-minded farmers from making the most of their data. What was supposed to be one item on our to-do list ended up being a multi-year endeavor to reliably and effectively collect, store, and standardize consistent, accurate, real-time data using cellular and our proprietary Farmobile PUC™ hardware, and the cloud-based Farmobile DataEngine℠ platform. It was a tedious journey, but some of our proudest accomplishments to date.

What does the future hold for Farmobile?

The future is bright for Farmobile. After five years of innovation and collecting agronomic and machine data, our team has created an ecosystem of products, services, and technologies that help farmers and their trusted advisors get the most out of the data they create and own outright. We seek to empower decision-makers up and down the agriculture-food value chain (from farmers and their retailers to CPG companies and consumers) to make informed decisions about the food products that they’re helping to grow, sell, source, or buy. When it comes to the U.S. food system, guesses aren’t good enough. Quality, ground-truthed data is needed in order to tell a true crop story, and Farmobile is excited to be an integral part of that future. Who doesn’t want more visibility into the food we purchase at the local grocery store?

What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Leawood?

Leawood, as an extension of the greater Kansas City area, has a great startup scene that is anchored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Our location puts us in the center of the heartland and in close contact with our farmer-subscribers and the ag community in general. In addition, we have access to a robust talent pool with a strong Midwest work ethic and an affordable lifestyle. That means a lot to the farmers and ag-food clients whom we serve. I’m fortunate to have been a 2009 Pipeline Fellow, a current Pipeline Member, and a board member of the Pipeline Entrepreneurs, a lifelong fellowship of high-performing entrepreneurs that call the Midwest home. Kansas City is a great place to be an entrepreneur, with so many others to learn from and so many who are willing to give their time to help mentor and promote this wonderful entrepreneurial culture.

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

I have two pieces of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

The first is to make sure you’re in love with the venture you’re taking on. As an entrepreneur, there will be great days, but there will be a lot of hard days too. Your vision, passion, and commitment to making meaning will carry you through all the bad times.

The second is to make sure you find other entrepreneurs to build relationships and have frank conversations with, and that you’re able to network with and learn from. It is amazing how much entrepreneurs have in common with one another, regardless of the actual underlying businesses you are running.

 

For more exclusive interviews, see our full Profile of a Founder series

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