OnFarm Named Ag Innovator of the Year
Ag Tech Innovator of the Year: Growing the Future: OnFarm Takes Ag tech to the Next Level
Guest post by Alan Riquelmy
Farmers could spend their days watching a computer screen, pouring through hundreds of charts and tables as they try to make business decisions. Alternatively they could access that necessary information through a personalized interface on their computer or tablet, far from any office.
It’s turning that alternative into reality that won Lance Donny, CEO of OnFarm, SARTA’s 2014 Ag Tech Innovator of the Year Award for understanding, pioneering and creating a unique strategy for managing complex data on a farm. “Farmers don’t have a desire to sit at their desk all day,” Donny said. “We don’t want to make the farmer a data analyst.”
OnFarm, based in Fresno, California, was created in 2012 with the goal of connecting data farmers need with technology that makes it easy to access. Before OnFarm’s Dashboard, farmers were forced to examine multiple applications to examine information they needed to make decisions. That meant a farmer might use one program to examine information about soil and another for weather. He or she might then put all that information into a program like Excel – a grueling, manual task few farmers would enjoy. The Dashboard is the result of Donny’s desire to marry Ag with what’s possible in technology. “Bringing them together for me was the Holy Grail,” he said.
OnFarm built connections that never existed before, pulling data together from various sources. Farmers access that data through the dashboard that could be on a computer, a TV or a tablet. They use widgets to look at a wide variety of data, personalizing their dashboard through their selection of widgets. One widget might be for weather, another for mapping or a growth model. Each user builds a dashboard with the widgets that give him or her access to the precise information needed. It’s that easily accessible dashboard that enables farmers to make recommendations and predictions for his or her business.
Taking Ag to the next stage is a natural progression for Donny. Raised in Fresno, Donny was born into farming. He spent almost 20 years in the software industry after college, both helping develop and leading development in several industries. In 2009 he returned to Ag tech as an executive with a leading soil moisture company. Three years later he left to start OnFarm with the purpose of solving problems in agriculture. His company now has customers across the country, including in California, Arizona, the Dakotas, Wisconsin and Georgia. They expect their first international customers by the end of the year.
OnFarm had eight employees last month. Donny plans on significantly increasing his staff next year. They’ll have a lot on their plate to handle. According to Donny, forecasts predict that the world will have more than 9 billion people by 2050. Ag must double its production to meet their demands. More people consuming more calories means farmers need to manage their resources and processes more efficiently. “There are some really big and important problems to help solve,” he said.
California relies on successes in agriculture, and Donny said he is honored to receive the recognition of SARTA’s Ag Tech Innovator of the Year Award. That award, he said, gives added validation that his company is helping agriculture. “We all rely on farming’s success,” he said. “It made my year being given that kind of recognition.”