Finding Innovative Solutions to Ag’s Challenges

By Michael Schaeffer

Innovation takes many forms in Iowa agriculture. I’ve been fortunate to work with many farmers over the years who are putting new technologies and management practices to work to be more efficient and sustainable in raising crops, or to provide better care for their animals. Even with today’s technologies, the heart of a farming business is its people. Finding the right people is a constant challenge and one of the greatest limitations for many farming operations today.

A lack of qualified employees is also a productivity issue for today’s farmers. When there are open positions on a farm, animals still need to be fed and crops still need to be planted, harvested and moved to market. Farmers are either overworked trying to do everything, or they let management and other tasks fall to the side to handle immediate crop or livestock needs. I’ve seen farmers quit or sell businesses simply because they can’t find help and can’t do everything themselves.

As I worked as a precision ag specialist, I heard the same challenge so many times from customers and neighbors that it prompted me to develop an app that could connect farmers with jobseekers in agriculture. In 2018, we launched the FarmHand app, which is now FarmPost. We’re based in DeWitt, Iowa, and have grown to host more than 1,000 job postings used by thousands of farmers across the country.

This week we celebrated National Ag Day on March 22 and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a proclamation designating March 21-27 as “Agriculture Innovation Week in Iowa.” I am excited to be part of a growing community of entrepreneurs, farmers and leaders working to put new ideas and innovations to work to benefit farmers, consumers and rural communities in our state and around the world.

Iowa has a strong ecosystem of agricultural businesses and founders who are willing to share information and serve as mentors. It has been really valuable for me to connect with and learn from founders of other Iowa-based startups who have been down the same path and can provide insights. We’re all working toward the same goal of improving productivity in agriculture.

Resources from the state’s universities and Iowa Economic Development Authority also provide an advantage to entrepreneurs. FarmPost was a member of cohort eight of the Iowa State University (ISU) Startup Factory, a 52-week intensive program housed at the ISU Research Park. As a member of the program, our company received formal training through a curriculum centered on business validation, customized mentoring, resources and access to a network of business mentors, advisors, counselors and investors. We also have received support from Iowa Economic Development Authority, including a Proof of Commercial Relevance loan for product refinement, market planning and entry activities and other expenses.

As FarmPost grows, we’re also providing tools to give more confidence in the people they hire. The app allows employees and job candidates to create resumes that include employment history and references, helping them stand out and providing more information to farmers than classified ads or posting flyers can.

We look forward to growing in Iowa and helping strengthen the network for the next generation of technologies and ideas to make agriculture more efficient, productive and sustainable.

Michael Schaeffer is the founder and CEO of FarmPost, Inc., based in DeWitt, Iowa.