These five outstanding individuals have demonstrated exceptional work in the use and adoption of precision agriculture technologies and practices. They join 52 individuals and organizations honored by the PrecisionAg Alliance since the creation of the awards in 2007.
The 2020 recipients include:
Crop Adviser/Entrepreneur Award:
Ofir Schlam, Co-Founder and CEO, Taranis
Schlam is a 4th generation farmer, software developer, and computer science expert who merges his background in farming and tech to create precision agriculture technologies.
With Taranis, Schlam has facilitated the technological advancement and distribution of precision farming globally by developing an innovative “digital agronomist” system that sees and analyzes fields at scale and at a depth level that humans cannot.
Under Schlam’s leadership, Taranis has grown from a 3-person garage start-up to a 100-employee company with 17 offices globally, 19,000 customers, 20 million acres of land under management, and $30 million in funding. His vision of how precision agriculture can improve farming worldwide has motivated a range of industry players to hop on board.
More than 60 world-class agronomists have combined their expertise on crop health and proper treatments onto the Taranis platform. Sixteen of the world’s top 20 agricultural retailers - including Wilbur-Ellis, John Deere, BASF, and ADAMA – have partnered with Taranis to make their tech available to agricultural businesses worldwide.
He has secured partnerships with three key organizations: Stratus Imaging, which brings specialized imagery services to Australian farmers; Climate Corp, to provide field photos for crop health analysis; and John Deere, through participation in its Startup Collaborator. Schlam oversaw the acquisition of Mavrx, to provide plane-level imagery. Through Schlam’s vision and leadership, industry players are uniting to spread the value of precision agriculture worldwide.
His Taranis platform combines three visual layers, and its deep learning then uses advanced mathematical models and computer vision to analyze images against Taranis’ database of over 1 million crop health issues (pest infestation, disease, weeds, nutrient deficiencies, etc.) to generate reports of matters affecting yield and perform tassel counts that accurately estimate yield to streamline operations for harvesting.
Jason Ward, Digital Agriculture Team Lead, North Carolina State University
Ward splits time between research, teaching and Extension, and his team covers the full range of production agriculture from moisture sensors in greenhouses to precision ag in commodity crops to a robotic platform supporting pasture animals.
Ward’s program addresses areas of research focusing on quantifying crop lodging damage and automating cotton replant decisions using UAS imagery. In addition to his UAS program, Ward is completing research in mapping sub-field cotton fiber quality for each cotton module sent to the cotton gin, utilizing machine data to improve harvest efficiency, and utilizing robotic systems to improve quality for pasture animals.
At NCSU, Ward led the effort to renovate and develop laboratory space focused solely on Digital Agriculture where faculty can work in both the applied and theoretical digital ag space to create and evaluate technologies. The Suggs Lab for Machinery Systems and Precision Agriculture is a large-scale machinery and small UAS showplace for on-campus tours, external visitors, and Extension agent trainings.
Dr. Ward is active in national and international societies, including membership in the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE), ASABE NC Section, Alpha Epsilon Engineering Honor Society, and International Society of Precision Agriculture. He was named ASABE Machinery Systems Technical Community Outstanding Reviewer in 2015, Food and Process Systems Technical Community Outstanding Reviewer in 2014, and New Faces of Engineering in 2010.
Ajay Sharda, Associate Professor and Precision Agriculture Engineer, Kansas State University
Sharda’s work is focused directly on the implementation of precision technologies within crop production. In a very short time, he has become a well-known professional not only for Kansas and the region but both at national and international levels.
He has succeeded in many aspects of his profession, including training graduate students (served as chair to 11 MS & PhD students and as a member of 12 other MS & PhD student committees). He’s worked to improve knowledge of farmers via on-farm studies and science via publications. He sustains one of the largest teams in the country with more than $5 million in research awards, and presents at key industry collaborations with many industries around the globe. He also dedicates time to mentoring undergraduate students in research projects while teaching a precision agriculture course.
His program at KSU is well recognized by peers both nationally and internationally, and he maintains leadership roles in precision agriculture focused groups at both the state and national levels He serves on the planning committee and board for the Kansas Ag Research and Technology Association (KARTA), and leads the precision agriculture program at KSU for on-farm research on precision planting and technology. He is a member of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) and International Society of Precision Agriculture.
Grant Strom, Strom Farms, Dahinda, IL
Strom and his family operate a 5,600-acre no-till corn grain and soybean operation with some wheat and pasture for a small cow/calf operation. Farm acreage varies widely and includes flat prairie soils, rolling ground, flood-able river bottoms, and timber and clay soils, with moderate to high fertility. The Strom Farm takes into consideration rotation, slope, fertility, and soil type as they plan each year's crops.
He is the third generation to work on the farm full-time, and has long worked with his father to be progressive with testing new technology, whether that was with GPS usage and auto shut-offs 15 years ago or more recently with no-till, sidedressing, and other conservation strategies. Their farm has been in conversion phases for more than a decade, and some of the new structures include a shop and office — things that have helped make them more efficient with their business.
The farm participates in field testing through research trials with their ag retailer, and as yield monitoring equipment has gotten better, they’ve started applying fertilizer based on yield maps, which lets them optimize what they apply and only apply it when it’s needed. Technological advances that aid their 4R nutrient stewardship strategy work even better. Planters and combines are equipped with GPS, yield monitors, and VRT. He also incorporates drone technology. Integrating the data that the equipment generates with soil maps ensures that nutrients are applied solely upon crop needs.
Strom also shares his learnings and experiences, openly speaking to other farmers and the ag industry as whole on the benefits and challenges of using precision farming as a part of his farm management approach.
Eric Lund, Founder, Veris Technologies, Salina, KS
Lund founded the soil sensor company Veris Technologies with the goal of helping farmers and their advisors improve yields by mapping and managing soil variability across their fields. Under his leadership, Veris helped pioneer soil mapping and management zones by developing the world’s first on-the-go soil sensor. Its flagship soil electrical conductivity sensor has become a key enabler for management zone-based precision ag, and Eric has served the industry as a true global evangelist for this approach since founding Veris in 1996.
In an era of flash-in-the-pan, here today and gone tomorrow ag tech, Lund is a clear example of professionalism, leadership, and persistence who speaks most loudly through action rather than simply through words. As the founder of Veris, Eric has been a strong advocate for soil sensing, but he has been careful to not overstate the capabilities of Veris sensors.
Eric named the company Veris after the Latin word for ‘truth.’ The sensors reveal the truth about the soil, but he also believes honesty and reliability has been part of their success over the past 25 years.
This integrity can also be seen in the software platform Eric and the team at Veris built. Through its FieldFusion mapping portal, Veris has emphasized quality control and the importance of accurate data, with a team member conducting a visual and analytical review of each field submitted from around the world. Today this cloud-based repository contains more than 1 million acres of soil mapping data.
Eric has demonstrated industry leadership through his continual adherence to sound agronomic practices in pursuit of improved yields and profitability with appropriate implementation of variable rate fertilizer.
About the PrecisionAg Alliance –– The PrecisionAg® Institute, an initiative of Meister Media Worldwide’s PrecisionAg® Global brand, is a consortium of industry organizations that has been a leading source of research, advocacy, and education in the areas precision agriculture and digital farming since 2006. Through membership, partner organizations gain valuable market insights, and their combined resources and expertise reveal best practices and improved ag technology solutions from the farm-gate to the dinner plate. For more information and to see our Alliance Partners, visit http://www.precisionagalliance.com.
About Meister Media Worldwide –– Empowering Global Agriculture
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