E33: Mark Young, Chief Technology Officer at The Climate Corporation – Interview

June 21, 2016


This great interview is with Mark Young. Mark is the CTO of The Climate Corporation. The combination of his farming background and technology career make him ideal to talk with about agriculture and technology.

The Climate Corporation provides data for farmers to increase their yields and efficiency. The Climate Corporation is in the middle of managing and analyzing gigantic data sets that provide useful insights on a local level. This is cutting edge stuff.

As CTO, Mark is in charge of making this happen from a technical perspective. Often it’s easy to dream up new ideas, like I want to see the moisture levels for every square foot, but it’s another level to build the tech to make it happen.

Mark is also in charge of searching for new innovative tech in the agricultural space.

Here are some other things we talk about:

-The Climate Corp is at the cutting edge of predictive analytics and managing large data sets. What’s their architecture to handle this? What could other firms learn from them?
-What’s an interesting case study about how you increased a farmer’s yield?
-What skill sets are you constantly looking for?
-Where do you see the future of farming and technology headed?


Dave Kruse: Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of Flyover Labs with Dave Kruse from Madison, Wisconsin, and today we are lucky enough to have Mark Young with us. Mark is the CTO of The Climate Corporation. The Climate Corporation provides data for farmers to increase their yields and efficiency. We will talk more about some of their products, but what’s interesting is that Climate Corporation is in the middle of managing and analyzing huge data sets that provide insights on a very local level, so it’s pretty cutting edge stuff and as CTO Mark is in charge of making this happen from a technical perspective, so it’s often easier to dream up new ideas like I want to see the moisture levels on every square foot, but then from a technical perspective how do you actually make it happen? So, Mark has a wonderful background beyond that in mobile and other areas that we will talk about as well. So, I definitely appreciate Mark coming on. Mark, thanks for joining us today.

Mark Young: Yeah, absolutely, thanks for having me on your show.

Dave Kruse: First like I mentioned you have a really interesting background and that’s probably how you eventually got to be CTO at the Climate Corporation, which is a pretty impressive role. Can you share a little bit about your background and I know you went to Purdue, which is cool, of course it’s another Big 10 School, but yeah, give us a little bit about your background.

Mark Young: I actually grew up on a farm, kind of what we would refer to as a hobby farm now with new customers that we deal with, but we did a little bit of everything, we did some corn, some soybean, we had beef cattle when I was young and then we got more into horses and horse hay business, so I baled and stacked a lot of hay growing up and mom and dad still live there. Dad has just turned 77 and that was his final year of farming, so now he is sort of leasing it to the farmer next door and thinking about what he is going to do on his retirement. From there, I went to Purdue, like I mentioned, and I ended up getting a computer science degree, and when I graduated I moved from there to Silicon Valley, California. So, I had a variety of interacting roles.

Dave Kruse: Why did you move to Silicon Valley? Did you just get a job right out of school?

Mark Young: Well, yeah, I had a job right out of school, you know, the people asked me how I went from, you know, growing up in the country to being interested in computers, you know, when you grow up on a farm, you are kind of at the middle of nowhere and there is not a whole lot to do. We had one television set downstairs and so when I was going into high school my parents bought me a computer and so once the sun goes down and chores were done, that was it, I was on a computer for a lot of my time throughout high school and so I just really enjoyed it and decided that’s what I wanted to do. I probably ended up going to school for computer science and then when I got my degree it was mid to late 90s and, you know, we are going through the dot com era, brand new companies, like Netscape was brand new, Yahoo was brand new, so Silicon Valley was really the place to be in terms of opportunity and new companies and things like that, so I left Lafayette, Indiana and had a job waiting for me here in California and then drove out on a Friday and started working on Monday, and I have been here for the better part of 20 years now.

Dave Kruse: So, you have had a lot of experience, so this whole podcast could just be on background, so I am curious to talk more about the Climate Corporation too, but maybe just give a brief overview on, you know, kind of your first job and some of the other jobs, but also, you know, your last role as a founder of HipLogic and CTO Mobile at Zynga, and it would be interesting to hear a little bit about those, just kind of what you…

Mark Young: I worked with some interesting companies here over the course of my career, roughly got started at Sun Microsystems back in the day and that was a 40,000 employee company, global company, you know, right in the heart of dot com. Did a lot of enterprise software early in my career there and then around 2000 I moved into the JavaSoft division within Sun and started my career in Mobile and that’s where we did the first downloadable games on mobile handsets. So, I did that for about 5 years within Mobile and in 2005 I left and actually started a startup here in Silicon Valley, so it was completely venture backed, you know, so almost from 40,000 people to one person and then built that up over the next 6 years, and that was an interesting time because that was before the iPhone and before Android, and we had a very similar technology to what Android eventually became, lot of work all over the world there, I was going to London a lot, Tokyo a lot, and Germany, and eventually that company was acquired into Zynga, so Zynga was an interesting point, it was about 3000 employees, pre-IPO, and obviously their main product was gaming. I hadn’t really done too much in gaming before, but I had a really strong mobile background at that point in 2011, I have been in Mobile for over 10 years. So, I was helping them build up their mobile expertise, their mobile teams, to make it better at mobile games, and I stayed there for about 3 years.

Dave Kruse: Why did Zynga acquire HipLogic and were you traveling around talking to telecom companies or who were kind of your clients for HipLogic?

Mark Young: Yeah, at HipLogic we did a lot of work with AT&T as they were building out their 3G network. They needed examples and example content. We built Facebook for Nokia devices. We did a lot of work with Nokia. We built Twitter for Nokia devices, then we did, you know, we had a lot of work with content developers, so we worked with CBS to build CBS Sports and CBS pitch by pitch baseball, Universal Music Group, lot of work in the UK to distribute around Europe through the quantum warehouse and then we did various news, sports, entertainment applications, you name it we did a lot of content, so I think that kind of experience building mobile content and shipping it all over the world is what Zynga really needed. They needed someone to come in and really bring that expertise in-house to help them ramp up their teams and make some really good mobile phones, so that was the reason behind why Zynga acquired HipLogic, and it had a lot to do with my role there, so rather than being dedicated to any one product at Zynga, based on my title with CTO Mobile Technology, and what that meant was I floated across all of the implementation teams, so I helped all of those teams sort of divide their strategy for taking their app to mobile, what types of things they should look at from an experience perspective and usability perspective, and then from things that really think about on the technical side that typically hang engineers up who are new to mobile. After that, I ended up going to Yahoo for a little while and Yahoo I changed my role up a little bit. I went in as a director in charge of mobile product experience of all Yahoo’s mobile products and this was basically again applying my expertise of having done all that content to try and help Yahoo make better mobile applications, this time on the product side and and then pretty quickly ended up on the business operations team to help them understand where to start to invest in new titles and where the growth would come from in coming years and what not. While I was there at Yahoo, I got a call from a friend of mine who is working at the Climate Corporation at the time and she said they were looking for either an architect or a CTO, they did not really quite know what they needed, but they knew they needed something and I said I would be happy to talk to them and help them understand kind of what their requirements were and help them sort of understand what they were looking for, even if I wasn’t necessarily the right person for that job, and that was sort of in the end of 2014, I have been there a year now, so I started in March of 2015. So yeah, that was the end of 2014, so that was around October or November, we started having conversations and then it turned into an opportunity that I could not really pass up. It was the combination of my agriculture background going up will all the technology experience that I had in Silicon Valley over the years and then bringing those few things together, so I couldn’t really pass that up and I started on March 2015, that was just a little over a year now into my role there at the Climate Corporation.

Dave Kruse: Nice and with all your past experiences were there certain experiences that you think really helped your career or really changed your perspective on technology or anything that and I am sure starting a company like HipLogic, you got to know the tech and business side a lot, which is sometimes unusual for the tech folks. Yeah, is there anything that really sticks out kind of in your career that helped you?

Mark Young: Yeah, I think it’s interesting. I think a couple of things have really come into factor with my new role. Early in my career at Sun, we were focused on enterprise software and because we are working on the side of operating system and what makes an enterprise is IT shops generally change or upgrade their operating systems every other year and so their budgets tend to be counter based, so in January, they tend to make all their software approaches for the year and that tends to run in operating systems every other year, so generally they won’t upgrade their entire fleet except for every other year and so that was interesting because now that I am into agriculture and you look at the way growers make the decisions about their operations it is very seasonal, so they make a lot of their decisions in the fall about what they are going to do the following year and once those decisions are set they are locked in and they don’t change until the following season, so it’s interesting to sort of go through the evolution and tech where we went from this type of old school enterprise, you know, calendarized process to what we see more today on the mobile side as a very continuous process where apps come out all the time and we upgrade all the time, etc., but in agriculture it is sort of more old school, that was an interesting one, and then as I worked in mobile, you know, back in 2000, when I started those, there was no such thing as a downloadable app for the most part to your cell phone right, that did not exist, and as we built out that technology we were able to see sort of early adopters who would, you know, embrace the technology and spend the money for the latest and greatest cell phones and we had folks that would buy new cell phones every 6 months just to get the faster processors and to be able to play games better and things like that. There is a sort of what I call cutting edge adopters and then over the years as the technology matured, you know, you move from cutting edge adopters to mass market adopters and then eventually come out the other side to the long tail, these are people like your parents and your grandparents who now have iPhones or what not and they have Facebook on their iPhones and things like that becomes just sort of an ubiquitous part of people lives and we are starting to see that in agriculture now as well with this kind of technology adoption, so we have got, we are kind of in the early adaptor phase, right now I would say, you know, early adopters are looking to digital and to high technology products to help them drive their operation and the more they become sort of common place to those early adopters we see them start to get picked up by the mass market consumers and eventually we will get to the long tail to the point where the stuff is pretty much ubiquitous across, you know, everyone’s farming enterprise, so there has been some interesting parallels during my career that are playing out with my role.

Dave Kruse: I am curious about analytics, so Climate Corporation provides analytics insights, and so I am sure obviously at Zynga and Yahoo you are dealing quite well, I know you weren’t head of analytics, but in your role you probably saw analytics quite a bit, do you think that helped you and do you think like those areas were headers in terms of analytics as where like the Climate Corporation was, did that help you kind of get in and groom you I guess at the time of corporation role?

Mark Young: Yeah, I would say, you know, when I joined Zynga in 2011, you know, Zynga at the time was sort of writing the book on how to drive, you know, business efficacy using data analytics and they were doing them a couple of different ways, one is, you know, using analytics in every aspect of the operation, but also just the sheer volume of data which was coming into the company and the way that they were using it and at Zynga we were using analytics on a 24-hour basis to tune variables across the business and improve outcomes, you know, day by day, that’s how advanced the application was. Interestingly, when I went to Yahoo, I was working to introduce Yahoo to that load of operation. Yahoo is still very traditional and that it is sort of very month oriented, so sort of a monthly aggregated analytics, we would see how you performed at the end of the month and we would make tweaks or adjustments for the next month, but that is, you know, legacy thinking, it’s legacy behavior in tech and Yahoo was sort of coming at that because that’s the way they have done it traditionally in the web space, that’s how we always did it. In today’s mobile and consumer space we were able to actually do that in near real time, I think near real time because analytics are generally 5 to 10 minutes behind what’s happening as the data comes in and works its way through the pipeline, and so now with Climate Corporation, you know, you think about what affects farming, you know, the number one thing is the weather, the weather happens constantly, it is constantly changing, it happens every day, weather events happen every day, and those models are tuning in real time and so the data that we get is very real time and so we need to create those analytics in fact at least daily, you know, if not in real time because, you know, our farmers operations are happening in real time. Getting an insight at the end of the month, you know, you’re getting low on your fertilization program, is not that helpful, doing it the next day as you start to go into a deficit, that’s what useful right.

Dave Kruse: Interesting, can you provide just a brief overview on what Climate Corporation is? We have skirted around it but just so folks know what you guys do.

Mark Young: Sure. So, in a nutshell, Climate is a data analytics company and what we are doing is we are bringing data analytics to agriculture. You know, there are a lot of terms we talk about, we talk about precision agriculture and a space digital agriculture, what do these things mean. You know, precision agriculture is really the ability to precisely perform some action in the field right, precisely plant a seed, precisely close the furrow, precisely apply fertilization, or seed treatment, you know, that sort of thing as well as to measure, you know, what’s going on. We look at precision planning equipment, you know, we are controlling down force of each individual row, we are GPS controlling each individual clutch on those rows, and the digital is the flipside to that. So, visually, what we want to do is, we want to record all those parameters for each one of those seeds that we stick in the ground, that’s the ideal way. The idea is to be able to monitor and understand every single seed that we plant on that field and then what we do from there is we monitor all the rest of the variables, so we want to understand soil type, we want to understand the PH, conductivity, all those aspects that go into the soil, then we want to understand hydrology, we want to understand how well this will drain, if it’s tiled or not, we want to understand meteorology, so we can better understand how it might drain or pond or things like that. We also want to understand your practice, so you know what is your farming practice, are you applying manure in the fall or not. We want to understand what your general fertility programs are. Are you doing, you know, everything in the fall or are you doing a spring application or are you going back and doing a side dress, you know, what are your programs around your fertility, and of course we have all the data around the weather, so we have 3D Doppler radar and in many instances we have got a lot of in-field scientific instruments that are reporting data to us that we ingest and we take all of that data into a system and then we start to build models and the models start to predict what is going on at a very localized level inside that field, which helps us to start to understand, you know, what that plant needs, what stage it is at, if it is going through stressors, if it needs more fertilization, if it needs other micronutrients, if it is getting too much water, not enough water, what kind of heat units are going into that plant to start to affect the phenology, all of these things to basically get us to help us understand yield better and what the results of that, you know, all those inputs and decisions are in terms of having a better crop and that could be everything from different seed selections next fall when making your seed orders to different fertility practices, different tillage practices, all these sorts of things, but at the end of the day we are a data company and we are modeling what happens in agriculture and data to give us better insights about some different decisions and practices to make on the phone.

Dave Kruse: That’s a very good explanation, thank you, and how do you get a lot of that data, like the moisture levels, you know, the weather of course that’s available, but maybe not even on the local level you are talking about. Where do you get your data sources from?

Mark Young: The short answer is everywhere we can. The long answer is a little bit more complicated, so we have a variety of sources of weather data, for example, so we don’t get just one source of weather data, we got multiple companies that provide weather data, even all the way down to, you know, sort of home hobbyist backyard weather stations that are, you know, reporting data and then of course we have growers with connective weather stations as well in their fields. Then, we did a lot of ground truthing ourselves, so we have got about 3500 of just internal test acres at Climate and then another 25,000 acres as part of our test networks, so we have partners as part of our test network that have enhanced instruments on their fields that help us ground truth a lot of the data and the sensor data we collect and make sure that our models are accurate. As far as weather, we also do a lot of satellite imaging, so we have multiple satellite vendors, which provide multiple different resolutions of satellite imagery, and again we are doing a lot ground truthing to see what we can, you know, be able to reliably tell from satellite imaging, and then, we get to, you know, soil test results. Soil tests come back in a variety of ways, you can have something as old school as, you know, your agronomy intern going out to your field, pulling soil samples and send them off to the lab in bags, all the way to something like Varus, which is sort of a hi-tech machine, you can pull behind and cover the entire fields and get sort of a map of your soil right there in the field digitally and some other things that we are working on is sensors, so in the field to be able to understand what’s going on with the soil, so it happens a lot of different ways, we can even use satellite imagery to detect ponding for example, and to understand kind of what the soil hydrology is doing at any one time, so there are a lot of different ways we acquire data and a lot of different ways that we sort of ground truth and tweeze out that data as well.

Dave Kruse: Interesting, and so, if, you know, with all those data you show a farmer like hey these plants right here they are low on water, do you get down to that plant level, or you more by acre, and then does the farmer actually go and water those plants or what does the farmer do with the data, I mean, of course it depends upon what insights you are actually providing, but yeah….

Mark Young: Yeah, so, water is an interesting one, because, you know, right now we are focused really in the Cornville and most of that is not under irrigation; however, the guys that are under irrigation obviously they have the option right, if there is not enough water they can actually irrigate and turn the irrigation on. We have a road map of products that we are developing under irrigation that would actually include, you know, soil moisture sensors. When they are not under irrigation we can do a lot with satellite imageries. So, we can sort of detect crop stress and things through satellite imagery, now that may or may not be something that you can do, a lot of it has to do with fertility, so if we detect a lack in fertility, you can actually go out and do a side dress, you know, as part of your fertility program. If it is dry and you are not under irrigation, you are just sort of at the will of mother nature there, but some of the things that we do is, you know, if we think that it is going to be an overly dry summer for example, you may want to choose a more drought resistant seed harvest, so there are some things you can do holistically as part of your agriculture program to sort of mitigate some of the risk across some of these factors.

Dave Kruse: Gotcha, and on a side note you guys don’t do any weather insurance anymore right?

Mark Young: We are essentially divesting, you know, the company has gone through a couple of changes and we have divested the insurance business and we are also in the middle of divesting our precision hardware business as well with Deere and basically the point of that is to really get down to the data analytics part of the business and really allow us to focus on just that piece.

Dave Kruse: What was the precision hardware piece?

Mark Young: That was on the precision planning company that Climate acquired several years ago, so this is a joint partnership with Deere and it has been announced, it is out there and Deere is going to get the hardware piece of that business and we are keeping the software and the insights to software, it also gives us great connectivity in John Deere Cabs with a WBS product itself.

Dave Kruse: So, let’s talk a little bit more of the technology side of things, so you know talking data and you know you provide some really useful insights that occur on an acre or plant basis, so from an architecture standpoint, how do you set all this up and put all of this data in. I mean, do you model it around like an acre basis or plant basis, and what tools do you use to do that, I mean, whatever is confidential you can leave out of course, but just curious how you set it up.

Mark Young: Yeah sure. Yeah, so a little bit of it depends on the data source, so for example, satellite data comes in, we have got multi-spatial satellite imagery that comes in from different vendors at different resolution types and one of the features we are rolling out for this year is a new, well I call it as sort of a high fidelity resolution, so it used to be that we had two different resolutions from our satellite providers and it was very noticeable if we got an image that was higher resolution versus lower resolution. What we then do, we have a pipeline setup to blend those, essentially with some complex mathematical models that allows us to get a high fidelity derived image that is a combination of both of those providers, and so what we are able to do then is give you great fidelity imagery throughout the season independent of vendor, so that’s kind of a semi-complex pipeline there, we have got data sets that are coming in from different vendors, then they are combined mathematically to produce a derived data set that ends up being the ultimate product that is available to our customers. Other things, things like planting, planting data comes right off the equipment and flows up to our cloud and then we have to do some cleaning on that data, because those data sets tend to be fairly noisy, fairly dirty coming off the equipment, so we need to clean that to make sure it applies properly to the field down there and things like that, the other one is yield data, so yield data coming off the harvesters also have to be cleaned. It is interesting what the data looks like coming off of some of these equipment, so you might be in the same field, but the equipment may actually record sort of awkward passes, you know, like one pass around might be one file and then another file might be a few more passes in the middle and so what we then have to do is take all of those files and produce a single yield map for the entire field, so there is a fair amount of processing that has to happen to clean that data up and make it useful, and that’s a lot of what we bring to the table right, guys have been saving their planting maps and yield maps on thumb drives and on their hard drives for a bunch of years and really they don’t really know what to do with them, because that hasn’t been good tools to really help growers visualize their data sets, that’s one of the things that Climate is really focusing on is taking that data and making it very easy to use by the grower directly, so they can upload their data sets to us, we will run in through some algorithms to clean them up, to combine them, and then start to create some easy to consume maps and visualizations of that data.

Dave Kruse: That’s nice, those have the immediate value and feedback you are giving to the farmers, interesting, what does it take for a farmer to get set up with the Climate Corporation? Like, do you guys go out there and look at the farm and doing measurements, I am guessing not, because you probably get a lot of it from the satellite, but, you know, what does it take to get setup?

Mark Young: There are a couple of different ways to get started with Climate’s products, you know, our Climate field view product is downloadable from the app store, anyone can go and download it onto your iPad or your iPhone or your Android phone and get started, you know, to create an account for your try out, get used to some of the features and things, or if you want to start to get data off your hardware we have a product called the 640 Drive or the FieldView Drive product that was a part of our 640 Labs acquisition a year or so ago, and what the drive is, it is a small sort of hockey puck shaped device and it plugs right in the can-box of your equipment and it will stream the data that is coming off your equipment right onto your iPad and then right up to the Cloud. That is available as a single purchase package and it comes with sort of a mounting adapter to mount the iPad in you cab and it a great way to go from sort of, you know, saving your data file on thumb drives to all of a sudden being Cloud connected and starting to get in-cab visualizations and as part of that you get our FieldView Cab product and what FieldView Cab does is it visualizes that data that is coming of your hardware in real time on the iPad in your cab, so you can actually see the data as you are planting or as you are harvesting and you can start to overlay that, for example, if your are harvesting, you can overlay those maps in real time what you have planted, you will have planted maps, and you could start to see sort of hybrid performance and things like that in the cab in real time, so that’s an interesting thing, that’s part of our FieldView Plus bundle and then in our FieldView Pro that’s a sort of all-in feature set, this is what gives you, you know, advanced insights from satellite imagery, it also gives you your advanced insights about your fertility programming, your nitrogen management practices and some of the new features we are rolling out there is, you know, last year we rolled out nitrogen management for your field and what’s coming soon is nitrogen management down into your subfield in the zone level, so we are starting to get from the whole field level down to zone management. Zones could be based on landing, it could be based on your soil maps for example or it could be based on yield maps from prior seasons or any number of things. Then in data, we are actually trying out some script creation utility helping folks to design some planning prescriptions around the same types of zones where it could be your soil maps, your harvest maps, or past data, etc,, things like that, it is a sort of free tiers to the product set today, but anyone can download it and get started for free and start to try out those features, and starting in 2017 what we are going to be doing is anyone is going to be able to trial all those features and what we are talking about doing now is maybe on a 2 field limit, so someone who is in high in features, but you can try out all the features that we have for absolutely free.

Dave Kruse: Wow! Okay. We only have about 5 minutes and I have a few questions, so we will run through these fast, do you guys have an API at all, can other people build on top of your data?

Mark Young: We do. Interestingly, that is one of the things that I am working on now, it is actually to take that API and open it up as part of our infrastructure. Today, it only exists as a private mechanism with some of our partners, but check back with us soon because that is an area we are investing quite a bit in.

Dave Kruse: That would be exciting, you almost create a farming app store, that is kind of your specialty. Yeah, interesting, okay. Now, I see one more reason why the Climate Corporation hired you. Well, for many reasons, but that’s just another one.

Mark Young: Yeah, it’s been a good fit.

Dave Kruse: Yeah. I bet. What are you looking for in terms of two things, one is skill sets, what type of skill sets you are always looking for or what type of technology do you wish are out there, you know, that you could either partner with or buy, if you had your dream list?

Mark Young: So, in terms of skill sets, we are always looking for mobile developers, it does not seem like we can ever hire enough. We are also always looking for data analysts who would be able to handle this data, take a look at it, analyze it, produce some things from it, things like that, and then additionally some areas where we are really investing a lot is in the sort of sensor and imbedded hardware space, so, you know, the sensors that are helping us to ground truth all that data, the embedded hardware space as we build up the drive to build out additional hardware compatibility, you know, we are testing air seeders now, an additional brand to combines and so we look on going international as well, which introduces new hardware compatibility, matrices, kind of those 3 areas I would say, you know, mobile and engineering data and then sensor integration and imbedded systems integration.

Dave Kruse: Gotcha. Okay, this is the last question, as a CTO can you give the audience kind of an idea of kind of your overall duties and priorities, of course, you are head of the technology, but what does that mean kind of on a day to day or week to week basis, what do you focus on?

Mark Young: Yeah, sure, it is interesting, because people look at reading a lot of things at different companies, by my role at Climate is largely two things, one is to really get out in front of the architecture, the technical architecture of the company, so that the investments that we are making today have benefit to us over the next several years right. As a start up you tend to build things faster and furious today. They are not always the right things and then if you have to throw it away the next year as you get more funding and rebuild it, that’s fine, but when you start to become an established company in a real business, the investment side you make in technology and engineering you want them to pay off over multiple years, that’s part of sort of what my day to day job is, and as a secondary part of that is to get way out in front, so for example, at the end of this week I will be in Indiana at the agBOT Challenge and that’s a robotics completion basically to plant corn using autonomous vehicles, so that’s sort of the other half, it is a very forward looking part of my job in terms of what are the new technologies that are going to be in 5 years from now, 10 years from now, and what should the company be, who should the company be partnering with, what should we be investing in, and you mentioned the API as a service, that’s another one that I am spending a lot of time on to really understand how we can grow our business, what the overall business should look like, and the types of partners and things that we should be setting up, so that’s kind of my job in a nutshell. There is a fair amount too and I am pretty busy.

Dave Kruse: I bet. Okay, now this is the last one, as far as payback, are farmers looking at a certain payback on, you know, working with you guys, that must be hard sometimes to figure out an exact ROI because you provide lots of helpful insights.

Mark Young: Yeah. It’s a good point because we are in the decision business and it is hard to say what would have happened had you made a different decision, but I can give you an example of what our, you know, farmers are great scientists, you know, and what we see is, you know, if we make a suggestion in the product, what farmers will do is they will leave test strips or they will do side by side comparisons and things and compare our suggestions or insights against either the way they have traditionally done it or whatever the alternative decision might have been, and so they are proving it, you know, even on their own farms to understand kind of what the benefit is of the product and what that is worth and it’s a early days, you know, this whole digital agriculture space is new, I would say 2015 was kind of our first really valuable product that helped quite a few folks, we had such a wet spring in the Midwest last year that the fertility advisor and our product really helped quite a few guys understand that they needed an additional side dress and we had one customer, for example, after he ran the number he had a net bump of another $225,000 in one particular field where he actually used the tool, modeled his nitrogen, and the tool was predicting a short fall at the end of the season and he went in and then he did an additional side dress and what he did was he left a check strip and his check strip after 2 weeks already turned yellow with nitrogen distress, so he was a happy camper, you know, that’s kind of one of the testimonials that we used to, you know, build confidence in the product and show what it can do, and that is just one decision, you know, now we are getting into, you know, hybrid selection and seeding prescriptions and how that results in yield benefit, you know, we have got research going into pest and disease control where we can start to detect pest pressure and things like that via satellite imagery, so, you know, we are just scratching the surface here, but, you know, we pride ourselves in working with our customers and really helping them to get benefit. This is not just, you know, pay because it is nice to use, this is a scenario where we are generating real value, real increased additional value for the grower and, you know, our models just to capture the science of that.

Dave Kruse: Interesting, and as you grow and more farmers use it I imagine it becomes more valuable to the farmer, but also like the network, you know, learning between farms and areas.

Mark Young: That’s right, the more data we have, the better our models get, so, you know, the same goes for people with their historical data as well as more people we get on the platform with different seed types, different soil types, different fertility programs and things, we just have more and more data sets, it becomes just a big experimentation where you are running all kinds of experiments in real time and you could see all the data as a result, so it gets more and more valuable the more people use it, so, you know, it is early days, but I think probably in 5 years we are going to look around and I think probably most people are going to be using some sort of digital agriculture product to help them make the decisions and in 10 years, you know, it’s probably going to be hard to guess, I would not be surprised if we have robots out, you know, doing a lot of fertility management, pest and disease management, and everything is going to be controlled digitally, so it is neat times for agriculture.

Dave Kruse: Interesting. Well as I promised the second time that was my last question, so this has been great, and I think the Climate Corporation is pretty lucky finding you, grew up on a farm and with all your technology background that’s a rare find I am guessing, it was really interesting hearing about what you have done, so definitely appreciate it.

Mark Young: Yeah, it’s fun, it’s fun for me too, you know, it’s great to be able to apply technology to something as meaningful as agriculture.

Dave Kruse: Finally your dad is like, well finally I can talk to you about something.

Mark Young: My dad loves talking to me about my job now. It’s a lot of fun for that too.

Dave Kruse: That is going to be his new job, just advisor to Mark.

Mark Young: Yeah.

Dave Kruse: Anyway, I definitely appreciate it, I appreciate your time and thank you everyone for listening to another episode of Flyover Labs, and we will see you next time. Thanks Mark.

Mark Young: Alright, thank you.