Saturday, October 24, 2015

C-Sweet to C-Suite

My family and I have been truly Blessed with a crazy life! For over 20 years there have been ups and downs like most families have. In those 20 years we've had two great sons Dillon & Logan, lived and worked on a farm, and Rhonda surviving breast cancer. Crazily Blessed!

However, nothing is as crazy as UAVs to UAS to Drones!

Looking back, the journey actually started in the mid 1990's when I went back to the U of I to finish my degree at the nagging of Rhonda and it involves technology. Windows 95 came out and the best thing learned at college was the use of computers along with Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint.

I remember thinking, why in the heck do I need email? At that time I believed in face to face, telephone, and then letter in that order for communication. It's definitely not like that any is definitely the leader. OK, possibly FaceBook.

Also, John Deere came out with their precision ag equipment and software called GreenStar. I bought a John Deere book on precision agriculture that showed an AgLeader yield monitor in the combine cab. This was truly the early days of precision agriculture. And dad said no to GreenStar..."Why would anyone want that junk?"

Not long after, dad made the courageous decision to buy "bag phones" through our local co-op. This was for mom and Rhonda to have security in case something happened. However, they were commandeered by dad and I one spring and I couldn't keep him off of it when we were driving tractor. Today, I'm not separated much from my iPhone.

Dad passed away in 2001 leaving a big hole in my heart and in our family. However, being Crazily Blessed it provided the opportunity to grow as a person. Prior to his passing I became a board member of the Idaho Grain Producers Association which opened a door to a much bigger world.

Starting in 2003 I began the journey down the road of precision agriculture. I am now reminded of my age when I talk to younger people at events or giving presentations when I describe this time in my life. They don't know what a PDA is. They are more likely to know what an LP is versus a Personal Data Assistant...the precursor to smart phones.

Yield monitors, auto-boom, and auto-steering followed. Direct support to make systems talk with each other was iffy at best. I learned what a "Dongle" is and it's not what you think. Cell phones and tech support became my friends. And in 2004 I flew in a small plane over my farm for the first time realizing images were the missing part for precision agriculture. I didn't know it at the time but this was called "remote sensing."

And then I saw an advertisement in an agriculture magazine in 2006. Looking back it's both scary and exciting how that advertisement changed my life and my family's life forever. Crazily Blessed and I still have the magazine.
Dillon(L) & Logan(R) in 2007

The ad was for a UAV; Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.

I purchased a unit and went to training. 2006 was also the start of being an exhibitor at trade shows. I went to two that fall and more the following spring. It was also the start of speaking around the country. Who would have thought that a single advertisement could change the life of a person and their family.

Being gone from my family was bad enough, but what was worse was learning that you don't know what you don't know. I had to learn about aviation, cameras, remote sensing, FAA regulations, and more. I was on the bleeding edge of not only a new agriculture industry, but a new industry period.

Nine of the 2011 U.S. Eisenhower Fellows at our "graduation"
Because of that one advertisement propelling me into the world of UAVs which changed to UAS in 2008 I was able to expand my world...literally.

My work and advocacy of this new technology through 2010 helped me to be and Eisenhower Agriculture Fellow, a McCloy Agriculture Fellow, and be part of the Nuffield Scholars International. The friendships, connections, and knowledge gained from these outstanding organizations and the people in them helped change our family tree.

Because of these great organizations, my family and I have had the opportunity to host people from around the world. Dillon and Logan have been able to talk to farmers and people from other countries. While the countries might be different the people, especially farmers, have very similar experiences and stories. Also, these people are excelling at the highest levels of their profession whether its in agriculture, sports medicine, or being a district attorney.

During one of the first of many conversations with Eisenhower Fellowships' agriculture mentor, Jim Moseley, I remember his words of wisdom to this day. The impact of that didn't hit home until after my fellowship travels; especially today. He said "Robert, you have just walked through a door that you can never walk through again." That door led to a bigger world of people, thoughts, and ideas. I cannot say thank you enough Jim for your wisdom, encouragement, and nudging.
Rhett Proctor & I at New Zealand House in London

Besides my family joining in on several experiences and following my travels via FaceBook, emails, and Facetime, I had some PIC's in the journey.

Rhett Proctor is my main accomplice. Rhett and I broke new ground by being the first multiple agriculture Eisenhower Fellows in one year and the first to attend the Nuffield Scholars annual gathering...The Contemporary Scholars Conference.

Rhett made a leap of faith before I did. His family got out of their nationally renowned and championship dairy business. Rhett was transitioning from the farm to a life of being a veterinarian. I have followed his journey closely and we have talked when we can over the years since our EF travel days. I didn't realize it at the time, but his journey helped to lay the foundation for mine.

Bryan Granshaw on my farm
Another friend, Bryan Granshaw of Australia, Nuffield Scholar, and sugar cane farmer was another inspiration. We met in the Netherlands at the Nuffield Scholars CSC. Bryan also took the time on his journey of discovery to visit my farm in 2013.

This year he had the courage to start a new career. Bryan is a "Soil Information Systems" products specialist at BMS Lasersat.

Bryan and I have not had the chance to talk so I can ask him "Why did you want to chase your crazy dream based upon your travels, experiences, and knowledge of soils to leave the farm for another job?" I'll make sure Bryan is unarmed when I ask. Good on ya mate for that courage!

Which leads me to today's long coming blog post and better explanation of the title.

I am leaving my C-Sweet job of farming and replacing it with a C-Suite job of drones. I've sort of given up using the terms UAV & UAS.

If you have read this far you followed my recap of my UAV journey; how it actually started when I went back to finish my degree, the drooling over GreenStar and a simple (and it was really small) advertisement. But what really kicked off my actual drone journey is a picture in the Spokesman Review in 2007 at the Spokane Ag Show.

It's hard to believe I have been chasing this dream for almost 10 years. There have been family moments lost but national and global friends and knowledge gained. I am putting aside the security blanket of the farm for a new challenge and adventure of running the agriculture division (vertical) of a national drone service startup.

My conversations with Rhonda, the boys, and my mom were nothing but supportive. A selfish reason for taking this job is to hopefully carry out my dream of creating a commercial UAV/UAS/Drone industry in the U.S. and agriculture. I also hope that my new position will help ensure that agriculture is served well, both as an enterprise and in rules.

I'm not much into titles except for one...Farmer! I believe that is the most powerful title throughout the world. However, my new business title is VP of Agriculture for Measure Drones as a Service.

This Friday capped off my second week on the job. I've been drinking from a fire hose trying to learn the company, the people, and what has been taking place prior to me joining. I'm Crazily Blessed that the fire hose is leaving my cup not just half full but overflowing with opportunity.  I am extremely excited.

I have much to learn and much to do before the 2016 crop season. I have prior obligations that need closing. I have been Crazily Blessed with a great support network of family, friends, and mentors. And I get to work from my C-Sweet office for my C-Suite job. The best of all worlds.