Episode 15: Renee Vassilos on lessons from the midwest

Renée Vassilos is an Ag Economist (and AgThentic Collaborator), who started her own consultancy to help growth-stage agribusinesses and bring profitability back to the farm. Last month, Renee and I set out on a ten day, whirlwind trip through the midwest of the U.S. Across Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas we spoke with over 60 farmers, agronomists, extension agents, researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, co-ops, seed companies, equipment dealerships, and consultants all working at the intersection of ag and agtech. We weren’t sure what we’d find, but everyone was incredibly generous, and we learned a ton. In this podcast, we recap some of our insights, including:

  • Selling a product or asking for a Letter of Intent (LOI) are two of many pathways for engagement between agtech startups/entrepreneurs and ag industry players
  • Industry players pay attention to the business models, investors, and capital raises of high-profile agtech startups, in addition to the pricing, value proposition, and features of their products
  • Previously trusted models of advice and services, such as extension, cooperatives, and magazines, are under pressure to stay relevant and retain trust in a world with Amazon and social media
  • The oft-cited “average age of farmers is pushing 60” statistic is missing key nuances, and this additional context has massive implications for the future of agriculture, agtech, and rural communities
  • Farm economics are driving a desire and need for diversification despite the extreme path dependence for corn and soybeans. Farmers, retailers, and distributors are looking for ways to grow their businesses and continue to add value to customers and their bottom-lines.
  • The rural/urban divide is not just on the coasts, but plagues the midwest as well

In addition to this podcast, over the coming weeks Renee and I will be summarizing and sharing our takeaways in a series of posts on LinkedIn. 

We hope you find it as valuable as we have to dig into tough questions with the people and businesses at the intersection of ag and agtech. We’d love to hear your thoughts as we continue to unpack and share ours.