CTO Perspectives: Feedback, Focus and the Future
In a recent conversation with a legend in agtech investing and leadership, we reviewed our vision for FarmQA. He offered us the following feedback near the end of the conversation:
You have three things which are exceptional:
- Your location in Fargo—the blossoming entrepreneurial ecosystem it is becoming and the access to technical talent you have in the region.
- Your engineering team is arguably one of the most experienced I have ever seen.
- Your founders have probably forgotten more about agriculture than most of us will learn in our entire careers.
This of course also came with a sage warning, “You are a startup, you have to maintain focus!”
Building on this, I’d like to talk about FarmQA’s journey to date and our vision for the future. I’ll be authoring a set of articles that describe our core values, how we are different than most in this space and what we plan to accomplish. I also have a few asks near the end of this article which I’d kindly ask you to consider.
Feedback is a Gift
Given the experiences of many on our team, FarmQA focused from the beginning on building a solution that is highly scalable, secure, reliable and has great usability. A large percentage of our team learned the importance of these traits early in our software careers at Great Plains Software / Microsoft. We were also taught that in order to build great products, you must interact with your customers as often and as frequently as possible. The importance of rigorous testing of our products, listening to our customers and providing great usability were woven into the culture of the company from day one.
In the early days of FarmQA we spent our time building the foundational aspects of our solution. We knew we needed strong footings to build upon or we would be getting alerts at the most inopportune times of our own lives that our system wasn’t responsive or scaling to meet demand. We also needed to spend some quality time digging deeper into agronomy to understand the current pain points.
Focus, Focus, Focus
As we drank from the firehouse of agronomy, we arrived on two key team directives:
- We need to engage in conversations with as many people as we can find—focusing our conversations on the important data, the different processes used to get work done and how we can add value.
- As software engineers, we tend to want to build things, but as a startup, we have limited budgets. We discussed the fact that we can’t build everything and we needed to better avoid distractions, maintain our focus and partner with other companies where it makes sense.
Focus and Diversity? Yes!
We built relationships with agronomists and growers in our region that supported commodity crops like corn, wheat, soybeans and sugar beets and we studied how they work to the point of being annoying. What surprised us is that agronomists who were supporting specialty crops also found us and liked what we were building. We found ourselves learning volumes about supporting fruits and vegetables, wine and table grapes, citrus, cotton, hops, hemp, etc.
These days our crop lists are exceptionally diverse and this is all attributed to our early adopters who gave us a shot and provided us feedback. They shared with us how they were using our crop scouting tools and most importantly what we could do to make them better. We owe a lot to these folks and want to formally thank them for their patience, feedback and continued loyalty.
Change as the "New Normal"
From a higher-level perspective, change is all around us today and, no surprise change has impacted our team. We made the transition to working remotely rather effortlessly given our cloud-based approach to support and engineering, but we were concerned we would lose some of our connectivity to our customers. In reality the opposite proved true—we embraced Microsoft Teams internally and externally and we maintained collaboration with our customers – but more customer feedback is always welcome.
Your Input Always Welcome and Needed
One of the feature requests we heard from a large percentage of you was the need to capture agronomist recommendations. In our recent quarterly newsletter is an opportunity for you to provide us feedback on how you’d like these features to work. To insure we deliver the functionality our customers need, I’d encourage you to provide your input. Just send a note to email@example.com with your ideas.
We also hear from our customers on the wide variety of ‘other tools’ they use to get their work done. As we look ahead, we are building a list of these tools and tracking how many of our customers use each. Some of these are regional, some are global, some are process related and some are impressively cool new technologies. Our ask is if you have an idea on how we can integrate these products into ours, don’t hesitate to let us know.
I’ll end this installment here but in the next article I’ll dive deeper on our larger vision and how it affects our product roadmap. As always, if you haven’t tried our solutions we encourage you to give us a chance to impress you and most importantly if you have feedback, please don’t hesitate to let us hear it—we pride ourselves at how fast we implement customer feature requests.