Where you see a small, dried seed, Kaitlin Ward sees a challenge. As a grain analytics associate at Indigo since July of 2018, Kaitlin has been immersed in understanding those rich foods smaller than a fingernail: their path to maturity, the specific qualities that live behind the seed, and especially how growers can sell them at a greater profit.
When specific attributes of a crop are fully cataloged and understood – laid bare to the buyer – grain can be sold for quality over quantity. When grain is paid for at higher rates based on its protein, moisture, and fiber content, a speciality market thrives where a commodity market used to exist. This is part of the vision Indigo has for the future of agriculture; this is the goal of Kaitlin’s works towards every day, immersing herself in the literature and real-world applications of the entire grain analytics market.
Part of the challenge is making quality capture for growers more straightforward and accurate. Instead of sending off samples to a third-party lab, for example, the power to measure grain quality in the field is a promising time saver. Over the past year, Kaitlin has been responsible for digging in for the in-field product and program that could help test grain at scale, without putting too much of a burden on the growers’ wallet. “Farmers need data on a daily basis,” she said. “With our grain analytic tools, Indigo is able to provide them this information.”
Before joining Indigo, Kaitlin worked at Bayer, analyzing a popular fiber – cotton. But the transition to thinking about analytics for the four grains within Indigo’s current crop portfolio – wheat, corn, soybeans, and rice – has been fitting working, offering a sense of exploration and adventure Kaitlin valued in past roles.
Previous to Bayer, Kaitlin was a consulting utility forester, scoping the paths of power lines across Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. Over hills and mountains, down in ditches and rivers, Kaitlin would set out for long hikes, examining the trees, shrubbery, and other plants along the way that could impede the path of the current and create a fire hazard. With a degree in agricultural and consumer sciences and a minor in urban forestry, Kaitlin could name all of the trees and plants that crossed her path.
During her time at Indigo, Kaitlin has appreciated her chance to interact alongside the multiple teams to decide the future of grain testing for the company and the growers they partner with. Where that grain ends up, too, is equally as important. When asked about Indigo’s mission, Kaitlin spoke to the power of a company that puts so much stock in consumer health. She said, “Sometimes, even though people know what they need to do to maintain their health, they don’t have access to the right foods in their area. I know it’s a long way off, but I’m looking forward to how Indigo will ultimately impact food security for people all over the world.”
Kaitlin was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama and has also lived in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Her father was in the air force; her late mother, a secretary. The south is also where her extended family lives, and where she is looking to stay for the long term. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and bike riding, making her way through many of Memphis’ parks, some of which are the most beautiful ones she has ever seen, she said. A motto of trust the process holds close to her heart, something she has repeated to herself every day over the past two years. When it comes to changing an entire agricultural system for the better – a daunting challenge Indigo has set out to lead – that motto can still prove helpful.