Weren’t able to attend the NGFA convention this year? Rodney breaks down 3 trends he saw from the show floor — including the importance of end-to-end technology solutions — alongside Kearney Klein, a logistics executive who leads transportation solutions for Indigo.
Rodney: Live exciting event here. Lots of buzz around here, right?
Kearney: Absolutely. A lot of people here. The attendance is pretty good. Folks are obviously energized to be out again. It feels really good to see smiling faces, to be able to shake some hands. Really brings it back to what I love about this industry, honestly, so it's really exciting to be here. I'm really happy to be part of this; this is special.
Rodney: Yeah. So we've gotten a chance to ... Really, the show just started up for most people today. There were some meetings going on yesterday, but today we opened up the booth here and have had a chance to interact with a lot of folks and walk around, see some other booths.
Rodney: What are you seeing on the transport side, Kearney?
Kearney: Yeah, so first of all, if you look at the industry, I think folks in the transportation industry, as of late, have been dealing with labor shortages; I think it's not exclusive to us in transportation. Numbers may be as far as 30%, we've seen, in terms of driver shortages in different areas of the country. I think, though, there is an overarching theme here when it comes to technology. In almost all of our conversations, I've heard it, and I'll ask you. Maybe you can maybe comment on it.
Kearney: So in your discussions you've had with folks, what would you say walking around sort of an overarching umbrella theme that you see here today?
Rodney: I mean, it's technology, right?
Kearney: Yeah, I was going to say that.
Rodney: Technology is everywhere here. Yeah, no shortage of tech companies. And even the big CapEx, like the bins and those types of things that people are advertising here, they're coming with a tech spin, right? They're monitoring, or they're giving some sort of data as feedback back to people.
Kearney: Full supply-chain visibility seems to be a key theme here; definitely technology overarching. It's part of the reason why I was really excited to come to work for Indigo. And you've been in the farm industry your whole life. Having been in this event in the past, I'm curious to know, how does this feel? Is it a little different? Is there more technology emphasis here than maybe you've seen in the past?
Rodney: Oh, man. It's changed immensely. I mean, it used to be all grain bin stirators, you know?
Rodney: Maybe an ERP system here and there, but nothing like what we're seeing out there.
Kearney: Yeah, this is really something.
Rodney: The screens, and instant feedback from everything we're interacting with, right? And if I had a nickel for every time somebody said, "actionable insights," as we're watching that stage. I mean, everybody that's talking is talking about, "Hey, what can I do with my data? How can I make decisions on it? And how does that benefit my business?" And that's what they're looking for.
Kearney: Yeah. It feels really a strong push here. My previous work, before Indigo, with some of the larger ag companies, at the time there was technology out there. Wasn't overly connected, though. We're hearing a lot now about this interconnectedness, this need for inter-operability across these technologies. It's no longer a point solution that people are looking for anymore. They've got their own technologies that they're utilizing here. And what they're looking for is a solution that can plug into what they like in terms of what they have, but also not require them to invest in several different kinds of point solutions.
Rodney: Yeah, that's exactly right. I think the "several points" is what people don't want. Right? You're hearing, "My dashboard, my marketplace, look into my business." I think that holds true. And that's what they're demanding of these technology companies, is, "Give me technology that lets me go to one place," right? "To do the things I need to do. And make sure I can also do those things I need to do while I'm there."
Rodney: I've heard it multiple times on stage, "I don't want to go to a place, get some information on-point from that place, then go someplace else."
Kearney: Absolutely. I think the other part of that is technology helping to be more intimate with your customers. A few of the folks came up; they were adamant about this. I've been working with these folks for many years. Technology's great. But it's not only got to help my business, it's got to help their business too. If it has negative impacts on how they make money, or how they do business, it's not going to work for both of us. So that's something that's really important. I thought that was an interesting insight I saw from one of the speakers earlier today as well.
Rodney: Yeah. And the relationship piece as well, right? Like you said, these guys, loud and clear. Country Elevator's been doing business with some of these farm families for 100 years. My family farm, we've been doing business with the same places for 100 years, probably. We have those longstanding relationships, and they're important to both sides so the technology can't interrupt that.
Kearney: Right. So some of that stuff isn't going to change; it should never change. In fact, technology needs to fall into it and enhance what people love about this industry already, which is trust. It's relationships and so on, which actually coincides with, I think, a lot of what we've talked about at Indigo on our platform, and some of the tools that we're trying to bring to life.
Rodney: Yeah, that's right. That's right.
Rodney: What else? Any other key themes here you're seeing, Kearney?
Kearney: I would say that I feel there's more of an eagerness now. Technology has always been around this industry. I think people ... There's been hesitancy here; it's been always looked at as maybe a sort of a cost of doing business. I think people are looking at it now in a little different way of how perhaps they can evolve their business models, how they can do things more profitably, maybe do maybe things even a little bit differently. So while we're preserving the essence of what we like about our business, it's also maybe opening new doors for us to grow our businesses in a way that we haven't in the past. I had a good conversation with a person earlier today, which I thought was really interesting on that front.
Rodney: Yeah, that's good. Well I know we've got some merchandisers on the line. That's the target audience of this conference, for sure.
Kearney: Thanks for joining, everybody.
Rodney: Yeah, appreciate you guys joining from your couch, or your office. Probably in the office today, I would think. And if you were here at the NGFA conference, you'd walk up to a booth. You'd see me and Kearney there, some other folks at Indigo, and we would love to walk you through a demo of what our products do.
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