Why did you start Ranch Systems?
I spent most of my career in Silicon Valley, building wireless technology and software for large companies. At some point I wanted to get back to my roots, which is in agriculture (I grew up on a farm in Denmark). It just seemed obvious to me to combine my experience with best in breed wireless technology and software from Silicon Valley with my roots in farming. On top of that, I bought a farm here in California back in 2001 and it was immediately apparent that something was needed and I didn’t find anything that was good enough. Like so many engineers before me, I started a company.
What is the Ranch Systems mission?
Our mission is to use the best of breed technology to make the world a better place by helping farmers make better crops using less resources; especially water.
How do you see your current role at RS?
I’m primarily focused on building and improving our products. I think of myself as more of a CTO than CEO. My experience from Silicon Valley shows that the companies I admire the most are led by people with a strong technology vision, rather than those run with a focus on next quarter’s profit. That said, we also owe it to our customers to ensure our company is strong and profitable,so a good portion of my time is spent monitoring the business and financial side of things, making sure the “ship” is running solid.
What company accomplishments are you most proud of?
Our products. A tech company without great products doesn’t really exist in a meaningful way. So I’m proud of the maturity, sophistication and ruggedness of our products. Building hardware, especially, is much difficult more than software;the fact that we stand very tall in telemetry hardware in world-wide agriculture is something I’m very proud of. As for our software, I’m proud of the fact that we have built more than just a functional application, but also a rock-solid architecture beneath, which right now is carrying us forward to our next-gen UI with much less rework than would otherwise be necessary. The best proof of this is that we have started selling this platform to large players in agriculture for branding as their own.
What are the advantages of using Ranch Systems?
We take a farm wide view on telemetry, sensors, and control; similar to automation in factories in that it spans the entire factory. We can monitor the soil moisture and climate, we can control irrigation and pumps, and we can monitor equipment inside buildings (e.g. wine barrels and grain storage).
A lot of other technologies out there take a piecemeal view. The problem is that farmers purchase various technologies to improve their crops and they will end up with 5-10 systems that are completely separate. By having our farm wide view on monitoring and control, we really think we provide a unique benefit that you can only find with Ranch Systems.
What is your commitment to RS customers?
We are committed to building and supporting the best possible product for the job, and to delivering our product to you with quality and knowledgeable resellers/partners in your local market. Most of all, we are committed to being here in 10, 20 years. We don’t have an “exit strategy”, we have a “staying strategy!”
You’ve had many offers of investment and/or acquisition, why have you refused them?
Ranch Systems is my life’s work, and I’ve seen many promising companies go horribly astray when they were “put in play” in the financial markets. Besides, business growth in agriculture is slower than what most investors want or expect, so if you take outside money you will soon be dealing with an impatient board. That in turn will lead to shorter term decision making and loosing sight of our true “raison d’etre”; a road I don’t want to go down. In the end, I am a farmer before a businessman.
What is the direction of RS?
On the product side, we are building the next generation telemetry product (RS130) which is my #1 priority right now. It will reshape the market for what we do! On the business side, it will help in the next phase of growth, where we see our leadership in the California home market extending globally via our trusted reseller partners.
Where do you see Ranch Systems in 10 years?
We hope to be a global company involved with every professionally run farm in the world. Everywhere where farmers are serious about growing great crops with minimal resources; I would like to be a part of that.