Practically Ranching

#13 - Kurt Hogan - Valuing Data

August 17, 2022 Matt Perrier Season 1 Episode 13
Practically Ranching
#13 - Kurt Hogan - Valuing Data
Show Notes Transcript

Kurt Hogan was formerly the lead of Digital Transformation at The Boston Consulting Group and lives in Atherton, CA, where he continues to work with growing software companies as an investor and operator.  Originally from the Spearville, KS, area, he has worked as a business consultant in computer and digital technology for more than 25 years.

Kurt and his wife, Kate, have both spent their careers travelling around the world while assisting large companies improve their technology, data management, labor and other business operations. Now living in the heart of the Silicon Valley, they are on the forefront of business and social trends. As they work and live in this competitive, fast-paced region, they still recognize the importance of rural America, its people and values.

Listen as Kurt highlights some areas where the beef community can best adapt and implement technology to most effectively grow and improve our businesses in the future.

Matt:

Well, thank you for joining us once again for practically ranching. This is episode 13 and I am very lucky, if you will, to have my friend Kurt Hogan as this week's guest. I first met Kurt over 20 years ago when my wife, Amy, introduced us at the uh, American Royal barbecue contest in Kansas city where I think Kurt was competing on a team and following that Amy and I and Kurt and his wife, Kate, got to hang out several times while we all lived in that Kansas city area. As our families have grown, we've stayed in touch with Kurt and Kate and have gotten to visit them while they lived in Denver and now Atherton, California. And through the years, they've been one of those families that have just helped me connect the dots between agriculture and the rest of the world. Kurt and Kate have been very successful in their lines of work in the business consulting arenas. They've traveled all over the world. And as far removed, as they would seem --to the unknowing person-- as far removed, as they would seem from agriculture, every time we get the opportunity to have dinner with Kurt and Kate and after a bottle or two of wine, the conversation always migrates back to production ag. And they are full of questions and they're full of ideas and, and these are two people who get it. Who see that there is a hungry world, and that that world is depending on folks who are out there toiling away every day on America's farms and ranches to help feed it. And they want to make us better. And they want to find ways that their lives can help our lives and hopefully vice versa. You know, we in agriculture, I think often talk about, and maybe even dwell upon the fact that there is a disconnect, frankly, between the one and a half percent of the U.S. Population who grows the food and the rest who, who consume it. And every time I get this opportunity to talk with someone like Kurt Hogan, I'm reminded that it doesn't have to be that way. There are plenty of people out there who recognize just how valuable having a, a safe, wholesome food supply here in the United States he is, and they appreciate that. In this episode, Kurt and I talk about a lot of pretty deep things. Uh, we talk a lot of data. We talk a lot of technology. Uh, we talked blockchain, we talked rural broadband, which Kurt I think appropriately terms, "the roads and bridges and the infrastructure of our generation,", but, um, we hit a lot of techie stuff here, especially for cowboy from the Flint Hills. Some of, it may be a little less practical to our daily lives, but I think all of it has some merit as we go forth and as we find ways to produce food and fiber in the most effective ways that we can. And as we see labor challenges, and as we see the constraints that that all of us are under, I think there's there's a lot of wisdom in what Kurt has to say and I think a lot of opportunities for us to implement some of the thoughts and ideas as we go forth and, and just keep our eyes open of ways to, to best do the business going forth. So, once again as always thank you for joining us and i look forward to our conversation here with kurt hogan. Alright, well, welcome to practically ranching, Kurt. I appreciate you jumping on here with us. How are things in Northern California?

Kurt:

They're great, Matt. Thanks for having me. We're into a we're into the hottest month of the year and kids getting ready to go back to school. So things are good here.

Matt:

are they still playing water polo? Are they on break or is there ever a break from sports?

Kurt:

you nailed it. There's a, it seems like our kids are at that age to where there's never a break. And, in the, in the crazy world of water polo, they've been traveling quite a bit. and so we finally have them both at home, and now they're starting up with, with school here next week. And with that the water polo season here is in the fall. So they're, they're going out of strong.

Matt:

I'll bet. I'll bet. Well, we're on the same schedule, we're substituting cross country and volleyball for the pool and water polo. And probably not near at the level that that your kids are at, but yeah, same scenario here, hots and kids ready to go back to school, but I think the parents maybe are.

Kurt:

Yeah, we, we certainly are. We're looking forward to outsourcing the kids back to school.

Matt:

Yep. Well, if you would give me a little history about your time in Kansas and what took you from there to the Silicon valley and then we'll dig deep in a few other topics that are related to that path.

Kurt:

Yeah, happy to. I grew up in As you know, Southwest Kansas. I was number five of five kids on the farm. So the little ankle biter and, uh, exactly. And so the, the farm was about 15 miles Northeast of Spearville, Kansas. And so my, my dad, my uncle had a family farm there and ranch and you know, raised wheat, Milo, corn, those sorts of things, I think pretty typical for Southwest Kansas uh, and also had a cow calf operation where they, where they raised Hereford and Angus cross. And so our summers were spent really a mix of farming and tending with the cattle. And, and we'd oftentimes also, you know, pick up and pasture some steers over the summer as well as pickup some bucket calves. And so my summer job was all the way up until college was, was really my full-time job and that was working on the farm or working with the cattle. You know, so that took me all the way through high school and then jumped over to a small college nearby in Sterling, Kansas, and there, I had an opportunity to play some sports and then also majored in computer science and math before I moved on to Kansas city and took a job. And really, you know, the path from there to Silicon valley, I sort of had this slow migration west. I started with a consulting firm in Kansas city and and we, we spent a number of good years there and enjoyed the barbecue and just the people and that whole area. And over time ended up doing some work in Denver. And so my wife and I moved to Denver and we had the opportunity to live and work out of Denver. And while we were there, we, you know, we had an opportunity to do some local work, but also really quite a bit of travel. And so the, the sort of the sort of work I do involves working with lots of large companies and, and, you know, doing, doing problem solving for these companies using technology. And so you kind of go where the problems are, and that meant that we were oftentimes, traveling east or traveling west or overseas. And so over time it made sense to get to a little bit larger market. And so we had to decide whether to move to the east coast or maybe overseas or the west coast, and I'd had the opportunity to work a bit in Northern California in the past and loved the area. And, and so moved out here to Northern California and have really spent the last 10 years home basing here. So my slow migration westward.

Matt:

That's great. And, and anybody who has listened to this podcast has heard me say time and again, that I'm quite often the most valuable product, if you will, that we produce on, on farms and ranches in rural America is not wheat, soy beef, pork, any of the above. It is highly motivated, hardworking, knowledgeable Kids. And I

Kurt:

okay.

Matt:

you are a Testament to that that exact theory and, and don't always keep them directly in agriculture, but we do always have a direct connection to them. And I, and that's, one reason that you're on this podcast and, and of course your professional knowledge of, of systems and of, of networks and of computers. I think there's a lot of application that maybe some of us out here in the Hills don't think about on a daily basis, but I, I look forward to visiting about some of those things. Now, before we get too deep into this, I have to tell you that as my mom and dad listen to this podcast, I'm going to guess that Tom Perrier, my father, is going to be pretty envious because. Growing up as a kid in the eighties, I've often said that my parents weren't totally certain if they wanted any of us kids to uh, to the farm or ranch, I think some days, because they knew how tough it was as we were growing up and we remembered it well. And I went off to college... actually even before that, when I was in third grade, I was in trouble a lot in mrs. Mariani's third grade class. And finally, I think she got sick of reprimanding me and keeping me in from recess, for acting out and pulling the kids' hair in front of me or whatever. And she sent me upstairs to a TRS 80 computer that for whatever reason, the title program in Eureka, Kansas had purchased. And she gave me a paperback may have been hardcover book that says. Programming and basic or something like that. And I remember sitting up there for what seemed like hours on end by myself. I don't think anybody was even in the room pecking away at this TRS 80 computer. And I had several other teachers along the way who I guess, threw a lot of computers in front of me. And so I think my dad always figured that I'd go and do something with math or computers. And I did get, I think I was one of the first people that I knew of at K state to actually have an email address when I was a freshman or sophomore in 92 or three and got my first job off of an email that I found, which was kind of unique in 95 or six, but I never really did anything with computers. As far as the level that you are or any networking, but that, that sure mom and dad are thinking, you know, Matt, you, you could have been Kurt Hogan, if you would've just studied a little harder and, and stuck to it.

Kurt:

Well, I'm sure my parents are going to listen to this and think Kurt, you could have been Matt Perrier worked hard, because I, I think they, there, they think I'm crazy sometimes for how much we jump on a plane and what we do, but you know, I'd never heard, I'd never heard you share that story. And the only thing I'd, I'd say there's, you know, maybe two things: one, I think we, we got our, we got the same start, you know, I, I picked up on computers because of some, some, some teachers who had an interest in my grade school and, and I had an opportunity to go play games on the computer when I got my homework done. And so that was an incentive to get my homework done and, and, and, and type around on the computer, which which led eventually to a career. And I think the second thing just, you know, to your, to your comment around the Midwest and the product you know, I see it time and time again, out here. There'll be so many people that come from agricultural background or Midwestern roots, you know, who have the right cocktail. And that cocktail is grit and integrity and hard work. And you'd be amazed at how many people from your neck of the woods and from the Midwest in general, really carry those attributes through and, and are quite successful. And it's always, it's always fun to run into them.

Matt:

Well, you've, you've proven that there is value in that upbringing. And I continue to tell my kids that, you know, study hard, learn the information, find what you're passionate about. But don't forget what you learned growing up on a farm or ranch, because those things are applicable regardless of, what you're going to do as a, as a professional and as an adult. And, and yeah, you've proven that. So you took us to ha to what got you to California tell us a little bit, and we don't need to get too far into the weeds, but tell us a little bit about some of the things that you've done professionally with those clients and those folks that you've consulted with in terms of, of data and of management and, and just understanding power of that data.

Kurt:

Yeah, sure. You know, so maybe just, just the 50,000 foot overview of what you know, what I did as a consultant. Consulting comes in lots of different forms, but as you might suspect, with comp sci and math background, my focus has always been using technology and, and computers and, and processes associated with that to help businesses perform differently. Right? And so in the early part of my career, you know, that would be, you know, working with large communications companies, telephone companies, Probably the last 10 or 12 years, it's oftentimes working with large software companies or tech companies, and it's really working on a variety of problems that those, those, those organizations might have, maybe they want to better understand their customer, or maybe they want to be more efficient in their operations. Really, you know, the sky's the limit in terms of the problem sets that they have. But, but over time, what you see are these organizations increasingly looking and leaning on technology as a way to, you know, make better decisions, be more efficient, serve their customers better, produce better products. You know, and I think one of the, one of the hallmarks really of the last, maybe 10 to 15 years is you know, are these companies really looking at data as a, as a tool or a lever to be able to increase business performance. And you know, it may, it may seem like an intuitive thing, but you know, many of these organizations, especially the ones that have been around for a little while you know, they, they make decisions like, like many of us would have, you know, out on the, the family ranch, you know, intuition and how you learned it from, you know, from your, from your dad or your mom and, and in your life experience. And that's not at all a bad way to run a business, but, but many of these organizations have found that if you can successfully collect data and analyze data, and then build that data into your decision-making process; over time, you make better decisions. And that leads to better business performance, which leads to more data, which allows you to make better decisions. And, you know, it kind of creates a loop. And so that's one of the areas among, among others that's certainly been a focus point for, for many of the organizations I've worked with really, really in, in most, all industries.

Matt:

So as we talk about data and using that, instead of just that gut feeling that intuition. And sometimes I do think they have to go hand in hand, but we can overdo anything or take anything to extremes. when we talk about data, I know a lot of times in agriculture and maybe even more in animal agriculture, specifically the beef industry there's a certain amount of pushback and a certain amount of anxiety and angst that that causes whether that's warranted or not. You know, the fear of, of big brother and big data. And what have you seen that in other industries? Are we just that far behind, in that we hesitate to use that data for, for those management and those decision-making?

Kurt:

Yeah, I, I, you definitely see it. In most, most all businesses I've worked with really in some degree, one way or the other. And I, and I don't think it's at all uncommon you know, especially on agricultural operations. I mean, you've got a very entrepreneurial environment which I think is a strength of ag and, and there's a lot of sensitivity around your business and the steps that you take to drive your business. And I think that holds true with a lot of the organizations I've worked with. I think there's two things that really kind of, kind of break that cycle. Number one you know, there's organizations you can look to who are able to drive and extract a great deal of value from leveraging data. So once you see somebody who's doing it and you can see that they're, you know, able to make better decisions using data, there is an incentive and there's you know, there's a sort of a, a pot at the end of the rainbow for making that decision. And, and accompanying with that. I think, you know, every organization large or small also has to know that there's a certain degree of control over the data, right? So data that you want to share, you're able to share and data that you want to protect, you also have the ability to protect. And so really those two things have to come along hand in hand for most organizations to, to get on board with, with leveraging data. But it it's not an easy task by any stretch of imagination. I mean, I would say of the, of the highest performing organizations I work for or work with almost all of them have figured out a way to leverage large groups of data to help with decisions. I mean, it is a. It is built into the fabric of those companies. And then of the remainder of the companies I've worked with it's a top five priority to figure out how to better use data. And so most organizations have, have seen the power of it and are just trying to wrestle through how do you manage control? How do I make sure that I have the right culture around it? And how do I take appropriate actions with it? But I think having that upfront hesitancy is, is certainly something that you see a lot.

Matt:

So you talk about control of that data and access to it and who gets to see and use and analyze what... I know just enough about blockchain to be dangerous, but is that kind of what blockchain in essence is, is what data gets assimilated and who has access to what portions of that?

Kurt:

Yeah, somewhat. So what blockchain's good at is providing a unchangeable record of a set of events. And so I'll use a bad analogy, but if I if I build a blockchain and across that blockchain, I'm going to enter in some data every time I, I service a vehicle. And so every time that happens in an event goes into blockchain and, and over time you sell that vehicle to another party and, and they, they, you know, they put that service history in, and then you sell it to another party. What you have at the end of that, and the blockchain is you have an unchanged history or traceability of the events across that entire car. And you don't have to worry about somebody going in right before you buy the car and, and changing that, or you don't have to worry about that data being spread across different locations. You've got, you know, an unchanged or immutable record of a history that makes something traceable and it inspires confidence in the outcome. And so of course you have a decision before you put data into a blockchain of whether or not you'd want to share it. So there is control, right? You always have that control whether or not, you know, you'd want to put that in this, in this bad analogy of a car service record into the, into the blockchain. But what you do have is once it goes in is an assurance that, that it doesn't change. And so in, in, in blockchain, as a, as a concept is. I mean, it's, it's fundamentally changing many, many businesses, and I think it's going to be super impactful for the remainder of our lives. Crypto is a good example of, you know, the, the application of blockchain and finance. But I think as we think about livestock you know, there are many smarter people who will come up with better examples, but you know, you get the opportunity to trace the history of interactions with livestock. And as I start to think about, you know, where the public has been going around, knowing where their food comes from and having some certainty around where it's produced and, and how it got to your table, something like the blockchain would allow that information to be shared with consumers with a high degree of confidence. And so that's something like that is an area where I think blockchain could have a pretty substantial impact in, in things like livestock... You know, you could probably get on the head right at the path as well. So, you know, you don't have to worry about paper records for tracking heredity of animals. All that stuff ends up being stored forever in an unchangeable way and really accessible anywhere, which, which could be pretty powerful, once you think about it.

Matt:

yeah, it will be, it is already, and we've talked about source verification and traceability and having storied beef and all these different things. But to me, blockchain is the technology that makes that all, not just possible, but relatively seamless. Think we, as an industry, just have to have some pretty good open communications about how, that works, who has access to it, and quite possibly... and you mentioned this before about placing value on this... What is the value of that? And, and that's, that's a piece that we talked a couple podcasts ago with Jared Gillig, from Cargill about what that value is to the consumer ...of knowing every step that, that animal and that beef went down. And so I guess just for a second here, I've been to your beautiful home and seen your outdoor kitchen and grill set up. You're a beef eater- big time

Kurt:

Yeah.

Matt:

and, you know, you know how to, make one just about

Kurt:

Yeah.

Matt:

as the white tablecloth restaurant. What is it worth to Kurt Hogan and his family- when he has friends over-- what is it worth to know the blockchain of that animal from the time it was born until it showed up in your kitchen? And, and just for us in the beef community, what kind of value potentially is there to knowing that this steak, I know everything about... that steak, all I know is that it weighs two and a half pounds in a white foam package?

Kurt:

My lens on this is what came through in the intro is probably somewhat skewed based on where I grew up and, and, you know, but I, I put huge value in it. You know when we make individual buying decisions on products out here you know, where we, where we go to source our meat for the butcher matters a ton, and really when you're, when you're entertaining or when you really take pride in that and the quality of the meal, or, you know, you want to serve something that you know you can cook and will, will resonate well, you become more price insensitive period. Right? So there's, there's an opportunity, I think, for premium pricing if you can associate quality and predictability with the product. And so when I think of your description and, you know, things like blockchain and traceability, I immediately I think about, you know, finding and understanding where the beef comes from, understanding how the beef is sourced. You know, maybe how the, the animal was raised and over time, you know, I think people find combinations of those things that work for them that work for their preferences. And my hypothesis is that they will, that they will pay a premium for that. And I think you see it. I think people pay all sorts of premiums for other labels right now in the marketplace, whether it's, you know, whether it's grass fed or whether it's Angus raised or whatever, the, whatever the label is. We can already see examples of, of premium pricing for you know, for a deeper understanding of the history and the sourcing of a product like beef. And so I think there's a, there's a huge business for that. And I also think it's this whole notion of of being more connected between the... the producer and their consumer is something that's incredibly interesting. I think, you know, the, the trend of understanding where your beef comes from and how it's sourced and a little bit less around the middlemen that were involved, you know, in that process, I think that the, the whole pattern of connecting producers and consumers together more closely is something that really, if you think about Matt, our life, the last 10 or 15 years, that patterns repeated itself a lot, right? Whether it's, you know, buying stuff off of Amazon or, or or using the internet, this whole notion of, you know, close connection of the person that, that, that makes the product and the person that consumes the product is, is something that just seems to be you know, continue to perpetuate itself.

Matt:

Well, it's, it's almost full circle. I mean, I don't remember the days it was before our time, but used to be that everybody, if they didn't raise their own food, they knew the farmer that brought it to the market and either sold it directly to them or sold it to the shopkeeper. The shopkeeper then turned around and traded it, somebody else. And, you know, 200 years ago, and here we are talking about all this efficiency that we've built into food production and, and one and a half percent of population in us who are farmers and ranchers feed million plus anybody that wants to import USB for any other products across the globe. We've gotten really good at making large quantities of food. In the process, we've lost that connection. And um, I don't think we have any idea what the value is in reestablishing that connection. Now, can we afford to go back be that and pop with one milk cow and a few chickens and a. A couple of hogs and three or four beef, I don't think so, but if we can use technology and if we can use data and the things that are available to make that connection for us and that the, and I guess that's another question for you, will the consumer buy that? Will they buy into the notion that because it was documented and entered into this computer in somebody's server, wherever, that you can trust that you know exactly what happened and who raised and where, where this beef came from, is that enough? Or do they want to walk down to that local butcher who tells them a story you're doing do?

Kurt:

Right. Yeah. I mean, it's, it's an interesting scenario to explore. You know, I don't know, I would speculate the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. I think there's, as you, as you look at all the, all the people who are consumers of beef, you know, they probably divide up into categories and, and some of those folks so I think we'll always want to, you know, solder on down to the butcher and, and see what the recommendation is. And, you know, there's value that that's added there through, you know, through even like slicing up the meat or you know, getting custom cuts for it or getting recommendations on marinades. I think there's a ton of value that can be had through that, that experience with a retail store butcher. But I also think there's you know, and you look at other industries, I think, I think there's certainly a segment of folks that would. That would leverage that more direct to consumer model and are more than happy to invest in in paying a premium for, for something that really meets their individual needs. And I think that's the, that last bit is the, is the trend that I think drives the value. I mean, I think so much of what's happening now, really driven by the internet, is we can buy things that meet our particular needs whether it's clothing or whether it's you know for... growing up as an example, you know, I had big feet and tried to get basketball shoes, you know, try to find a, you know, pair of 13 and a half basketball shoes was a problem. And so what you end up doing, you, you, you bought smaller shoes and got over it, toughened up a little bit.

Matt:

We really do have a lot of things in common, Kurt.

Kurt:

Yeah, but now, I mean, we could, we could flip over to the internet and probably within two days we can have a customized pair of shipped to our house. Right? And I think that's all about consumers getting used to to businesses meeting their specific needs. And and again, as you describe that whole traceability concept and the connection between the producer and the consumer, I think there's a lot of, a lot of folks who know what they like and would enjoy kind of that, that close connection and the specificity of, of that experience. And I think there's, you know, lots of other businesses that aren't ag related that, that really focus on just doing that.

Matt:

that's going to drive things I think in the future. And I can, I can talk about marketing all day long. It's it it's intriguing to me. It's exciting to me. It's frustrating to me right now. But within the beef community, we're having these knock down, drag out fights about how we should or shouldn't cattle when... the more I think, and talk to folks like you and others about this notion, it may not be that we need to harken back to the ways that we traded cattle 30 years ago. We may have to look at some things like you're talking about and ask the consumer, "What what is it worth for you to know every step along the way where this animal was, or for us to use some kind of a technology that offers you that access to certain things?" Now, obviously there's some liability involved and things like that, that we've got to as a beef community figure out and sort through, but may be the next horizon of, of premiums, if you will value, is, is placing it on that. And so going forth that, I think that's part of that discussion.

Kurt:

Well, I think that's a, I think it's a great observation. And the part that resonates especially strongly with me is this whole notion that you suggested of starting with where the value is. So, you know, figure out what consumers want and and what they're willing to pay more for, and then work backwards from that. I think that's that's one of the techniques that, that I've often used with, with businesses who are trying to change, right? You'll you'll oftentimes see organizations who will, who will feel like they need to use technology for technology's sake. Like, "man, I need to, I need to move my business to the cloud." or, "I got to find a way to implement blockchain because my port director said, you know, blockchain is going to change the world." Right? And in many of those instances, it's technology for technology sake. And oftentimes it's a waste. It's a waste. It's confusing. It actually lowers performance. But you know, we found if you can anchor around the. And really spend that time upfront and, you know, sort of measure twice and cut once, but identify that value and then work backwards, it really helps you simplify the problem. And again, in, in beef, maybe that's, you know, understanding where the value sits and, you know, maybe there's, there's some regional models that make sense, that are sort of more standardized than mom and pop with a cow out in the, in the yard, but maybe less, you know, maybe maybe less sophisticated than a national distribution network, right? There might be some, some models in between that better serve the consumer and also put the producer, closer to that, closer to the value. So I think your idea is an awesome one.

Matt:

Well, that'll be interesting to see how it unfolds. And I think as you said, that the answer is going to be somewhere in between those extremes. And I think that uh, that generally is the case. But I think especially in this one when we're dealing with, a very diverse population of consumers who don't all want the same thing... and we prove every day just have diverse producer segments are So it'll be, it'll be interesting to watch. So kurt, what would you say for folks who have so much anxiety about giving up this data and saying, you know, "I don't want the liability. I don't want somebody knowing where this pound of meat beef came from I don't want them to be able to come back and Sue me or whatever the case may be. Are there places

Kurt:

Yeah

Matt:

there are some controls there and if so, how does that?"

Kurt:

Right. No, it's I think you hit the keyword there. I think there's, there's two things that you see with the sharing of data broadly. And, and one of them is control and one of them is around value and I'll hit them kind of, one after the other. And, and in your example, like most of the organizations I work with first one to understand if they've got control of the data. And so if I've got data on my herd, then that data stays with me. And oftentimes then people can be comfortable. If hey, I'm the only one looking at that data that, that works just fine. And then there's also a choice point that said, listen, if I want to share that data more broadly. What oftentimes happens in other industries, is that data gets anonymized. And so instead of this data being reflective to a cow and in Matt's herd, it's just, you know, a cow, a generic cow, all of us have a certain of a certain breed in a certain location. And so once you strip out that individual information, Sometimes that makes sense to share that data more broadly, but really the reason people decide to do that and it's almost always connected to value. And it's important because as we talked about earlier, like, like oil, data has value. And so I would never advocate for, you know, for anyone or any organization to collect a bunch of data and then just distribute that data. Indiscriminately, right? Because, because it's got value. And so if I'm going to share that data more, more broadly, there needs to be value that comes back to me. And what I've seen is as long as that happens then uh, if I've got control and I can have a control over the privacy aspect of that data, but I share it more broadly and I get value back, that ends up being the unlock for the whole ecosystem. And again, an example is if I could share some generic data about, about my herd back to another organization, and they combine that data with, you know, hurts across the world or certain breeds across the world and they can provide me back with specific, recommendations or insights to help me grow my business. Then that's a fair exchange of value. And who knows what that insight is? Maybe it's maybe it's you know, protein and nutrition information, maybe it's you know, maybe it's environmental sort of data, I don't know what those examples would be, but in business the, the whole unlock to people sharing data is the fact that when you share data you can also get insights back from other people who share data that are a value and you can control the most private aspects that are unique to your business. And so I, I would, I would imagine that that would evolve the same way with livestock producers as well. I mean, nobody certainly wants to, to share any aspect of the secret sauce externally, but, but sharing some subset of information with the rest of the world so that you can, you know, you can produce a better herd and a higher quality product is something that I think people will consider over time.

Matt:

And that would be something that you would negotiate

Kurt:

Yeah.

Matt:

before you either entered into that business arrangement or signed on with that company to use their services or whatever the case may be so it would be something upfront that would have understanding of what was theirs, what was ours and what was just mine.

Kurt:

And it's a fundamental part of business transactions today. In fact, one of the organizations I'm working with right now, there is a separate agreement focused on data, privacy and protection. It's a, it's a whole legal and contractual section to address exactly what you just said, Matt. Because, because data very clearly has value and people want to make sure that they've got the right controls. So yes, that's absolutely something that you, you work on that.

Matt:

if my kids aren't going to get their computer science they better go to law school. It sounds like cause

Kurt:

That's true.

Matt:

one

Kurt:

or,

Matt:

or both of those are going to rule everything.

Kurt:

They'll play a role or you know, I, I maybe maybe data science is a, is a spot they can go into as well. That's not so bad or math. Those will always have a role as well.

Matt:

You don't think math is going away?

Kurt:

Oh, no way. No logical sequential pattern thought like it's it's the foundation of problem-solving. So I think it's going to be here for the long haul.

Matt:

pretty much everything we do. I'd say.

Kurt:

Absolutely.

Matt:

So as we talk about --still on the tech front and reliance on technology and data capture-- um, there are a lot of technologies within agriculture and probably more so in row crop farming, honestly, than there have been in the production of beef cattle, but still there's a lot of technology that's out there. Some of which has been implemented, some of which still is trying to get over the hump of either usefulness in pastures across the nation, which are again very diverse; some it's just getting past the tradition. you know, I think of, of something like virtual fence, not a lot of use... I did go to a field day earlier up at the Mushrush's uh, that, that was using one of these products. And I think there's a lot of potential, but things like that. I mean, how familiar are you with those types of technologies? Have you seen that used in, in agriculture? What do you think on those?

Kurt:

I think there's a couple of different categories of data, That your example reminds me of, and I think one of them is, the tagging of cattle, the biometric data you use the right term. If you sort of step back and the life cycle of, of what I see organizations doing, there's really, there's kind of three big steps associated with data. number one is around collection of data. And so getting sensors out there that to generate data, and then there's the transport or communication of data, and then, and then oftentimes there's a third step, which is kind of aggregating it together and then refining the data. And the, the analogy that gets used a lot in, in my world is, you know, people talk about "data is the new oil," right? It's this spectacular natural resource, but like a natural resource it's, it's got to go through multiple steps before it can drive value. And you know, that first step is you have to be able to collect it. Just like you would, you'd pull it out uh, with an oil, well, you have to transport that data or communicate the data. And then the third step is you, you know, you got to refine it or just like an oil in a refinery. You have to take it and process it before it can add value. And so, you know, the example that you bring up I think there's going to be, and continues to be a ton of investment around data collection. You know, the, the tagging, the, just the, the value of understanding what's happening on an individual basis with any, you know with any person, like, you know, you see it with our mobile phones. Our mobile phones are, are basically a biometric tag and the tag for all of us, and, you know, there's a lot of data that's generated through our mobile phone. And given, I don't think there's going to be cows carrying around mobile phones anytime soon. I think the idea biometric tag or you know, or something that's able to capture individual data about that animal is I think it's inevitable. And I think that as part of that, there's certainly value that can be gained from it. You know, things like, cattle location, as you mentioned the, the general health of the cow, all that sort of stuff. I think, I think those are quite obvious and, and use cases that are going to come along. And I think the reason they'll advance pretty quickly is because back to our point those sorts of things drive a lot of value. And so if I, if I think about how much time I spent as a kid going and checking the cattle you know, driving, all of Saturday and half of Sunday to different pastures to count the cows and try to see which ones are sick, you can imagine if I you know, more precise around that and understand that, you know, the health of the herd and the location of the herd in advance than I basically only have to drive out there when there's something wrong or heaven forbid I can actually predict sometimes when there's something wrong and, and proactively help an animal out before they get too terribly sick. And so the big lever in that, you know, in that example is maybe the most important one, which is time, right. And as an entrepreneur, that's, that's probably the most valuable commodity. And so I think things like sensors and deployment of sensors I think we're going to see it in livestock, as you mentioned, I think you're going to see it, and do see it with all forms of, of farming, you know, the, whole precision agriculture movement. So I think that sensor deployment you're going to continue to see more and more of it. To me, the game changer for. For really ag is in that second step. So once you get a bunch of sensors out there, you can continue to deploy those, those sensors over time, need to talk to something and they need to be able to communicate. And and so for, for an internet company, that's easy because if I've got a bunch of sensors, I'm monitoring a website, maybe a monitoring, a retail store, and all of that's connected with that, with the network. So all that information kind of comes to one spot, but in our scenarios with our, you know, with our, with our farm businesses and ranching businesses, that data, may be collected on an animal, but, but communicating it back is a challenge. And you know, it's the same challenge that large industrial companies have, places like GE when they've got oil rigs everywhere across the world, and they want to monitor those, right? You know, there's, there's not, there's not coverage in all those areas. And so I think the next big, you know, the next big focus area in ag is going to be around Um, communication networks. So upgrade of, I think we're going through an upgrade of 3g to 4g, to 5g right now across telephony networks. You probably read a lot about investment in satellite technology. I think the quicker we can get all of those areas connected to a, to a network, you're going to allow all that information to flow to one spot. And as a, as a rancher, then, you know, I can know real time what's happening with my herd. And, with all of the data that's being collected from these sensors and then that unlocks the ability to start to look at kind of large datasets and to start to do some really cool things with them, like start to predict you know, predict what what the herd is going to do, predict health patterns you know, predict changes in the, in the weather that, you know, that are not, you can't predict changes of the weather, but predict how changes in the weather can impact the herd. Like that's where the whole big data concept comes in. So I know it's kind of a long run into your question, but I, I think that that whole data collection and sensor piece is just the tip of the iceberg. As you start to connect that data into centralized systems, then I think ranchers are going to see a tremendous uptick in the value that they can get from, you know, from looking at those data sets in a large way.

Matt:

I can already sense how many folks bouncing around in their pickup, listening to this podcast or horseback or wherever they might be moving around in that seat a lot as they think about somebody besides them; and some thing, besides them being able to pull that calf who's sick or is it going to be sick in a day or two, before we, the best pen rider that's ever been on a horse could even begin to see it. And that's something that, and there's technologies currently are out there, they just haven't seen widespread use yet. And, and there's some imperfections in terms of, of delivering those in the sensors and the, the costs and things like that. But what you brought up that is maybe the next biggest stumbling block next is that communication network. And that's been something that, that Amy and I have have fought for for the last 18, 20 years that we've lived here in Greenwood county. And that is decent connectivity to rural America, whether it be through satellites or whether it be through mobile phone cellular type network. I think that wireless of some kind, whether it be satellite or radio-frequency or whatever coverage is, is the best, but we still don't have enough towers to get connectivity to most of the places where we need connectivity, where these cows go down into a valley and completely fall off the radar, literally. So, you know, there's a lot of steps that somehow are going to have to be funded before we even consider paying X dollars per sensor to, to put into these cows or calves' ears or whatever the case may be. Every time I hear folks get excited about going from, you know, let's go way back, dial up to DSL, DSL cable, or fiber internet to Google fiber, and instead of. Being a hundred per second, being a, a thousand or a gig or whatever... just kind of chuckle because another several hundred million dollars. It got invested into technology that made an incremental change people, but didn't make one bit of change for those of us in rural America. And that's a tough thing to get across to people. It's not how fast is my internet? It is. I have access to any internet at all? Because I don't have a cell phone signal or satellite doesn't work when there's clouds or, and maybe Elon is going to fix all this with Starlink. I haven't seen it yet, but but yeah, it's a big deal. It is a huge deal when we talk about that. And it's not just terms of the ability to, to use for cattle management, it's again, we go back to educating kids. It's the opportunities that, that rural youth have and things like that. So I may digress there, but I always put that plug out there whenever somebody talks about communication networks.

Kurt:

if I, if I can, if I can pile on a little bit, I mean it's something that I'm, I'm passionate about. As I hear us talk about as a nation investing in infrastructure, you know, I know that, there's calculations around the return on infrastructure and things like bridges and roads and, you know, for every dollar you invest, there's certain amount of return. My mind always goes to communications and and you know, internet infrastructure and wireless infrastructure as the roads and the bridges of our generation. Like, as I look at at what the public sector can do to drive massive change in value to to rural areas, I struggle to find anything that's higher on the list. And I, and I think, you know, you hit upon a number of the key components, right? So there's, there's dimensions, which help business. So for example, you know, just allowing communication coverage across rural areas is going to allow things like sensors to be deployed and data to be collected to the extent that the farmer and rancher wants that to happen. Right? So it's a, it's a huge unlock for steps like that. But, but the other element that you talked about is is really, you know, supporting the development the agricultural development and really the whole life cycle of people going into ag, living in rural areas, being able to have, you know, internet connectivity and even, even things that I think became more prominent here in the last two years, you know, things like working remotely, I know the pandemic caused a ton of pain for a lot of people across the world, and I certainly acknowledge that, but maybe one of the silver linings is that to the extent you can get internet coverage, we're now in a world where businesses are far more accepting of, of people working from wherever they want to work. And so my mind quickly goes to rural communities and thinking, you know, could you, could you more feasibly have a spouse that, that has a job today and is able to connect on the internet where before that might not have been possible because they would have been expected to be in an office or they're in a rural location and you know, it's not feasible to drive. So I'm hopeful that the events of the, of the past couple of years really shows the value of allowing people to work from where they live and live from where they want. and, and to shine a brighter light on the importance of having great connectivity for everyone, right? Whether that's for schooling or education or, or healthcare or things like what we talked about before business scenarios, where, you know, you're better connected to your, to your livelihood and your, your, your crop and your animals, and you're able to make better decisions. I mean, I think all of those things kind of go back to this fundamental infrastructure need, which is widespread communication. In north America, I think we're probably going to be ahead a lot of worldliness. I mean, there's lots of places in the world that are, that are further behind than us, but I think there's certainly opportunity for us to, to take a big step forward in that way.

Matt:

the infrastructure of our generation, I think is what you called it and I have heard that alluded to, but I don't know if I've ever heard it put into that term and, and that drives it home about as well as anybody or anything could. And, and yeah, I mean, there's just you name it, whether we like it or not, the interconnected nature today's world... I don't think we're going back. We may recognize, and we may appreciate more those personal communication opportunities and those times when we actually get to sit down and share a stake and, and visit. But in terms of doing business, working within a supply chain being educated, I don't think that we put this genie back in the bottle. And so without that high speed internet, that access to, to communications networks, yeah, we, rural folks always have kind of looked, been, been viewed as being a little behind the times and being a little backward and maybe it's justified and in sometimes we take, take a little pride in it. I think. But without the ability to learn and to do business and to access information and data, everything we've been talking about that without that yeah, we truly will be looked down upon as being backwards. Not because we want to, but because we don't have any other choice and yeah, it's, it's, it's critical, I think, as we go forward, so maybe we can share this with somebody in DC or a private entity that that sees the need and can help us in that regard,

Kurt:

Yeah, I I think it'll go the right direction, but you're, you're right in that some of these problems do need some public help I mean, I, I'm a fan of solving as much of these things as we can through private enterprise, but, you know, but if you think back to the rural electrification act you know, that was, that was a big deal in it's time. And it was life-changing for rural communities and you know, and changed the way of life and the level of prosperity for, for really a large portion of the country. And I look at this in the same way. I think it's, I think it's table stakes for what we need to do, and and again, I, I think the, the it allows us to, it allows us to stay better connected. I think as a, as a community. Right. And whether that connection again is to my individual business, or if it's to, you know, the other kids in the league school, or if it's to an an organization in another country. Right? Right now that the internet is the vehicle for that. And so the more we can invest in that, the better.

Matt:

I would agree. All right, we're going to change gears again here, Kurt let's talk labor efficiency of labor and how technology can help us in that regard. I think there are a lot of places within the beef industry that we already see AI and robots and things like that coming into play probably very rapidly, more rapidly than many of us Cowboys even realize or want to admit. most of those are way on up the chain or down the chain from us. And we're looking at retailers, transportation issues and things like that as they ship meat and beef products maybe even packer processors implementing more AI and robotics. Do you see ways that there can be some increases in efficiency of labor at the ranch level using automation? Again, we've talked about how ranch is different. There's not this cookie cutter approach. I don't know that we're going to see in my lifetime a robot learning to go and feed on a three section pasture, but maybe that's possible.

Kurt:

Yeah, it's a good question. I mean, it's something we can, we can sort of talk about out loud, nothing jumps to mind as imminent, first of all

Matt:

Probably good.

Kurt:

Affiliate affiliated with livestock, like, like farming. I see it especially in, in, in where I live I just a quick aside, like the, the application of robotics and mechanical innovation to farming I think is it's coming. I was in a discussion with a friend a year ago and we were, we were looking at a robot that would basically go through rows and use AI visual AI to be able to effectively harvest apples. Right. And so it had a vacuum, it had some, some camera sensors and the little suction tube, and it got good at rolling up and down the rows and picking apples. And it was an interesting collection of mechanical innovation and software, but it was invested in, and it was a focus area because effectively, if that robot's not doing it, you're, you're hiring a bunch of individuals to go do that. And and so you're displacing a lot of manual work. So those are the situations where I see that mechanical advantage really kind of coming into play. And as you, as you mentioned, like, you know, no immediate examples come to mind I'm sure they're there. But any place where there's repeatable tasks and a lot of manual work involved, then, you know, I think over time, those will be, those will be candidates. But probably, but probably further out, I mean, the sort of mechanical, robotic elements that I see probably in the near future are, are probably back to our other discussion around data collection and specifically things like drones. You know, I, I see and have a number of friends here who are deeply invested in a variety of drone technologies, everything from, aircraft to ship medicine, to sort of underdeveloped places of the world to to doing crop scanning,, just basically about any use case you can think about of, of having something cost-effective that flies over and retrieves information. And so I think, I think you'll see that first and maybe that's a way to, again, check on herds to you know, to cover a broad geographic area and collect data. But I think the robotics piece might be second but. I'd have to talk through, you know, what the daily tasks are and brainstorm it a bit, but nothing comes to mind. Of course now the automation of you know, those sort of self-driving technology, I do believe that's, that's going to continue to evolve. And so again, probably a little bit more applicable to, to farming, but you can't drive three blocks away from where I live without seeing one and probably two or three vehicles that are that are being trained to be fully autonomous and, you know, right down the road, there's a a trucking company that's doing the same thing. And so there is just massive investment in the automation of transportation which, which is, you know, sort of an indirect contributor to, to what you talked about.

Matt:

Wow. That's. I mean, I read about these things. I hear about these things. I've seen one autonomous that kind of freaked me out. I think it was a taxi. I don't even remember now where we were, but that's that's hard to even imagine, but Hey. They don't call it the Silicon valley for nothing.

Kurt:

no, it's funny back to the other point. Really all those things are doing right now is they're driving around and they're collecting data, right? Because the more data they get, they can bring that data together. And then, and then they can recognize patterns and then they can, they can train those vehicles to drive with better position. And so back to our other point, you know, all of these businesses have, have decided that collecting large amounts of data and then being able to make decisions like how to drive a car with that data has value. It's just another example of, of these, these vehicles driving around in data collection mode.

Matt:

And with that statement, Kurt Hogan, you just weirded out everybody that was listening to this. And if they were considering adopting any of this technology, they're like, now I'm done. I knew it wasn't for me.

Kurt:

it's probably a wise decision right now. I'm not, I'm not jumping any self-driving cars anytime soon. I've,

Matt:

yeah.

Kurt:

coded too many computer bugs in my history. So I'm going to let, I'm going to let somebody else do that here for, for quite some time.

Matt:

Well, you said at the beginning of the podcast that you just kind of go to where the problems are. So it sounds to me like this is job security for for anybody in your line of work. Cause there, there could be lots of problems as we, as we see more and more, all this. I got the opportunity to ride to and from town today with my 14 year old, who is on her learner's permit and is still in the experience phase. And I don't know when the autonomous car didn't look quite so bad there at a couple of points as I was riding back from Eureka.

Kurt:

Oh, I can imagine that's finally wise. I've had the same experience with my 16 year old. So we need to have them hang out and maybe my, my 16 year old can pick up something.

Matt:

Well,

Kurt:

I think on the other point, like the one thing I can say is, you know, as a kid growing up on a farm and, and now, living in the crazy area of Silicon valley, as much as I can reinforce this and I do with my parents is that, you know, this technology might seem scary or, this whole idea of data sharing might seem scary, But there, yeah, there's plenty of controls around this and at the end people are in control of all of this right now. And so you know, I think that some of these things are, are kind of out there and some of them are some of them are easy to adopt, like the way we use our phones every day. So I I've just encouraged people to have an open mind towards it and, you know, it's fine to be a little bit cynical, but also kind of watch towards the new things coming out because there's really some, some really life-changing advancements that pop out more quickly than you think. And so you know, they, they can add a lot of value if you're, if you're able to identify them and apply them to your business.

Matt:

And we talk about new technology and our family, and so many others like ours in animal agriculture and in ranching have a rich tradition and we're very proud of everything that we've done. And, and sometimes we wish we were back in the good old days, but think of I would call a very necessity on most ranches would be and a horse Or a pickup. And if we go back far enough, that saddle was a new technology. They went from riding one, bear back to having this wooden tree with leather and things that allowed you to do things that you couldn't do you when you were just riding them with nothing but a fist full of Maine, same way with a pickup. I mean, a pickup isn't a new technology will it darn sure was a hundred years ago, 75 years ago, even. So we either adapt or we don't continue in most of these businesses. And doesn't mean we just close our eyes forget everything that we've learned up to this point. But yeah, I, common sense adoption of some of these technologies, I think it could help all of us.

Kurt:

Oh for sure. And if I even think back at it, you know, my experience with my parents and our farm, you know, growing up it took five kids and a small marching army with an old 95 combine and, you know, and a couple of trucks to, to run a family farm.

Matt:

farm.

Kurt:

And over time the kids got older and,

Matt:

and

Kurt:

some, you know, we still came back for harvest for awhile, but you know that the labor force dwindled and

Matt:

a little bit

Kurt:

fast forward.

Matt:

forward

Kurt:

You know, a couple of years ago and,

Matt:

And.

Kurt:

and mom and dad, my uncle are still farming, producing as much or more than they ever were when I was around with a fraction of the people. And that's largely driven by their adoption of, of technology, right. Mechanical technology in their example, but it's really allowed them to produce more and maintain a style of life and have a way of living and, and all of that by, being open-minded and trying new things and also kind of continuing to do what they do best preserve the culture of the farm work hard, live their values, and so that combination I think can be pretty powerful.

Matt:

would echo that, and I'm in the midst of, and I think I mentioned it. In fact, I heard about this book on a previous podcast that Shawn Tiffany told me about, but um, a book called the end of the world is just the beginning and as some of the things that he talks about in this book in terms of labor specifically, and the lack of labor coming forward, not just people who want to work, but people, period uh, as we look across the population trends, not quite as much in the United States, but especially globally there simply aren't going to be enough people to do the work, if we don't adopt some of these technologies and and find ways to, to do more with less. And so, yeah, that's, that's one of those long-term trends that we to consider.

Kurt:

Well, and I think, you know, even in the past six or eight, 10 years, we've gone through maybe a fear cycle of the robots are gonna take over the world. All right. We're going to have a Terminator scenario and where are all the jobs gonna go? And then you fast forward to 2020. And we look around, and there's not enough people to do the work even right now. Part of that's pandemic and view induced. Part of that's, the great resignation, you know, people deciding they, they want to do something different,

Matt:

different,

Kurt:

but any way that you slice it we have

Matt:

have.

Kurt:

too little labor to accomplish what we need to as a society. And all of us see it show up in every, every one of our daily lives. I mean, look at the supply chain disruption that's happened really almost continuously for the last 24 months. The, the lack of consistent labor across the globe has been extremely disruptive. And so I just think it, it puts an exclamation point on what you just said, Matt, and that, you know, we're, we're going to uh, go into a world where we need more we need more support. And I think we can, we can look around us here in the last, you know, 12 to 24 months and all of us can probably identify three or four examples where that's impacted us directly.

Matt:

And that doesn't show any signs of stopping anytime soon, so I would say that here to stay for at least the near term. Well, Kurt, I really appreciate you visiting with us today. Don't usually make too many predictions, I think this is going to be one of those podcasts that folks really, really appreciate, and there would be a high

Kurt:

good.

Matt:

you may get asked to come back and tackle the rest of this outline that you and I kinda thought through ahead of time, that of which we didn't even get to. but we really appreciate your time please don't be a stranger. Tell Kate and the kids. Hello, and we wish you all the best as you start school this year.

Kurt:

uh, Please do the same with, with Amy and your family. And thanks for having me. I love the topic and would be happy to talk about it more at the time.

Matt:

Sounds great. Thanks a bunch, Kurt.

Kurt:

Take care

Matt:

Thanks for joining us for practically ranching, brought to you by Dalebanks Angus. If you enjoyed the podcast, heck even if you didn't... help us improve by leaving a comment with your review wherever you heard us. And if you want to listen again, click subscribe and catch us next week. God bless, and we look forward to visiting again soon.