Meister Media Worldwide formally launched its Women in Ag Tech (WiAT) initiative this year. The goal is to raise awareness of women’s expanding role in the ag tech community and in the broader ag industry, and to provide experiences and events that expand underrepresented groups’ exposure in the professional and academic spheres.
From the start, identifying the steps toward reaching that goal were solicited from the larger community via an interest form and one-on-one conversations with women who expressed a desire to participate in WiAT.
In addition, a dozen “ambassadors” were recruited to offer their time and guidance on how to build WiAT, with a particular focus on networking, mentorship, and optimizing value creation for WiAT participants.
NASA’s Dr. Karen St. Germain, Director of the Earth Sciences Division, gave an exciting presentation on how a variety of technology — from satellite imagery to remote sensing — is supporting crop production, and agriculture, in general.
Following her presentation, St. Germain engaged with the audience on a variety of questions ranging from her personal journey to attracting more women to STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and agriculture.
During the meeting, three WiAT ambassadors led break-out sessions on key topics identified by women who completed the WiAT interest form. Ambassadors white-boarded ideas and recommendations and summarized the findings to the attendees, while a written report was also distributed post-meeting to all the women who shared their feedback in the interest form.
Meet the WiAT Ambassadors
Currently, the WiAT ambassadors comprise 12 women (in alphabetical order):
- Amy Asmus, Owner/Agronomist, Asmus Farm Supply
- Julia Eberhart, Director of PR & Communications, Bushel
- Jaymie Forrest, President & CEO, Activ Technologies
- Kathleen Glass, VP of Marketing, AquaSpy
- Jennifer Goldston, Founder & CEO, AgTech PR
- Carolyn Gunkel, Counsel, Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP
- Robyn Heine, VP of Communications, Intelinair
- Joyce Hunter, Executive Director, Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT)
- Hylon Kaufmann, Director of Business Development, Ranch Systems
- Aurea Rivera, Founder Carbon Metrics Global
- Patricia Stock, Dean, College of Agriculture, California State University, Chico
- Carolyne Vowell, Product Manager, Sustainability Lead, Soiltech Wireless
Recently, an online series entitled “Voices of Women in Ag Tech” was created to profile the ambassadors and others who are participating in WiAT.
The WiAT ambassadors are made up of a diverse group from the private and public sectors and academia representing various facets of ag tech. Their profiles revealed common threads of advice for women who are either starting out in the ag tech sector or are looking to strengthen their networks and professional relationships.
Robyn Heine of Intelinair noted three things that helped her achieve success: Being a lifelong learner, adapting to different roles and situations, and finding mentors at all stages of her career for guidance.
“Throughout my career, working hard and listening to others to gain different perspectives were fundamental skills,” said Heine.
She encouraged women who are starting out in the industry to “challenge yourself, keep learning, embrace change, take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, and own your career.”
Heine acknowledged that, “It’s easy to say, but hard to do. Remember to keep perspective and stay positive, because when you’re stressed and overwhelmed this can be forgotten.”
Amy Asmus of Asmus Farm Supply attributes her success in the industry to hard work, listening to and respecting mentors and peers, showing up and participating in opportunities, and continuously listening and learning.
Her advice for achieving success is matter of fact: “Don’t do it alone. A good support system will lift you up and help you grow into whatever you choose to do … but not only that,” she said.
“In today’s world, one decision affects so many different areas and stakeholders. It is more efficient, accurate (and usually fun) to work on issues within a community of stakeholders all working for the same outcomes,” she continued.
Also, “Remember to learn and to apply what you learn. Surround yourself with people and things that can teach you — mentors, partners, friends, enemies, wins, losses, tools, technologies, and experiences — everything is an opportunity to learn. One last thing I usually tell students as I talk and work with them is that you must be present to win, but it’s not enough to just show up, you must show up and engage in whatever you want to succeed in.”
Asmus offered another insight.
“It’s important to understand that in almost everything we do, especially in production ag, that success is science-based, technology-driven, and orchestrated by humans,” she said. “I once had a business advisor (Paul Batts) who had a coin with two sides. It was a reminder of what to consider when making decisions. On one side it asked, ‘What is not acceptable?’ and on the other side, ‘What is possible?’ As much as I liked those coins, I always wished there was a third side that asked, ‘How do you expand the opportunity for the option that is not yet conceivable or possible?’ I think this is where technology fits in: To enable us to consider, create, and achieve a new horizon of possibilities.”
WiAT’s Next Steps
Aside from refining and implementing the results of the break-out sessions, Meister Media Worldwide’s WiAT Task Force is also working on communication and content strategies based on the input gathered from the July meeting, the WiAT LinkedIn group, and feedback that continues to come in from women who are participating in and supporting the initiative.
At the same time, planning is underway for the next in-person WiAT meeting, which will be co-located with the VISION Conference January 22-24, 2024, in Glendale, AZ.