Historically, if farmers wanted to check their crops for insects or disease, it was a tedious, inaccurate process. They would carry a couple of guidebooks, hundreds of pages each, to try and identify what they saw, recording observations with handwritten notes and sketches of the field.
After completing a crop scouting internship in rural Iowa, Michael Koenig (left) decided to change that.
“Crop scouting is kind of cumbersome, and just not fun,” Koenig said, “we wanted to make the process a little easier to manage.”
ScoutPro, the website and app Koenig and his team created, is being beta tested this season in seven Midwestern states, including Iowa and Nebraska.
The senior in agriculture education at Iowa State University first pitched the idea as part of an agricultural entrepreneurship class in the fall of 2010. When he won the in-class competition, he was encouraged to keep going.
“Ideas are many, but those who can execute the idea are few,” said Kevin Kimle, director of the agriculture entrepreneurship institute at Iowa State and Koenig’s former professor, praising the students’ determination. “They are on the front edge of innovation on the whole agriculture-GPS sphere.”
Two of Koenig’s competitors in the entrepreneurship class, Holden Nyhus and Stuart McCulloh, would later join his team as vice president of research and development and vice president of sales, respectively, along with a chief creative officer and chief technology officer. Koenig said his team has been putting full-time hours into the project, but working around class schedules and other committments.