Luck is often thought of as a necessary component to success. Well, as my father always said, “you make your own luck, ”. I think Nebraska has been lucky, but that is not because we were divined to be so. We bought into hard work, we bought into the value of entrepreneurship, and most importantly we bought into education. It is upon education and the dissemination of that education that our modern agricultural society has been built. It is the continuation of that system that our society will need to survive the coming changes to our environment, culture, and governance.
Today I am part of a team of former UNL graduates that run an Agricultural Tech startup on the Nebraska Innovation Campus (NIC). As I connect the dots in my life of what took me from growing up on a cattle operation near Darr, Nebraska, to running Quantified Ag and traveling the globe as an animal systems consultant, I owe a lot to the University of Nebraska.
My experience with UNL started very young as my mother worked for UNL extension for years out of the Dawson county extension office. As kids my sister and I were involved in 4-H and allowed most of our upbringing to be dominated by 4-H projects, trips and events. This gave us a solid education outside of school that has prepared us for who we are today and what our role in society is. The motto of 4-H is “to make the best better”, and this was what was instilled in us by the 4-H programs run by UNL extension. When it came time to go to college I did look around, but UNL was always my pick in the back of my mind.
At UNL I took a non-traditional route by studying abroad for a year and doing overseas internships. The flexibility and desire of my advisors to build me into the best person I could be paved the way for me to accomplish this and still graduate in a reasonable time. People like Bryan Reiling and Dennis Brink helped me to navigate the UNL system and find greater opportunities to grow in every area of my life. This set me on a path to not only work in agricultural operations around the globe but to find myself advancing in leadership activities like the National Student Leadership Forum. It was also during this time at UNL that I met my wife, Nicolette, and I am proud to say we have 2 wonderful children and are hoping they can have the same level of education we were offered.
I received a Masters of Applied Science a few years ago at UNL under the direction of Ronnie Green, Tom Field, and Deepak Keshwani. I naively believed this would be the end of my involvement with the university and was happy to devote a lot of time to one-of-a-kind programs like the Morrill Scholars and Engler Entrepreneurship Program. Little did I know that this experience would propel me to meet the men with whom I would co-found Quantified Ag. Connecting another dot in the picture of my life and seemingly a ‘lucky’ chance. Along with that we decided to office out of the new Nebraska Innovation Campus where we continually impress investors, partners, and vendors with the quality of facilities and industry expertise that we have at an arms reach. NIC is truly a world-class facility that represents the future of our university and the culmination UNL’s research, education, and extension and Nebraska’s entrepreneurial acumen.
I owe a lot to the University of Nebraska and hope to continue staying involved with mentoring students, collaborating with research, and donating my time. This state too owes a lot to the University of Nebraska and should continue to invest in the university system that offers the ability to help guide us into new times. The university system helped build Nebraska and many of our greatest citizens and leaders. Extension, education, and research benefit all of our daily lives and will continue to offer returns for generations to come. We have successfully navigated the last 150 years, and with a strong investment into our university system we can navigate the next 150.
Clearly we as a global community are in a period of great upheaval and change, and it will take all the luck we can muster to navigate these interesting times. With Nebraska being at the center of everything related to water, energy and food we have the power to create this luck with our known work ethic and innovative approach. Lets work with the University of Nebraska to guide and nurture that luck we work so hard to create.