Land O' Lakes Inc.

Delivering Real-World Solutions to America’s Farmers

Raised on a farm in Ethiopia, Land O’Lakes, Inc. SVP and Chief Technology Officer Teddy Bekele grew up with firsthand knowledge of farming, working side-by-side with his agronomist father.

But after the turbulent 1980s, he was encouraged not to go into agriculture. “[My dad] loved farming, but he always told me, ‘Go be an engineer, go be a lawyer, do something else that’s outside of the agriculture industry,’” says Teddy.

When he was two years old, a dictator came into power and nationalized the country’s land. In the blink of an eye, Teddy’s family lost everything. After five years of dealing with a corrupt government and determined to make a fresh start, his family moved to Italy, where Teddy’s father sold crop protection products from Europe into eastern Africa. Ten years later, Teddy’s family moved again, this time to North Carolina. At first, it looked as if Teddy was following his father’s advice.

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina State University. After college, he worked in a variety of positions at Ingersoll Rand, including Global Director of Engineering Systems and Director of IT Program Management. Teddy would soon realize that his future did lie in farming—and that it would be different from his father’s path, thanks to the advancement of ag technology.

THE ROLE OF TECH IN AG

When a friend mentioned a job opportunity at Land O’Lakes, Teddy was initially hesitant. But learning more about the farmer-owned cooperative and its view of agriculture brought him around. “It was super exciting to me to see how agriculture technology—ag tech—was not just going to transform Land O’Lakes but the whole industry and how we will be farming in the future,” he says. “Like a lot of people, I thought of Land O’Lakes as a butter company—but of course it’s so much more.”

Teddy and his Ag Tech team develop, refine, and deploy technology applications that help farmers make decisions such as which product(s) to use for pest control or the best corn seeds to plant. The team works closely with WinField United, the crop inputs and agronomy business of Land O’Lakes. Tools such as WinField United’s R7® Tool and the Answer Tech® portal compile data from the field and use it to deliver the information farmers need to get the most out of their fields in the form of reliable crop outcomes, productivity and profit potential.

While WinField United has been a core focus of the Ag Tech team, their work spans the Land O’Lakes enterprise. “Ag tech touches all of Land O’Lakes and it’s central to how we do business,” says Teddy. “For example, we are doing some exciting work in the feed business, Purina Animal Nutrition, asking how we can support dairy and livestock farmers through nutritional insights. It’s really about using data in support of what we call ‘intelligent nutrition.’”

A NEW DIGITAL AGE OF AGRICULTURE

Teddy’s team actively reaches out to farmer-customers and ag retailers directly to get real-time input on how the tools and technology are performing. With Land O’Lakes’ strong nationwide network of more than 300,000 producers—representing approximately half of US harvest acres—the team understands the value and impact of the data and insights they gather.

“The scope and scale of the Land O’Lakes network is truly incredible, and it’s why we’re able to work directly with real farmers and solve real problems for them,” he says. “As a farmer-owned cooperative, we recognize we’re in a new digital age of agriculture because we’re living it every day.” Happy to be “back home” in the agricultural space, Teddy understands how important his team’s work and the co-op’s mission are for the future of agriculture. “Land O’Lakes has surprising technology and extraordinary talent,” he says. “We’re on the front lines of advancing agriculture, every day.”

Teddy on 60 Minutes:

Teddy as a guest on our Something Greater podcast:

 

Teddy Bekele

Something Greater podcast episode four: Ag tech and e-business

This is how our omnichannel strategy supports business growth in partnership with our retail owners In the 1930s, nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population were farmers, according to USDA data. That meant that more than 35 million of the country’s 123 million total population were farming.

Land O’Lakes, Inc.

landolakesinc.com
+1-800 328 9680 | +1-651 375 2222
4001 Lexington Ave N. | Arden Hills, MN 55126


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