ANN ARBOR (WWJ) — A native of Michigan’s Thumb who now runs an agricultural app developer has been named by Forbes magazine to its 30 Under 30 list of up-and-coming young entrepreneurs.
Jesse Vollmar, co-founder and CEO of FarmLogs, was named in the list’s energy and industry category.
Vollmar grew up on his family’s fifth-generation farm in Caro in the Thumb. He started a successful IT consulting business while still in high school with classmate Brad Koch and attended Saginaw Valley State University. Vollmar and Koch founded FarmLogs in 2011. The company, which participated in the Silicon Valley startup accelerator Y Combinator in 2012, is based in Ann Arbor.
FarmLogs software helps farmers manage risk while monitoring crops, expenses, profits, weather and prices. The web and mobile apps are now at work with farmers in all 50 states and more than 120 countries.
“When I was younger I was working in the fields — hauling, picking rocks, driving tractors,” Vollmar said. “But I quickly learned technology was my passion, and I started learning about building computers and building websites. Brad and I started the consulting company to help local businesses take advantage of technology — building websites for them, speeding up their technology. The business grew and we learned a lot.”
But Vollmar said he remained connected to farming, “being in a rural area and having my family farming full-time, and my younger brother buying land and getting into farming. I was incredibly frustrated with the pace farming technology was moving. We looked at the software that was available to us and decided we could build something better. My partner and I eventually decided this was our calling. This is what we needed to be doing. We were the perfect people to do this given our background in both farming and technology.”
Vollmar and Koch both got full scholarships to Saginaw Valley State University, from which Vollmar graduated in 2011 with a degree in computer information systems.
The mission of FarmLogs, Vollmar said, is to “help farmers take advantage of information with technology. We want to take the guesswork out of farming and apply information technology to farms.”
As a first step, Vollmar said, “we discovered that a lot of farm software had a really poor user interface and is hard to work with. As a farmer, you have a lot on your plate already, and you don’t want to spend hours working on a computer figuring out the software — you want it to work instantly. That’s something that is already a given with consumer and web software. We decided that if you know how to farm you should know how to use FarmLogs.” And so, the company’s first hire was a user interface engineer to make the software easy to use.
FarmLogs’ other advantage is that “we’re modern, we’re based on the web and we’re mobile. A lot of the software that was out there was desktop based, with the data trapped on one single machine, so you couldn’t share data with other people, and if something happened to that one computer, the data would be gone.”
FarmLogs is now at nine full-time employees, with plans to grow to 15 to 20 employees by the end of 2014. The company currently has several openings in software and mobile development with expertise in Android, Clojure and Python. More at http://www.farmlogs.com/jobs.
Forbes editors and reporters worked with panels of expert judges to select the field’s brightest stars under the age of 30. The magazine described its choices as prodigies “reinventing the world right now.”
The Forbes profile is at http://www.forbes.com/pictures/mkk45jike/jesse-vollmar-25/