Tag: agriculture

A startup that employs drones to gather soil and plant conditions by flying over acres of farmland is ready for takeoff, according to David Nicklaus in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Ali Ahmadi, who completed his Executive MBA at Olin last year, is an accomplished entrepreneur and Chief Operating Officer of the company, Aerial Agriculture. And, Ahmadi knows drones: He has served in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Department of Defense as a drone flight operator and logistics project manager.

From The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

“In the 21st-century version of a land rush, more than 600 companies have received permission to fly drones over farm fields and collect agricultural data.

Only one of them is headed by a 27-year-old experimental physicist and headquartered in an old warehouse building in downtown St. Louis. Harrison Knoll, the founder and chief executive of Aerial Agriculture, thinks his company stands out in other ways, too.

For starters, there’s the artificial intelligence system his team has built. It will take the data gathered by the drones and turn it into actionable advice for farmers, telling them which part of a field needs more nitrogen and which plants are showing signs of a pest infestation.”

Read full story.

Photo courtesy of  Ali Ahmadi

Five teams from business schools around the country competed for the $10,000 first prize in the first annual Monsanto-Olin Case Competition on February 12. The competition was designed to give graduate students an opportunity to provide innovative business solutions to a case study written about Monsanto’s seed corn supply chain. Participating teams represented:Texas Christian University, Rollins College, the University of Missouri, Pennsylvania State University, and Washington University.


As our group took to the cars and departed Florence city center, there was a peaceful serenity that enveloped us as we climbed the hills surrounding Florence and gazed upon the olive tree laden hillsides.  We were greeted enthusiastically by Tomas as we entered Fattoria de Maiano and were provided a brief history of the estate and the olive production process.

I was especially intrigued by the fact that the site was at one time an old convent and a quarry (14th century) that provided the marble and stone for the majority of the buildings in the city of Florence, including the Duomo, at that time.

CHS Blog 2.2We were first shown The Villa di Maiano, the impressive main house on the estate, which still had the original décor and furnishings and was the set for the films Tea with Mussolini and A Room with a View. We toured through the house, the exterior garden and terrace. Awed by the views, we saw the working olive farm situated on nearly 300 hectares of land encompassing nearly 20,000 olive trees.

The estate had passed through various owners and was purchased by Sir John Temple Leader in 1844. Leader with his wife, revitalized the estate and surrounding areas until his death in 1903 when possession was transferred to Professor Teodoro Stori, a famous Florentine surgeon.  His niece, Countess Lucrezia Miari Fulcis dei Principi Corsini, inherited the Villa, and her children and grandchildren continue to work the farm and estate today.

CHS Blog 2.3From the villa, Tomas graciously gave us a tour of the estate mill and described the olive oil production process.  I was impressed when he said that the olives are picked entirely by hand and that the estate is completely organic.  The olives are typically picked in November and December, and they are processed in the olive mill via a cold extraction process within 6.5 hours of being picked.

It was such a learning experience as he described how the olives are first separated from the leaves in the hopper and various conveyor belts before being crushed through a series of disks in the olive press.  The oil is then separated from the olive rinds in a double centrifugal press, whose operation naturally pushed the oil one direction and the olive rinds the other.  After separating the various lots, the olive oil is stored in airtight drums until receipt of the order that requires the bottling process.

CHS Blog 2.4When I first learned of the trip, and the support it had received from the CHS Foundation to gain exposure to the agriculture industry, I was excited at the opportunity to learn more about the food products I use in my everyday life. Fattoria de Maiano did not disappoint. It was incredible to see the entire process and to learn exactly how extra virgin olive oil is characterized and the difference from regular virgin olive oil – extra virgin olive oil comes from the first pressing of the olives, contains no more than 0.8% acidity, and is judged to have superior taste.

Olive oil tasting.

Olive oil tasting.

It was awesome to taste their regular extra virgin olive oil and compare it with their premium extra virgin olive oil, Laudemio, which has won awards in Los Angeles and Tokyo.  This was a fantastic visit with wonderful hospitality and information, and if I am ever in the area in the future, I look forward to visiting Fattoria de Maiano again.

I am thankful for the support from CHS, and the CHS Foundation, for allowing us the opportunity to take an in depth look at agricultural products we use in our daily lives. This  has been a once in a lifetime experience and I am grateful for the support from CHS for making it possible.

Guest Blogger: Kimberly Holden, MBA’15

With the complexities of mid-terms, finals, internship and job hunts, trying to coordinate travel arrangements to get the CHS-supported team to Italy was a daunting task. Instead of trying to plan it all, I gave the participants a simple mission: find your way to Florence, Italy. And find their way they did, via plane, train, and automobile. From points across Italy, the team members converged on Florence.

 Guest Blogger: Brandon Smith, team leader for the CHS trip

CHS Blog 1.5 FlorenceWe kicked off the first two days of the trip exploring the city of Florence and allowing the team to get adjusted to the seven hour time difference. When planning the trip I knew I wanted to allow the student’s time to adjust before we jumped into site visits. I felt Florence offered a perfect venue to allow the transition as well as place the team in the heart of the Italian Agricultural sector.

The days were spent visiting the highlights of arguably the greatest city in Italy. From Michelangelo’s David to the Medici Place, the Duomo to the Uffizi gallery, the city offered the team an amazing opportunity to immerse themselves in thousands of years of history.CHS Blog 1.5 Geoff Wittlock at the Uffizi

To set the tone for the week ahead a dinner was planned bringing together the students supported by CHS Inc. with the students participating in the Artex Practicum project. The dinner allowed students to sample the best the region had to offer and began the conversation on the Italian agricultural industry.

The time spent in Florence was an amazing experience and one that was not possible without the support from CHS and the CHS Foundation. Many in the group had never traveled to Europe nor had extensive exposure to the agriculture and energy sector. As this blog will undoubtedly show the students came away with a once in a lifetime experience with a new take on the agricultural and energy industry.

The CHS Foundation is the major giving entity of CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company. As a part of the CHS stewardship focus, the CHS Foundation is committed to investing in the future of rural America and agriculture and cooperative business through education and leadership development. The sponsorship support from CHS helped cover travel, and travel related, expenses for students to participate in a number of number of agricultural and energy related site visits and tours across central and northern Italy.

“The European Union is the second largest agricultural export market in the world. The Italian agriculture sector represents over 17% of Italy’s GDP. These two factors make Italy an ideal location to study the European agriculture industry,” explained Brandon Smith, MBA’15, before he left for two weeks in Italy over Spring Break. Smith who is Graduate Business Student Association President and trip coordinator for the CHS Italian Agriculture and Energy Market Immersion Trip was instrumental in obtaining sponsorship support for the trip through the CHS Foundation.

The sponsorship support from CHS will help cover travel, and travel related expenses for nine students to participate in a number of agricultural and energy related site visits and tours across central and northern Italy.

CHS Inc. is a multibillion-dollar Minnesota-based Fortune 100 company with interests in food processing and wholesale, farm supply, and financial services, among many others. Carl Casale, EMBA’92, is president and CEO of the company.

ItalymapOver the next week, members of the CHS tour will contribute blog posts and photos from their trip. Companies that stand out on the travel itinerary include:

Students will also visit cultural and historic sites across the region. The support received from CHS will allow Olin students to bring back priceless knowledge, real-world experience, and exposure to the opportunities present in the agriculture and energy industries.

Smith said, “In the world today, MBA students often overlook the opportunities in the agriculture and energy sector. Through this sponsorship, CHS, and the CHS Foundation, has demonstrated a commitment to investing in future leaders and exposing a new generation of MBA leaders to the agriculture and energy sector”.

The CHS Foundation is the major giving entity of CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company. As a part of the CHS stewardship focus, the CHS Foundation is committed to investing in the future of rural America and agriculture and cooperative business through education and leadership development.