Why I Chose FBN: Matt Meisner, Vice President, R&D and Data Science
Our ‘Why I Chose FBN’ series features stories from employees across different roles, teams, and geographies on how they got to FBN, what it’s like to work here, and how their teams help fulfill our mission of putting Farmers First®.
When did you join FBN, what is your current role at FBN, where are you based, and what are your responsibilities?
I am based in the Bay area and I joined FBN at the very beginning, so back in early 2014. I currently lead our Data and R&D teams.
The Data team is responsible for analyzing all data that FBN works with and that breaks down into two types of use cases for data. One being data analytics that we do for farmer-facing tools that build benchmarking, input recommendations, and data visualization.
We really try to build reports to help farmers make decisions in a more transparent and data-driven way. The data team also involves Data Analysts and Data Engineers who are building some of the core business analytics that we use to understand what is going on in the company.
This includes things like sales metrics, dashboards, reporting, tracking KPIs, etc. so we can help answer questions like ‘what marketing has been most effective?’ or ‘where do we see the highest customer retention?’
As FBN grew, we launched the R&D group who is responsible for evaluating new technologies in the Ag industry that might be relevant for us. This is most helpful specifically for FBN Direct®. There are new technologies being developed, new types of inputs, new innovators, and we are not going to develop all of those in-house; so we focus on partnering with those companies to figure out what are the technology areas we should be excited about and what impact could there be on the grower.
What was your previous work experience before joining FBN?
Prior to FBN, I was working at UC Davis in California, a big Ag-focused school. We really focused on helping farmers develop data-driven tools to manage their operations as well, so very related to what we are doing here at FBN.
That’s actually how I got connected with Amol. At UC Davis, we were focused on taking the insights from citrus, almond, and cotton growers in California. They would report data on input use, yields, pesticides, etc. and would aggregate that data together to answer questions like ‘when is it the optimal time to spray?’
I didn’t grow up on a farm, but I got interested in Ag originally working on a research farm in Wisconsin throughout high school and college. I really enjoyed working with growers, getting out into the field, and doing something that had practical and real-world implications.
What did you first find compelling about FBN that led you to want to learn more?
The mission of helping farmers become more successful and more profitable has always resonated with me. Whether through data offerings or through products, it’s all about helping the grower be more efficient. I think that mission is what drives most people to stay at FBN a long time.
Why did you ultimately decide to join FBN? What did this thought process look like for you?
The fact that what we were doing, and still do, is very unique appealed to me. This isn’t one of 50 companies doing the same thing with a slightly different perspective - there is only one FBN. So I was drawn to how unique it was plus joining a startup early on is always a lot of fun.
How would you describe FBN’s culture and what it’s like to work here?
Couple things that stand out to me: First is how genuine the mission alignment is among everyone at the company. Everyone knows what we are trying to do and sees that it actually matters. We actually care about our mission. The excitement about working in agriculture and really helping farmers is unique and makes working here fun.
Another part of it is that there is a lot of openness to good ideas coming from anywhere. You don’t have to be in a certain role or at a certain “level” to speak up and act on an idea you have. It’s a very flat culture in the sense that people can easily push the bounds of their role beyond what might be on paper.
What kind of impact are you and your team having on the company’s future?
On the data side, I think we view that as a very sustainable part of our competitive advantage going forward. We have unique data sets and relationships with farmers. We have very valuable data that we can use in a way to help our members work with FBN more effectively.
On the R&D side, we are very progressive in thinking about how our portfolio of products can and should change in the future. The Ag input landscape is not going to be the same 10 years from now, and we need to be leaders in evaluating new technologies to be prepared for the future.
How does FBN’s mission come to life in your day-to-day work? How does your work positively impact farmers?
From the data team’s perspective, we are very true to a mission in making sure we are only ever using the data in a way that would be useful to our farmers. We ask ourselves, “If farmers knew we were using data in this way, would they be proud to be an FBN member?” We want to always be using agriculture data to help enable farmers and growers to be more efficient.
On the R&D side, what's exciting is starting with the “farmer problem” and working backwards to come up with the best solution. Whether it's a pest issue or disease issue or an equipment or pricing problem, we work backwards to find the most efficient way to solve the problem. We’re always thinking about things from the farmers perspective.
We know you have a life outside of work - what kinds of things do you do for fun?
I love traveling to new places, though the last few years have made that a little tougher - and that got even tougher with kids. Living in a place with a lot of great outdoor activities, we like to go explore new places, ocean, and mountains, and get a little break from screen time.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone considering FBN?
Don't worry about fitting your background into a role perfectly. This is not a place where people have rigid definitions of what a role is. If you’ve got the passion and the experience to do well, don't worry about matching the “letter of the law” in the job description.
Roles change and people are encouraged to do things they care about and can have an impact on, even if it is outside of their traditional role.
Be creative, come with ideas - those are the people who will have the most fun and the most opportunity here.
Want to work for FBN?
Outstanding companies are built by outstanding people. The FBN team goes to work everyday to ensure farmers stay profitable while they feed the world.
Learn more about the open roles available at FBN.
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