As Florida and the nation continues to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida Grower® magazine is recognizing the important role businesses play in serving specialty crop producers in the state. This month, we are featuring Steve Maxwell, founder and CEO of Highland Ag Solutions.
Can you provide a little history about Highland Ag Solutions?
MAXWELL: Highland started as an agricultural packaging company back in 2005. I was a customer of what was then called Highland Distribution, and my business partner, John Durham, and I made a proposal to buy it. We knew that growers needed a better solution for their packaging needs and getting their produce to the marketplace. We wanted to provide them with a company that could give them 24/7 service with packaging, labels, and inventory control, and provide them with a sales team that guided them through it all.
In 2018, we sold our packaging company so we could focus our energies in a much more critical area of need for our customers through Highland Ag Solutions, LLC (HAS). HAS’ mission is to help the grower better manage his or her farm by converting farm operations into a digital platform, allowing them to reach their full potential through data-driven decisions.
How has COVID-19 impacted Highland Ag Solutions’ operations?
MAXWELL: For us, wanting to see and visit with our customers face-to-face is always going to be our preference. But like many other businesses, we have embraced the video meeting culture. Now that we are a thriving agricultural software company, we have been focused on providing 24/7 support and service through phone and video. It actually has given us the opportunity to service in ways that we may not have
Are you seeing a general trend of more growers trying precision technology on their farms? And what do you believe is driving it?
MAXWELL: Precision technology has morphed drastically over the past few years. What we used to see, just as drones and GPS-guided tractors, has evolved into running an entire operation (farm, packaging house, and front office) on your device with software that navigates through everything from food safety to market analysis.
What precision tools are hot with growers right now?
MAXWELL: The tool every grower needs right now is software that manages their data. Highland Hub is a digital ecosystem we have designed that aggregates that data safely and securely, so growers can harness it and use it in ways that will help their business grow by applying it to apps they can use on their farm or packinghouse.
Where do you see technology taking agriculture in the next five to 10 years?
MAXWELL: We are just getting into the beginning stages of agricultural software. Growers, marketers, and packinghouse managers will simply turn on their phones and get to work. They already have the opportunity to do that with Highland Hub with FS365 and MarketWatch, but we are just getting started on the tools and apps that the Hub will offer. From handling payroll to managing food traceability — it all may be just a few clicks away to get it done.
There will always be a need for boots on the ground for farmers. However, with new technology implemented, decisions will happen faster and with more confidence, which will convert to better grower returns.