When it comes to operations driving innovation, dairy farms probably don’t come to mind.
But that’s precisely what Kansas City’s largest private employer — Dairy Farmers of America — is doing with its move to partner with the revamped Sprint Accelerator in 2017. DFA is among four corporations syncing up with the program in hopes that it will identify startup partnerships that will foster technologies to manage its massive nationwide operations.
While cows, hay and cowboy boots may be the simplistic and stereotypical imagery for dairy operations, DFA senior vice president Kevin Strathman said that his organization manages an exceptionally complex process. It’s work that entails management of logistics, data and merchandising for more than 8,000 dairy farms nationwide, offering startups a wealth of opportunity to create and implement new technologies.
Strathman said the Sprint Accelerator partnership will help advance DFA’s mission that strives for constant improvements.
“We’ve got to evolve, adapt and innovate to survive,” he said. “Our farmers live that out as well — they’ve always got to be adapting. The environment is changing and our dairy farmers are pretty innovative when you dig into it. We understand that the world is changing. It’s a global economy, and we have to do things better and smarter.”
Strathman said there are a wealth of opportunities for startups to collaborate with DFA and that the company is willing to consider any startup that can provide value in its operations.
For example, DFA is involved in not only retrieving cows’ milk at least twice a day, but also processing it, collecting data from it, shipping it and then pushing it to customers within an expiration window. Ag tech companies in product testing, data management, herd health and management, sustainability and traceability are encouraged to apply.
A native of Axtell, Kan., Strathman said he hopes DFA incurs another tangential benefit from working with the Sprint Accelerator.
“We hope the entrepreneurial thinking will rub off on our employees participating,” he said. “It’s a different mindset than a large corporate mindset. It’s that quick decision making and that entrepreneurial ‘solve-a-problem’ mindset we’re hoping is a side benefit.”
On Oct. 20, the Sprint Accelerator announced that the program has undergone a significant evolution that hopes to foster meaningful partnerships between startups and Kansas City corporations. Learn more about the 90-day program here.