Scout Pro: Simplifying crop scouting

This AgTech company started as an idea during an agriculture entrepreneurship class at Iowa State University eight years ago.

That class required students to come up with an original business plan in the agriculture industry. Because of his experience with crop scouting, Michael Koenig wanted to develop something more intuitive to better utilize the information that was collected.

“It was all handwritten, so it’s not very searchable in terms of data unless you want to go back and reread my handwriting from weeks of scouting,” Koenig explains.

Koenig would partner with Holden Nyhus and Stuart McCulloh to form Scout Pro in 2011, while all three were students at Iowa State University.

“We won a scholarship, did a couple business plan competitions and just continued to build off that classroom experience,” Koenig says.

He credits Iowa State University and the Ag Entrepreneurship Initiative for turning the idea for Scout Pro into an actual company.

Scout Pro is now based in Urbandale.

Patience and pivoting

Scout Pro launched its initial product in 2012, two years after coming up with the original concept. Koenig said they initially focused on marketing sales towards growers of crops.

“We realized a lot of growers in the U.S, scouting is a service to the grower, it’s not necessarily the growers getting out there and scouting,” Koenig said. “The co-op’s, Ag retailers, seed sales and independent crop consultants, they do crop scouting as a service to the grower. So we shifted to focus more on the retail workflow where there might be multiple growers within a system.”

Koenig said that shift led to an increase in customers. In 2015, Scout Pro made another organizational shift.

“Instead of building out a bunch of different things, we realized there are a lot larger systems that are better funded who could do that,” Koenig said. “So we laid back and did the scouting and observation piece really well. Then integrate with those larger types.”

Scout Pro has also incorporated satellite imagery and weather data to offer customers more information.

“That can help direct our customers to places they need to go versus them just roaming their field,” Koenig said. “There has been a gap, a lot of solutions but nothing working together with data and imagery.”

Moving forward

Scout Pro still has its original three employees and the development team it started with back in 2011. Koenig wonders what would have happened had the company been more aggressive in expanding when the farm economy was better.

“We’re always looking for new opportunities but we are happy with where we are at,” Koenig says.

He said Scout Pro could be looking towards international opportunities.

“We weren’t business majors, but we’ve learned so much through experience it’s added value to our process,” Koenig said. “We are not the developers, we think about it from the field and what the retailer needs.”