Farmers Edge touts tech strengths to build its workforce
Source: Winnipeg Free Press
By: Martin Cash
Farmers Edge may be at the forefront of the global development of the precision farming concept and it has consistently been ranked one of the fastest growing companies in the country but that still doesn’t mean the Winnipeg tech company has the talented, skilled people lining up to work for it.
With more than 500 employees worldwide — Farmers Edge has now deployed its solutions on about 24 million acres of farm production land across four continents — the company is currently looking to build up a technology hub in its Winnipeg head office.
Marina Barnes, chief marketing officer for Farmers Edge
Like most rapidly growing enterprises, it has been hiring virtually non-stop since it was formed in 2005.
But rather than just keep filling positions, the company wants to get the word out about its corporate culture among experienced and talented high-tech professionals.
“We are developing very unique solutions, we are an innovative, rapid-growth, digital company,” said Marina Barnes, Farmers Edge’s chief marketing officer. “We want people to know that we are a tech company… and we have agronomists at the heart of it.”
Tonight, the company is hosting a curated high-tech career summit at its head office; attendees are required to apply in advance. Some observers say other companies may follow in their footsteps by taking a similar approach.
Barnes said Farmers Edge wants to spread the word that not only is it a cool tech company that provides competitive compensation and a work environment that young tech professionals have grown to expect, but it is also addressing important global challenges engaged in work that could make the planet a better place.
In other words, an opportunity to work somewhere that is part of something really big.
“It’s not easy to find talent,” Barnes said. “We need people to know there are opportunities here and the career summit is a way to let people know that even if a position is not open today, it might be there tomorrow. I strongly believe that as much as the company is looking for the right employee, employees should be looking for the right company to work for.”
Farmers Edge has built a digital platform that integrates all sorts of data about the field that generates predictive modelling, allowing farmers to produce higher yields using less inputs.
It has about 130 people in its Winnipeg head office and soils lab; close to 100 in Lethbridge, Alta., where it does a lot of its development work; and another 300-plus around the world. Its U.S. headquarters is in the heart of farm country in Ames, Iowa, and the company is also growing its presence in Brazil, Australia, Russia and Ukraine.
Kathy Knight, the CEO of ICTAM (Information and Communication Technology Association of Manitoba), said Farmers Edge is being savvy in the way it’s approaching recruitment for its new Winnipeg tech hub.
“They want to raise their profile so that they are more attractive,” Knight said. “By creating that awareness, they can be more attractive to the highly qualified personnel that they are after. The way they are doing the recruitment event is really smart. They are being selective. You have to apply and be invited to attend.”
Knight believes that the ongoing tight labour market and the shortage in mid-level and senior developers mean companies who are serious are going to have to show their commitment.
In addition to the competitive pay packages and workplace perks, Barnes believes Farmers Edge can get its own edge in the talent recruitment field by promoting the positive aspects of working at the Winnipeg precision farming business.
“We want people to know that in addition to being a cool company to work for, Farmers Edge is a place for people who want to make a difference in agriculture, that our practice is sustainable, that we are working on reducing emissions and helping to feed a growing world,” she said.