A Farming Revolution
Thursday, November 1, 2018
SST Software founders take technology to the fields
By Will Carr
Research being conducted at Oklahoma State University and by its alumni continues to help farmers everywhere looking to increase efficiency and sustainability.
One company on the forefront of that research is SST Software, located only a few miles from the OSU campus in Stillwater.
David Waits started SST Software in 1994. His son, Matt Waits, is now the CEO, guiding the company through its recent acquisition by Proagrica.
During the 1970s and ’80s, David was a farmer and saw the need for more precision in agriculture.
“My dad got exposed to the fledgling technologies in the industry as a farmer. He saw the need for more precision in the agricultural industry.”
David went on to earn degrees in economics and geography from OSU along with a doctorate in land management from Texas Tech. His skills as a farmer coupled with his education paved the way for SST Software’s creation and direction — applying satellite sensing and geographic information systems in agriculture.
Using satellite information coupled with geographic data has helped revolutionize the industry. SST Software has used this research to build precision agriculture applications.
“Agronomists use our software to create fertilizer recommendations that can be loaded into the field computers inside a piece of equipment like a tractor,” Matt said. “As the tractor moves across the field with GPS, it will change fertilizer rates as it goes.”
The software has increased efficiency for agronomists while keeping costs down for farmers.
Larry Tracy, agronomist and president of Precision Agronomics in Danville, Illinois, has been using SST Software platforms for nearly 25 years.
“The price to the farmer is probably the same as it was in 1988 because we have gained enough efficiencies through the use of software like SST’s that we haven’t had to increase the price,” Tracy said. “We’re not charging more to do the same job we are doing now even though we are leveraging more acres.”
Matt received his agricultural economics degree from OSU in 1999, becoming a third-generation graduate of the university. He points to his education and time spent with his grandparents growing up that lead him to his current career path.
“My degree paired with working on my grandparents’ farm in the summers was a pretty good foundation for coming out here and helping the company apply this technology on the farm,” Matt said.
OSU was not only important in the education of the Waits family, but also served an integral role in the start of SST Software. David Waits was a professor at OSU in the 1990s, and Matt sees how this benefited the company during its founding.
“It was very advantageous to be near the university in the beginning,” Matt said. “A lot of our initial employees were my dad’s students. The beginnings were with his master’s level GIS or remote sensing classes.”
The Stillwater community is another important aspect of the company as it continues to house its headquarters in the city where it was founded nearly 25 years ago.
“It’s a vibrant, young community,” Matt said. “We have been able to attract a lot of talent out of the university and keep them here in town. There are also a lot of alumni who want to get back to Stillwater, so that has also been an advantage.”
As the company continues to grow in Stillwater, it is also rapidly expanding into Oklahoma City and Tulsa. This growth and the acquisition by Proagrica were crucial steps for the company as the ag-tech space continues to grow.
“We partnered with Proagrica because it is an independent data analytics company,” Matt said. “The independence is important to us because our customers’ data is private. They want to make sure it stays that way.”
The next step for Proagrica is to help solidify the supply chain digitally, including farmers, agronomists, grain buyers, insurance providers and more.
“It’s very difficult to move the data across the parts of the supply chain,” Matt said. “There is a real lack of standardization. A lot of competitive forces have stopped people from integrating. One of our goals is to take the integration capability Proagrica has and the precision agronomy tools we have and connect them in the supply chain in a way that works.”
Improving the digital relationship between the farmer and the rest of the supply chain will increase efficiency, hopefully boosting greater crop yields.
To hear David Waits discuss his company, visit okla.st/DWaits.