Collaborative Targeted Digital Solutions Take on Challenges in Ag
By Michelle Pelletier Marshall, Women in Agribusiness Media (January 9, 2024)
A famous African proverb reads “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together”. Hence, it stands to reason that Cultura Technologies’ philosophy of building collaborative groups within the agri-food industry to identify and solve some of the industry’s most pressing challenges would be a big step in the direction of success.
Cultura is the only growing global collaborative of people, businesses, and insights, building a thriving and resilient agri-food system, with businesses based in North America, Europe, UK, and Ireland.
Formed in 2011, Cultura’s 10 businesses are focused across the entire agri-food system, with autonomy to focus on the unique challenges of their respective specialties including egg, dairy, grain & oilseed, feed, retail, growers, and CPG manufacturers.
With some of the industry’s most successful agri-food businesses as customers, the company has been collaborating to better address some of our industry’s most pressing challenges such as tracking and tracing and sustainability. Together, they are looking for more partners who have a shared passion to enhance the world’s most important industry through convening collaborative circles to help generate technology-enabled decisions.
Two women deep within the trenches of these coordinated efforts are Mary Wilson, founder/president of Tibersoft, whose 25-year career stands as a testament to her pioneering role as a steward in advancing technology solutions within the food industry, and Susanna Stout, general manager at Solentra, who has similarly spent 24 years in the industry forging trusted partnerships and solving problems for large enterprise agribusinesses.
WIA Today spoke to the pair for details on this unique collaborative effort, as well as their journeys as women in ag.
1). Please explain how Cultura convenes collaborative teams towards its mission of providing substantial solutions in the ag sector through digital transformation.
Mary Wilson: Until recently, some companies – like Tibersoft – didn’t label themselves as being part of the agriculture industry, although we provide data insights and analytics to that industry. As digitization has become critical to the agriculture industry, we’ve embraced being part of the agri-food supply chain. I’ve seen new energy and openness to collaboration in recent years that wasn’t always present in the agriculture industry. Cultura’s approach to collaborative teams is very organic. If you pose the question to others within the agriculture industry, you’ll easily find other people ready to have collaborative conversations.
Susanna Stout: Cultura’s approach to collaborative teams started internally across businesses throughout the agricultural value chain. Each business engages with customers individually but comes together to solve problems with our collaborative companies. It’s a great example of talking to customers to gain understanding and then coming together to share knowledge throughout the entire value chain.
2). How is it that your positions and responsibilities coincide to meet the needs of your clients?
[MW]: We periodically gather both in-person and virtually to discuss challenges the agriculture industry is facing; what skills, people, and processes we could bring to the table to solve those problems; where the gaps are; and what other companies Cultura should invite to participate in collaboration.
[SS]: Women fit into, and are very much a part of, leadership at Cultura. The leaders at Cultura collaborate to talk, share our processes, examine challenges, and help each other address those challenges.
3). Cultura’s unique offering of technology enables decisions across the entire food supply, including inputs, production, processing, aggregating, trading, manufacturing, and distribution, to be coordinated and improved. Where do you see places where you could utilize these strengths in people, processes, and technology?
[MW]: One example where Cultura is leading the way is by helping our sister companies be prepared for the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2026. That regulation requires traceability from farm to fork for 18 raw products in the supply chain. Historically, the supply chain has only been able to track traceability one step in either direction. Cultura is in a wonderful position to help the agriculture industry solve that issue. We’re thinking about our clients’ challenges before they even ask for our help, because we know the issues they’re going to face, and we’re working to smooth out the way.
[SS]: Cultura is showing leadership on agriculture industry challenges by learning from our European sister companies that have already tackled some of the same industry challenges. For example, a sister company in Ireland has 10 years of experience with traceability, so we’re drawing on that – that experience is powerful. As leaders, I believe we must be willing to go outside our own businesses and collaborate, ask questions, and learn from each other.
4). While Cultura serves customers in many specific vertical markets other than agri-food, how, as women, have you found your experience in ag to be? What advice would you give to women entering the sector?
[MW]: My advice to other women in the agri-food industry is to raise your hand and say yes. Very often, I see women hesitate to apply for a job because they meet many of the requirements, but not all. The rest of the organization is there to support your growth, so step into those positions and the opportunities that arise. As women, we don’t always feel as though we’re worthy, but we are. We need to encourage each other.
[SS]: I’ve worked in the agriculture industry nearly my entire career, and I believe it’s one of the best industries. There are great people to build relationships with and you can see the growth of those connections. My advice is to build your network, look for mentors in the industry, and take advantage of the organizations that help you grow. I’ve had wonderful mentors in the agriculture industry who have helped me navigate the available opportunities and understand what agriculture is. The agriculture industry is vast, encompassing software, technology, producers, retailers, manufacturers, and more.
ABOUT MARY WILSON
Co-founding Tibersoft in 1996, Wilson now serves as president of the company, and has led the company to success in service of elevating performance standards for enterprise food manufacturers in North America. Following the acquisition by Cultura Technologies in 2017, Tibersoft operates autonomously under Wilson's leadership, serving esteemed clients such as PepsiCo US and Conagra. Beyond her technological expertise and sound business management, Wilson is an advocate for women in technology. She passionately empowers women within and beyond her teams, leaving an indelible mark on both the technological and human aspects of her field.
ABOUT SUSANNA STOUT
Susanna Stout is general manager of Solentra Global, the Cultura Technologies company that collaborates with enterprise agribusinesses and their supply chain partners by providing mission critical software and top-tier technology services. This is Stout’s 24th year with the company. She started as a project manager, moved to account management, became director of operations, and in 2022 accepted the role as company leader. As an ag technology executive, a farmer, and former country elevator operator, she understands and has a passion for agriculture and its related industries. Stout and her husband live on an acreage in rural Kansas.
- Michelle Pelletier Marshall is contributing editor and author for HighQuest Partners’ GAI News and Unconventional Ag, and managing editor for its WIA Today blog. Additionally, she is the company’s Senior PR/Media Manager. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.