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Kelly Miller

Connecting Farmers with Technology: Kelly Miller on Leveraging Innovation for Perpetual Advancements

As the Director of AgTech at Compeer Financial, Kelly Miller brings a wealth of experience and expertise cultivated over her years in agricultural lending. With a career spanning multiple roles, including loan officer, product management leader, and innovation & strategy lead, Kelly’s journey has led her to the forefront of agricultural technology.

For Kelly, the transition from lending to product management sparked a significant “ah-ha” moment, revealing the transformative potential of technological advancements for farmers. She recognizes that technology offers farmers and rural communities the opportunity to enhance efficiency and productivity in their daily operations and business endeavors.

In her current role, Kelly is dedicated to providing digital financing solutions to farmers and drive innovation within the agriculture industry. By partnering with ag retailers to offer point of sale and embedded financing, farmers are able to make purchases and run their businesses on their own terms, whether they’re in their fields, making purchases at their local retailer or in-person at one of Compeer’s offices.

Empowering AgTech Innovation

Kelly’s role at Compeer Financial encompasses a range of key responsibilities and day-to-day activities aimed at driving innovation and supporting the adoption of technology within the agricultural sector. She plays an essential role in establishing and maintaining relationships with AgTech partner companies, both new and existing. She collaborates closely with these partners to evaluate and integrate cutting-edge technologies that align with the needs of Compeer Financial’s clients.

While leading the AgTech Product and Sales Teams, Kelly oversees a group of professionals responsible for developing and managing AgTech products and solutions. Her role also includes driving and supporting change management for digital lending adoption, where she is actively involved in driving change management efforts to facilitate the adoption of digital lending solutions within Compeer Financial and among its clients.

Transforming Agriculture

Kelly believes that agriculture is rooted in relationship selling: lending, input sales, real estate transactions, and anything else farmers buy. The challenge with that is the change management that is required for the teams across all of those industries to support a different way of doing business. Based on Kelly’s experience, clients are ready to do more and more business online, and the agriculture industry has to keep up.

Fostering a Culture of Innovation

Kelly shares the importance of fostering innovation and collaboration within her team to drive technological advancements in agriculture. This culture is what Compeer is striving towards as an organization. A few key cultural behaviors that Kelly emphasizes to drive growth in Compeer include cultivating healthy relationships, innovating to stay ahead of the market, and championing change to evolve to the next level.

Kelly regularly asks a couple of very tactical questions: “What has to be true for this to happen?” and “How might we be able to get this done?” Additionally, Kelly considers, “If we started over, what would we do differently?” Finally, Kelly seeks input from AgTech partners, valuing their thoughts and ideas. Kelly believes that active listening to partners and clients is crucial for learning and growth.

Insights on New Trends

Kelly is keen on emerging trends and technologies in AgTech, particularly the role of AI, which she believes will play a significant role in agricultural lending in the long run. Kelly expresses a mixture of excitement and apprehension regarding the potential of AI to better serve farmers.

To stay updated, she faithfully reads a few resources each week. These include Shane Thomas’s Upstream Insights, as well as insightful blog posts and LinkedIn posts from many of Compeer’s partners. Kelly finds these sources invaluable for staying informed about the latest developments and insights in AgTech.

Balancing Innovation and Practicality

Kelly recognizes the delicate balance between both being innovative and practical in digital channels. She believes that the most successful instances in their digital channels have occurred when there was full buy-in from the sales team, and they effectively conveyed the value proposition to the farmers. She understands that farmers are more willing to try new ways of doing business if it comes recommended by a trusted partner. Thus, Kelly underscores the ongoing importance of relationships in this business, even in the context of advancing technology and digitalization.

Strategic Partnership Selection

At Compeer Financial, Kelly shares that the team has developed the AgTech business unit with a go-to-market strategy centered around partnerships and collaborations. When vetting potential partners, Kelly and the team consider a couple of key factors:

  • Alignment of Values: They ensure that the values of both parties align, as this is crucial for a successful and sustainable partnership.
  • Unique Offerings: They assess whether each potential partner offers something unique that complements the strengths of both parties. This ensures that the collaboration brings added value to each other.
  • Staying in Zone of Expertise: Kelly highlights the importance of each partner staying within their “zone of expertise.” For example, Compeer Financial leverages its expertise in lending and making strong financial decisions, while allowing other partners to contribute their specialized knowledge and skills in their respective areas.

Measuring Impact in AgTech

Kelly measures the success and impact of AgTech solutions implemented through various metrics and feedback channels, including:

  • Adoption: The AgTech team assesses the level of adoption of AgTech solutions among farmers and clients.
  • Learnings from each partner: This includes understanding the challenges faced, successes achieved, and opportunities for improvement.
  • Learnings from Client Feedback: Kelly and her team actively solicit feedback from clients and farmers who utilize the AgTech solutions.

Through tracking adoption rates, learning from partners, and listening to client feedback, Kelly can effectively measure the success and impact of AgTech solutions implemented, ultimately driving continuous improvement and innovation in the agricultural sector.

Guiding Young Professionals

Kelly advises young professionals aspiring to make an impact in the field of agriculture technology to consider the following:

  • Be curious and ask questions
  • Believe in the mission and leadership
  • Listen to farmers/clients

Strengthening Collaborations for Agricultural Progress

Kelly describes the evolution as a movement towards enabling farmers to conduct business in the same seamless manner as they do in their consumer lives. She believes that farmers and rural America deserve access to easy and efficient ways of conducting business, which serves as a driving force to continue pushing progress and innovation in agriculture through AgTech initiatives.

Looking ahead, Kelly is committed to:

  • Growing partnerships: Kelly aims to strengthen partnerships with like-minded organizations to foster collaboration and drive further innovation.
  • Relentless improvement of client experience: Kelly prioritizes continuously improving the client experience, ensuring that farmers have access to the best services and technologies available.
  • Paying attention to trends and acting on them: Kelly emphasizes the importance of staying vigilant about emerging trends in agriculture and swiftly acting upon them to stay ahead of the curve.
  • Failing quickly, learning and growing: Kelly encourages a culture of embracing failure as a means of learning and growing. By failing quickly, she believes that valuable lessons can be learned, leading to further progress and innovation.

Through these strategies, Kelly is dedicated to driving positive change and advancement in agriculture, benefiting both farmers and rural communities.