back to blog Ricky Stephens April 11, 2018 2:01 p.m. EDT

Meet Our Members! Interview #3: Dan Nelson

Note: We’re kicking off our blog by interviewing the members that make our community thrive; and to give you a true sense of what they do and why they do it.

1. What is your “job title”?
Co-Founder & CEO – Grow Computer

2. What 3 subjects do you care most about in the world?

  • Climate change – not just temperature, but the systematic degradation of natural resources around the world and the impacts they will have on the next 100 years of humanity.
  • Local Economies – I believe there is a new local market opportunity around the world that can combat the waste and abuse by large companies.
  • Making Farms Smart – There is so much interesting data that farms of all sizes can collect. Once we can connect these farms and track their results, we may see amazing new opportunities and efficiencies for growing food around the world.

3. In what ways does your work incorporate these subjects?

Grow Computer is aiming to solve all three by giving small farmers, entrepreneurs, researchers and students a powerful tool to learn more and engage with indoor farming in a new way.  Right now, to get these data points, you either need to have $10,000s of dollars or a prerequisite understanding of electrical engineering and computer programming.

If we can achieve our goals of democratizing the technology needed to extract the bits around indoor agriculture, we believe that there is an exponential expansion of the power and efficiency of urban agriculture and sustainability that is achievable.

4. How do you spend your time in an average work week?

That is a loaded question for me, since I don’t usually have ‘average’ work weeks.  Generally speaking I have meetings and calls during the day and get a lot of work done at night, and regularly work 80+ hours/week.

I spend about 50-60% of my time as an Outside CFO for startups where I get to work with entrepreneurs and startups and help them figure out the quantitative and financial sides of their businesses.

The rest of my time is spent building out this business, working with the rest of the team at Grow Computer, talking to everyone and working on projects at AgTech X.

5. What were you doing 3 years ago?

Three years ago my first startup was in the process of imploding, so I was consulting as a Financial Program Manager for TIAA-Cref. It was as miserable as it sounds.

6. What do you hope to be doing 3 years from now?

Working full time on Grow Computer and building an exciting company that is efficient, sustainable and can drive positive change around the world.  Our goal is to work with various groups to help them build smarter, more efficient and more unique indoor agriculture projects.  I especially hope to work with schools to develop new and unique curriculum, for future farmers and also with entrepreneurs to build smarter indoor businesses.

7. Why does your work matter to you?

I believed whole heartedly in MIT’s OpenAgriculture mission but was really discouraged by the complexity and inaccessibility of the food computer designs and construction. If we can start to give people the tools they need to collect and share growing data in an easy way, we still think that there is a revolution in indoor and urban farming waiting to happen.

8. What is the #1 benefit you’ve received from being a part of the AgTech X community?

The ecosystem and the people. Starting as an Agtech ‘Groupie’ 2 years ago, it’s been amazing to see the way the community continues to evolve and grow but is also welcoming and excited about innovation. We wouldn’t have been successful without the community cultivated by AgTech X.

About the Author

Ricky Stephens

Co-Founder, AgTech X.
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