A Conversation with Matt Ashton

By Rebecca Lam

Tue, 16 Oct 2018

With 4 weeks until Ag 4.0, we spoke to one of our panellists – Matt Ashton, the Senior VP of Grain for Central Valley Ag Cooperative. He discusses the responsibilities and challenges of co-operatives, and the work that he is currently doing at Central Valley Ag.

 
Can you tell us more about your agricultural experience prior to Central Valley Ag?

I have had the opportunity to work in the Agriculture industry for twenty years, with the majority of that time spent in the local cooperative system in Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska.  I have been at Central Valley Ag Cooperative for two years and prior to that I was in South Dakota for eight years as Grain Division Manager and later promoted to CEO of a Local Cooperative. 

 

Are you able to expand on the work that you are currently doing at CVA?

My responsibilities are to oversee the entire Grain Division at CVA.  I am responsible for the P & L, risk management, grain origination, rail transportation, merchandising, capital expenditures, development of new products and services to offer our farmer customers as well as grow and develop destination market relationships to bring incremental and differential advantages to our member owners.  

 
Why do farmers decide to be part of a co-op? What are a cooperatives’ main responsibilities?

Producers are part of a cooperative because they have a say in the business.  They are represented by a board of directors that is elected by the membership, to represent the membership.  The main responsibility of a cooperative is provide goods and services to their member owners that they cannot do on their own.  Working together for a common goal of the betterment of each member, the communities and states they live in, and providing food to feed the world.  

 
What challenges are faced by cooperatives within the agriculture industry? What ideas would you propose to overcome these challenges?  

Margin constriction of our member owners and the industry is a challenge.  To overcome this, we can bring new ideas, technology and efficiencies to our patrons.  Reduce redundancy and inefficiencies’ in our business.  Help producers understand costs of production and benefits of costs as an investment rather than a cost to reduce profitability.  Spending money in the most beneficial way to bring the most value back for each dollar spent.

 
You are part of the Understanding the Modern Farmer panel. Can you tell us why you’re passionate about this area?

The business of Agriculture is changing and changing fast.  We have to be able to continue to understand our wants, needs, hopes, desires of our customer so we can continue to bring value to their operation for today and into the future.  CVA and cooperatives can be a part of the change and be welcome and open to it or we can be averse to change.  Being averse to change is not in our patron or our cooperative’s best interest.  

 
Does the CVA encourage its farmers to invest in technology? Why?

Absolutely, we encourage and promote technology that benefits our member owners in the short and long term.  Technology continues to bring advancements, efficiencies and new data to analyze for the betterment of all. 

 

What trends do you think will transform the cooperative environment in the next 10 years?

Technology, Automation, Autonomous equipment, Consolidation of farmers and business, Block trade, Block chain, Algorithm, traceability of products and less labor to draw from. 

 
Connect with Central Valley Ag 

 

Website: www.cvacoop.com

Facebook: @centralvalleyagcoop

Twitter: @CentralValleyAg

 

Ag 4.0 Workshop  

Join Matt Ashton and leading industry experts at Ag 4.0, a workshop aimed at improving the understanding of modern agriculture practices and creating interoperable solutions. Matt will be a panelist, speaking on the panel: Understanding the Modern Farmer

Be part of a workshop where farmers will be given the opportunity to tell AgTech companies what they need, rather than the other way around. If you are a farmer or grower – secure your FREE ticket here.


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Rebecca Lam

rlam@challenge.org

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