Billy Tiller co-founded the cooperative to empower farmers in data analysis through hustle and determination.
Numbers, graphs and models might seem boring to some, but in the agriculture industry, this data can be a big step in bridging the gap between traditional farming and modern innovation.
Billy Tiller, a 1986 Jerry S. Rawls College of Business graduate, discovered his passion for business while studying at Texas Tech University.
"I love the idea of building a business from scratch," Tiller said. "I have been involved either as an owner, partner, investor or consultant in dozens of businesses over the last 38 years. I can't remember a time when I did not want to be involved in business."
Tiller has spent the last 38 years in agriculture and agricultural production. He invested 10 years as an agricultural banker and was involved for 22 years in rural telecommunication companies that deploy cellular and internet services to customers.
"I have spent the last 30 years serving on boards in agricultural nonprofits," Tiller said. "This experience has increased my ability to understand and execute corporate governance and develop long-term strategies that increase a company's sustainable viability."
Now he's using that experience to help bridge the gap between farming and innovation.
A farmer's power with data
In late 2012, Tiller co-founded Grower Information Services Cooperative (GiSC), where he currently servs as CEO. GiSC was formed to empower farmers around the idea that data has value and the future of the agriculture would be best navigated by realizing the power of business insights from accurate data.
"A group of committed farmers became the initial board of directors and have served in that capacity ever since," Tiller said. "Chief Technology Officer, Mark Cox, has been by side from the very beginning of GiSC."
The cooperative is owned by its patrons and members, including cotton marketing cooperatives, cotton gin cooperatives and input cooperatives which sell farmers fuel, seed and chemicals. GiSC designs and builds digital products that fill gaps between data insights and a farmer's work, in order for data to be effectively used.
"My emphasis in the agriculture technology sector is solely focused on GiSC and finding or inventing simpler solutions that most farms can employ without completely retooling their farm," Tiller said.
Tiller discovered that data was power, and farmers need to take leadership in the data world. He started GiSC to give farmers power over big data and reduce the reactionary nature to the opportunities or treats data would impose.
"GiSC is building partnerships throughout the agriculture industry through innovation and collaboration always directed at grower-centric solutions," Tiller said. "We will partner with anyone who can show they understand that the farmer must have an ownership interest in his or her data and their end game is continuous improvement in the farmer's life. The improvement could be in the form of profits, quality of life, community outreach, sustainability or accountability."
Innovation in agriculture
"Innovation is important to agriculture as we try to increase productivity to feed a growing population," Tiller said. "The agriculture industry must utilize innovation to become more sustainable via a continuous improvement loop. Innovation over the last century, from the plow to the tractor and mechanized farming, has been unbelievable."
"When you consider seed breeding and the seed hybrids, it is easy to see productivity go through the roof. Chemicals for weed and insect control have also been game changers. Today we are dealing with a wave of agriculture technology. Adoption of new technology is low but GiSC seeks to help bridge the gap between farmers and innovative technology."
GiSC recently partnered with Twin Platte Natural Resources District (TPNRD) to introduce a water-data program. GiSC provides growers with real-time information through an online dashboard to automatically calculate real time water use data. The goal of this initiative is to introduce technology that can benefit a farmer's understanding of water usage. The new innovation has been adopted by 50% of the project area, covering 3,200 irrigation wells.