Meet the team: Fourth-generation farmer Drew Shaw is helping bring digital solutions to agriculture
With a passion for technology and a family history deeply rooted in farming, Drew Shaw has found his niche working at the forefront of agricultural innovation in his role as Product Manager with TELUS Agriculture & Consumer Goods. “The general public doesn't fully understand the amount of technology in modern-day farming equipment, right from being able to track where every single seed goes in the ground,” he observes. “People are really excited about self-driving cars coming out, but we've had that in the farming industry since the early 2000s, where the tractors drive themselves through the fields.” Drew divides his time between his role with TELUS and helping out on the farm that’s been in his family for four generations, where he lives with his wife and three young daughters. It’s a life that affords him plenty of perspective on how digital tools are playing an increasingly important role in helping farmers adapt to climate and demographic changes. “In agriculture, we’re trying to feed more people every day with less people to do the actual work – all while managing tighter regulations,” he notes. “A lot of the technology companies in agriculture set out to solve this problem, but the market got flooded with multiple-point solutions, causing users to have to use ten different programs to accomplish the work that they do every day. TELUS solves this problem by bringing multiple solutions across the value chain into one spot.” With cloud-based solutions like TELUS Agronomy, agronomists can boost efficiency and better serve growers by bringing key insights to the farm gate. Advisors can plan for the season ahead, easily identify potential field pressures, and provide confident and accurate label-checked recommendations. Plus, they can bring data collected from the field to their fingertips to analyze results and improve practices. It’s a long way from the world of farming that his predecessors lived in. “My grandfather thought a cab on a tractor was luxury,” he says, with a laugh. “We went from tractors that had AC to tractors that were literally driving themselves and monitoring themselves through the field, and that can now tell us metre by metre, what the yield was in each spot, and how to manage that spot of the field.”
Five things to know about Drew Shaw
The most rewarding part of his role
What I enjoy the most is getting to fix or build something that really changes our customers’ lives. When we build something that changes their ability to hit their goals, that feels really special.
His thoughts on the challenges currently facing agriculture
The biggest challenges are regulation and workforce. People are not fighting to get into it, and it’s also heavily regulated. It’s like someone asking you to bake a cake, but you can't use a mixer and you can't use sugar. You have to find a way to still make the cake just as good as it was, but without the tools you’ve relied on every other day.
What he sees for the future
I think that we’ll start being able to use all the data that we as farmers have collected over the years. We can analyze data from one field to the next, but what about analyzing every field that a product was applied to and being able to understand the outcomes of those products? That’s the type of thing that will propel us to being able to solve the mass problem of growing more with less. Farming is a science, but it's also an art, and being able to merge those two things together with data will benefit everyone.
One of his favourite client success stories
There was an agriculture product seller I worked with who didn't believe in technology at all. I showed how the system could tell the grower, “Here's your plan with the products you want to use this year. This is the pricing and everything.” Suddenly the grower could see his return on his investment right away, and the seller was able to start talking about products that he really had never been able to talk about before. Since then he’s become a big advocate for us.
How he spends his free time
I enjoy being outdoors and spending time with my wife and kids. We have a little spot in the woods on our family farm that is secluded away from everything. You can often find us out there with friends and family, sitting next to a campfire, listening to nature and watching the satellites pass by in the sky.