An Interview with Allison Kopf, Forbes (US & Canada 2019) Food and Drink

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski
May 9 · 9 min read

(#00018) — Diversity is a huge competitive advantage.

The world is changing and so are we. With each passing day, a new idea is being born. An idea that could change the course of history and improve our entire existence.

For a change to happen, you need a strong individual ready to make everything possible and build something from scratch. You need the experience, the proper knowledge, and skills, but above all, you need determination and motivation.

Thanks to these people, today, we live in a digitalized world where everything is simplified and more practical. Many industries evolved and became better than they were 10,20 or 50 years ago.

However, we have a long way to go, and there is much to be done. Nevertheless, there are still people motivated by the change that they want to see in the world, and there are still many industries that can be largely improved.

We don't often get to see young people that are brave enough to take a big step that can potentially move an entire industry towards the era of globalization and digitalization.

Nevertheless, Allison Kopf is one of these individuals, and I was lucky enough to have discussed with her about her line of work, as well as her current and future plans. This young woman is the person behind Agrilyst, a company that strives to digitize farming and help with software solutions that will minimize risk and optimize profitability.

The technology Agrilyst produces is unique, precise, and helps farmers reduce their labor hours through automation. Due to this, Allison was also a part of Forbes’s 30 under 30 US & Canada 2019: Food and Drinklist. Her line of work is inspiring, and her motivation and determination are what made Allison’s business successful, in the first place.

If you want to get to know her more, I advise you to keep reading this interview.

Get your daily dose of motivation and enjoy Allison Kopf’s story.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

Would you mind introducing yourself? Who is Allison Kopf and why exactly did you choose your current career?

Allison Kopf:

I am the Founder and CEO of Agrilyst, a company I built after spending years working with large greenhouse companies to expand their operations profitably and efficiently.

I am motivated by large, legacy industries saddled with old technologies, and often no technology, hindering growth as a result. Imagine trying to do any job without access to something as basic as Microsoft Office. This is the world I live in.

I have an obsession with helping growers remove technological barriers so that they can operate profitably, efficiently, and safely. I also fundamentally believe no one should be at risk when they eat a berry or tomato or consume cannabis. We are building a platform to help farm owners guarantee their growing future and de-risk the business.

My work also allows me the opportunity to advocate for women in agriculture and tech, both of which I’m incredibly passionate about.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

Your business idea, I must say, is not really an ordinary one. In fact, it is something people kind of neglect these days. Can you tell us more about Agrilyst? Why is it important?

Allison Kopf:

I’ve spent my career working alongside growers, farm owners, and farmworkers. It’s not easy to run a farm. Margins are low, the risk is high, and everything from weather to public policy affects your business each year.

That’s where Agrilyst comes in; we’re an integrated software solution for indoor, greenhouse and high tunnel farms. Our platform provides tools and insights that help minimize risk and optimize profitability.

Agrilyst is an all-in-one system that integrates with sensor hardware growers already use (like airborne pathogen detection or climate control systems), manages crops and labor, and records all your data in one place.

We’ve set out to help growers expand their profit margins, manage and maintain compliance, and scale efficiently.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

Congratulations on being among Forbes’ 30 under 30! How was that experience for you? Have you ever dreamed of being where you are today?

Allison Kopf:

It’s a rewarding feeling to be recognized for the work I feel so passionate about and I’m very proud to be counted among the other leaders. It’s encouraging to see just how far Agrilyst has come in the past few years… but we’re not done yet.

What I want — far more than recognition — is to enable every single grower the opportunity to run their business with confidence. We need more growers to enter the industry, to grow their businesses, so we can create a world that sustains itself.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

Not only you are the founder but you also are the CEO of your company. As a young and successful leader, what do you think is most important in a company? Why?

Allison Kopf:

My job is to ensure we have the right people on our team, we have enough capital to grow the way we want, and to set the company’s vision. Most importantly, my job is to then step back and allow our team to operate.

It’s critical to value your team — to spend the time to vet candidates and hire the absolute best people. We place huge importance on setting employees up for success and then trusting them to do their job.

I had the vision to build Agrilyst, but I could never have done it alone — nor would I have wanted to. The experience and knowledge base that different team members across different disciplines bring matters greatly to our growth. Diversity is a huge competitive advantage.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

According to you, what matters in life? How would you define success? Is it related to money and fame?

Allison Kopf:

I fundamentally believe there is a massive opportunity for technology to create the next generation of farming.

If I’m successful 50 years from now, it’s because I helped to do this — to create a more efficient agriculture system, a safer supply chain, a system that values its workers and treats them with dignity.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

Have you ever failed before succeeding in business? If yes, how did you recover from failure? What are the best ways of improving the mindset?

Allison Kopf:

Honestly, no. I don’t have room to fail. It’s not in my DNA. Failure occurs when you reach the end of your options and have to stop.

Think about a system failure — if an app crashes on your phone. Something on the backend failed and caused your app to stop working. Failure is losing. It’s inherently not succeeding at something.

I’m not sure when or why we decided to glorify and celebrate startup failure. Perhaps we’ve accepted this because statistically, most startups will fail. I think if you believe it’s ok to fail, you set yourself up to fail. Don’t accept failure. It’s not OK for me to fail. I made a promise to my shareholders, to my employees, to my customers not doing everything in my power to succeed would be breaking that promise.

This is not to say that we don’t fail on a daily basis. Some failure is necessary for business. Experimentation is important. You have to constantly test ideas, test your path. Inherently you will run into an idea, into paths that don’t work.

Startup success is built upon tiny failures. Let’s embrace those failures, but let’s not glorify overarching failure. Let’s drive toward success instead.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

If you had to come up with three words to describe a healthy work environment, what would they be? What values do you want to install in your team members?

Allison Kopf:

Trust, respect, and alignment. I believe a healthy environment is one where team members are aligned toward a goal, they’re accountable and trusted to do their job, and we all respect each other.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

Do you have a life motto? Who is your biggest supporter? What motivates you daily?

Allison Kopf:

As a kid, my aunt and mother used to tell me over and over again, “a girl can dream.”

At the time, I’m pretty sure they said it with slight sarcasm toward all of my crazy ideas, but it also encouraged dreaming. No one ever shut my ideas down, and that’s perhaps one of the things I hold most dear to me. Starting a business is one of the most difficult things you can do; entrepreneurs are out of their mind to do it, and the challenge of it, the struggle, the ambition to truly dream motivates me every day.

My biggest supporters are my parents and my fiancé. Both my mother and father are entrepreneurs. My father started his own accounting practice all while managing a demanding career in government accounting. My mother runs a travel blog that takes her on experiences all around the world, all while managing a career as the COO of the town we grew up in.

This year marked a fun year because our company is officially worth more than the businesses my parents have built, which has been really fun for all of us to experience together. There is a lot of mutual pride and respect in our family. My fiancé also can’t get enough credit. It is not easy to be in a relationship with an entrepreneur. He gives me the space to do crazy things and for that, I’m eternally grateful.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

Let’s say it is the year 2025. Where do you see yourself and your business? Do you have any future plans?

Allison Kopf:

We are using technology to create a world that sustains itself.

We believe that no one should ever get sick from consuming plants, farmers should make a good living, farmworkers should be treated with dignity, and profitability is the key to scaling our agriculture system.

To do this, Agrilyst has to be massively deployed across farms globally.

By the year 2025, we will be the global system of record for greenhouse and high tunnel operational data.

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski (The Logician):

Lastly, is there something I did not ask you yet you think is important to talk about? What is the best advice you were ever given that you do not mind sharing with the readers?

Allison Kopf:

Another point I’d really like to drive home is the importance of valuing people, not just data.

Many assume that the future of agriculture is reliant only on replacing human labor with robots, but that’s a misguided notion.

The digitization of a farming operation should not just be about automating routine tasks, it should also focus on helping workers be more efficient, more productive.

Growers and their teams remain a crucial element in the success of any farm.

Removing the barriers which prevent growth for someone other than yourself is a noble thing to do. The more people act in this particular way, the faster we will realize that we are all the same and that we all deserve to live in a better world.

In other words, people should take care of each other and be selfless.

If you happen to have an idea that can help someone, even one individual, do not let anything stop you from doing it.

Learn from this story, and help those that need your help. Improve the world with your ideas and strive for a better future.

“The Mission to Empower 1 Million Entrepreneurs”

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The Logician

Don’t follow me. I am lost too!😎

Bruno (HE) Mirchevski

Written by

The Logician (Dreamer) 👁️ Don’t follow me. I am lost too!😎 Founder of HE Group - (Investor) 📈

The Logician

Don’t follow me. I am lost too!😎

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