Briefing Room


Alumnus seeks to provide tools to help farmers feed the world

May 19, 2016 | Alumni

Cory J. Reed ’95 studied finance and law because the future of farming, his father’s profession, looked much different 30 years ago than it does today. Reed, whose family raised corn, soybeans, and wheat on land near Fremont, Ohio, loved agriculture but wanted a more stable career.

“In the mid ’80s, agriculture was not an attractive possibility,” Reed said. “Having just gone through one of the worst decades in farming history, people my age were moving away from the farm because of the volatility of the industry.”

Three decades later, as the senior vice president of Intelligent Solutions Group for John Deere, Reed has a completely different outlook. “It’s an exciting time in agriculture. The industry is so innovative and technology-driven,” he said from his office in Moline, Illinois. “More importantly, it’s a noble purpose—I work with a team that is focused on providing the tools to help farmers feed the world.”

He’s grateful that his schooling enabled him to return to his agrarian roots. “The combination of finance and law put me back into the agricultural industry without moving back on the farm,” he said. Reed, who spent three years at Jones Day in Columbus before joining John Deere, said his legal training has been instrumental to his success with the company that manufactures and distributes equipment used in agricultural, construction, lawn care, and forestry. The practice of sorting through facts to determine which are the most important has helped him as a decision maker and marketing expert for the company, he said. “The legal thought process and the techniques for working through problems are skills that you can apply to almost every business problem you come across,” said Reed, who has never worked for the legal department at John Deere. He has held various marketing, sales, and operations positions. He worked for John Deere International in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, where he was responsible for sales and marketing in Northern/Central Europe as well as Africa and the Near and Middle East. Later, he served as vice-president for global marketing. Today, he leads the team that focuses on using technology to help customers improve their yields and manage costs. Specialized precision agriculture equipment and technology produced by John Deere offers farmers very precise information about their crops, he said. The machinery is equipped with technology that tells the farmer exactly where and at what depth each seed is planted, he said.

The equipment collects and analyzes data that helps farmers with everything from planting and fertilizing to harvesting crops. Precision agriculture equipment gives them details about the soil, drainage levels, and seeds that helps increase the output while containing production costs. John Deere also offers technology that helps famers know where and when to spray fertilizers or pesticides, he said. The technology not only helps farmers keep their crops healthy, it makes it easier for them adhere to environmental protection regulations.

“We’re giving them the tools to take farm management practices to a whole new level,” Reed said. “It’s very site specific.”

People are often surprised by the advances in farming, said Reed, who is married with three children. John Deere, which was founded in 1837, works hard to tell the story of how technology is impacting agriculture, he said. “Clearly a lot of industries have moved into a high-tech space, but I don’t think too many have gone further faster than agriculture,” he said.

Reed, who has software at his desk that allows him to monitor what’s happening on his dad’s farm in Ohio, said he likes being a part of the future of farming.

“It’s a crossroads of my past and my passion that brought me to this space,” he said. “This is one of the pillars of the future of agriculture and I’m excited to be involved in it.”