Transforming Agriculture: A Conversation with Larry Donelson, InTerra CEO

Author
Hua Wang
Published
January 5, 2024

Larry Donelson is transforming agriculture through innovation and use of digital technologies, and shares his experiences, challenges and thoughts on how government policies such as de minimis can help small companies like his own. 

A Pioneer in Mapping and Surveying

Based in Huntsville, Alabama, InTerra stands at the forefront of mapping and surveying technology.  Its hardware enhances the accuracy of data gathered by drones by pinpointing the exact location of ground points, ensuring precise results even in challenging conditions. Its software simplifies data processing, making contour modeling and detailed graphics accessible to a broader audience.

InTerra’s products improve mapping and make data acquisition more efficient while increasing productivity and profitability.  Its highly accurate platform help drone mappers and surveyors access cost-effective data on crops and terrain.  Farmers use this data to make better decisions about irrigation, fertilization and pest control throughout the changing seasons.

“We help farmers, ranchers and other agricultural professionals access better information about their land, their most valuable resource,” says Larry Donelson, Co-founder and CEO of InTerra.  He is an engineer with three decades of experience and a passion for technology and education.  In addition to leading InTerra, he is a volunteer teacher at the Alabama Department of Corrections, and recently launched an initiative with the University of New Hampshire and Wallace Community College in Alabama to foster future talent and train students in drone technology.

Digital Tools and Technologies

Digital tools and technologies are integral to InTerra’s operations. Larry highlights several key tools and platforms that streamline their business processes:

  1. Microsoft Suite: InTerra relies on Microsoft 365 for a seamless digital workflow, enabling team members to work across multiple devices with ease. It also offers a terabyte of online data storage per user.  “Microsoft has done a great job of addressing small business needs at a reasonable price.  Their products are essential and relatively easy to learn and use,” says Larry.
  2. SharePoint: As the backbone of their office environment, SharePoint facilitates secure and instant data sharing with customers. It allows InTerra to access data stored in the cloud, improving efficiency, collaboration and customer experience.
  3. Google Cloud: InTerra is planning to move their desktop software and license keys to Google Cloud. Google’s offering comes with significant benefits, including AI tools and $350K credits for small businesses.
  4. Google Fiber:  InTerra uses Google Fiber for super fast Internet.

A Call for Policy Reform

Larry’s insights shed light on the challenges faced by entrepreneurs in navigating the complexities of government policies. Small businesses play a vital role in the economy, and it is imperative that policies and regulations are designed to facilitate their growth rather than hinder it.

Larry emphasized the burden of excessive paperwork and taxes, giving an example of the time-consuming process of having to list his inventory every year, with none of the data from prior years being rolled over.  He expressed the need for simplified, business-friendly policies and lower taxes, as well as a shift in focus towards supporting small enterprises.

“The elimination of the de minimis tax exemption will drive our costs up immediately and cut into our margins,” says Larry.  “The batteries in our hardware are made and shipped from the Czech Republic.  We would have to pass on the costs of additional taxes and fees to the customer.”

As for mandatory disclosure of source code, it’s essential to ensure the protection of intellectual property. Data breaches and the potential misuse of proprietary code are significant worries.  Larry says, “Just because you give your code to the government doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to protect it.” He emphasizes the importance of safeguarding sensitive data and code from potential cyberthreats.

Government’s Role in Supporting Entrepreneurs

Larry emphasizes the need for government leaders to be proactive in supporting entrepreneurs and helping them navigate opportunities and foster connections.  He also highlights the importance of government officials who genuinely understand the needs and challenges faced by businesses.

Larry suggests that government agencies should actively engage with small businesses to create a more supportive environment. He points out that while some agencies like NASA and the Department of Energy excel at this, others fall short.

He concludes, “If you’re with the government, you work for the taxpayer. You got to enjoy serving the taxpayer.” Larry believes in a more efficient and nimble government that allows small businesses to flourish and innovate based on merit and consumer choice.

In the ever-evolving landscape of entrepreneurship, Larry’s insights shed light on the importance of digital tools, government policies, and the entrepreneurial spirit. As InTerra continues to grow and adapt, it serves as a testament to the potential of businesses that embrace innovation in the modern age.

InTerra

Larry Donelson