CHICAGO — From the player’s point of view, Big Ten media days are an arduous mental exercise. You go from chair to chair on radio row and you have to be ready to answer anything. There’s live TV on the Big Ten Network. For Iowa players on Tuesday, it ended with the one-hour table interviews.
The Hawkeyes were among the last to speak. At the end of their session, it was like three media people hanging out and cornerback Desmond King in sprint position to hit the road back to Iowa City.
Josey Jewell kept talking. He spoke a mile a minute. His eyes sparkled. The hand gestures picked up.
Jewell obviously is one of the Hawkeyes stars. The junior linebacker earned second team all-Big Ten for the 12-2 Hawkeyes last season. He was the first junior picked in head coach Kirk Ferentz’s 17-plus seasons to speak at Big Ten media days.
There was a ton to talk about. Jewell was one of the last recruits offered in the 2013 class, so there’s a triumphant element. The fun side included details on the makeshift and farm-centric Slip ’N Slide on his family’s farm in Decorah that included a video on YouTube shot from a drone.
The topic that sent Jewell into overtime talk? Outlaw Farming Technologies.
This started as a class project. During his redshirt freshman year, Jewell took an entrepreneurship class. He was assigned to come up with an invention and write a paper.
“I didn’t know what to write about, so I texted my whole family,” Jewell said. “What’s something you want to be fixed? What’s a pain point you want to be solved? My dad (Bobby) said, ‘Well, I hate fencing and I hate walking it.’ And so do I. I had to do that as a kid. I had to walk the dang fence. So, I was like, ‘Well, how can we fix that?’ I thought about it for a night and came up with a solution that’s sort of what it is now, just a little rougher.
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“I presented it to my teacher and thought, ‘OK, I’m done with it,’” Jewell said. “And the professor was like, ‘No, no, no, you’re not done with that. You need to keep on doing that.’”
Outlaw (yes, a play off the name Josey and the Clint Eastwood cowboy character in the film “The Outlaw Josey Wales”) Farming Technologies basically is Jewell’s major. It’s officially enterprise leadership with a minor in communications, but it’s totally Outlaw Farming Technologies (it’s a company he runs with the help of UI business professor Bob Walker) and the idea he came up with for the freshman year enterprise class.
That idea has grown into a product called “Herdmaster.” It’s become a virtual cattle fencing product. Think underground dog fence but for cattle (it works via an ear tag). There’s a patent pending (patent lawyers are expensive, Jewell said). Former Hawkeye and Decorah native Lon Olejniczak, a senior vice president at Transamerica, has also advised.
There has been some beta testing, and that will continue at the Jewell family farm as the business progresses.
“It went amazing. With the stuff we used, the cow really turned away from it,” Jewell said. “She hit the stimulation. She ended up doing a 360 and came back into the fenced area. There’s still a lot of tweaking that still has to be done. It’s nerve wracking to think about it. Putting a product on a cow’s ear, not a lot of farmers trust that right away without being able to see it. It’s crazy to think something like that can work. Building the trust with farmers is going to be the absolute.”
Belonging to a generation of farmers, Jewell has been gifted with a knowledge of pain points and built-in market research. Jewell has performed customer discoveries, talking with more than 100 farmers.
“I wrapped that up pretty quick because my dad knew all of the farmers,” Jewell said. “I went to more sales barns with people who gave me names. More people started liking this. They said, ‘If you show us a video, we’ll probably buy it. We’ll buy it.’ I think 93 percent of the people said that, so it was crazy.”
Jewell gave a ton of credit to the UI’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC), a cross-campus program that partners with the colleges of business, engineering, liberal arts and sciences and medicine to teach and support entrepreneurial development.
Jewell’s business was the centerpiece of his advanced business planning summer class.
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“JPEC is a great resource. We’re one of the bigger schools with entrepreneurial students,” Jewell said. “There are a lot of crazy inventions going on. They’re (the JPEC) giving people resources and contacts, like getting in touch with patent attorneys. Man, they’re expensive, by the way.”
The goal to be on market with his product is 16 months. So yeah, that has been exciting for Jewell.
“There are so many things opening up and so much more will open up now with ag and technology,” Jewell said. “There are so many open doors for people to find in agriculture, I believe. Now, there’s precision planning. It’s really what else can you do? If you’re a farm kid or a farmer like I am, you can look into things even deeper and sculpt what you want, what farmers hate doing and from there how can you fix this?”
So, this is going on with Jewell. And, oh hey yeah, there’s that football thingie, too. When he spoke about this, you could almost see the two passions pulling each sleeve of his suit coat.
“It’s an open door of opportunity, but really it comes into how much time we have,” Jewell said. “Time is very valuable in life. Football and this (business) are time limited. Someone could come up with an invention, but football is more time limited. You take a beating, so you have to focus on every second you have in it.”
Make no mistake, Outlaw Farming Technologies is a business and that’s a realm that clearly stirs the competitor within Jewell.
“Football is more exciting, but this is a different challenge,” Jewell said. “I like to take on challenges. I like to achieve. I like to try to beat the odds on stuff like this.”
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