Farmer-inventor puts people first when developing technology
Neil Mylet is perched high in the tractor cab as he drives across his Indiana farmland. His eyes take in a sweep of corn and soybeans, but his mind is racing far beyond the rows. The comfort of the cab is a catalyst for Mylet’s innovations, and he parses out the details as he rumbles along, letting the puzzle pieces connect. The consummate farmer-inventor has one foot planted on the farm and the other in a restless technology toe-tap.
Mylet, 29, Camden, Ind., is the founder of LoadOut Technologies, an agriculture innovation company aimed at improving the well-being of farmers and rural workers.
The drive for innovation is in Mylet’s DNA. His youth was heavily influenced by Ben Dillon, a neighboring farmer and inventor of the Tribine harvester, an articulating combine.
“Neil is a very creative thinker, and he has the ability to visualize future developments, particularly regarding the software and hardware of today’s agriculture devices,” Dillon says. “He has the gift to think outside the box.”
While attending Purdue University, with the intention to earn an ag economics degree and return to the farm, Mylet took an entrepreneurship class with Scott Jones, the creator of voice mail. Jones’ insight and perspective was invaluable. Mylet soaked it all in and wondered how he could apply the knowledge to agriculture.
During Mylet’s final semester of college, he converted his apartment living room into a work space with white boards and computers. He recruited other science and engineering students to develop new agriculture ideas. In 2008, the same year he graduated, Mylet started LoadOut Technologies. Today, he has an office on his farm, but most of his employees work remotely in a variety of states.
LoadOut’s initial effort, YellowBox app, uses a mobile device to monitor and control grain loading. YellowBox opens with a visual camera feed on a grain bin and allows operators to control loading without getting out of the cab. It’s backed with safety features that stop loading if the connection between the phone and camera is lost.
Currently, LoadOut is connecting biometric sensors to farm workers. For example, as an operator loads a grain truck, an app screen shows not only the loading process but also the person’s heart rate. If the heart rate reaches an unsafe level, the machines shut down or adapt in a manner that optimizes user safety.
One of LoadOut’s developers has also designed a means to control a grain system and stream health data with Google Glass.
“That sort of biometric health check for farm workers has application across agriculture,” Mylet explains. “I love the idea of agricultural tech-nology acting as a catalyst to bring change to other industries.”
Data will increasingly drive farm management, and game-changing technologies in the health sector will extend to agriculture, Mylet says. Most importantly, agriculture technology is starting to focus on individuals.
Tim Peoples, entrepreneur in residence, Purdue Foundry, who helps faculty and students commercialize inventions, began working with Mylet in 2008. As a veteran of three startup companies and 18 years with American Cyanamid, he recognizes excellence.
“Growing up on a farm is one of Neil’s biggest strengths because he knows the challenges producers face,” Peoples says. “This is not a man who sits back and makes up ideas from a desk; he’s living and breathing it every day as his own first test-customer.”