College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Ben Sloan: solving problems for farmers

Ben Sloan originally majored in mechanical engineering because he wanted to work on cars. However, he eventually became interested in computers and computer software, leading him to his current career at AgSolver.

AgSolver offers services that integrate high-resolution data with environmental process simulation and scalable cloud computing resources, providing access to precision agricultural data that can guide management decisions.

Ben Sloan
Ben Sloan

Sloan works on the recently launched MMP360, which streamlines the process to fill out regulatory paperwork about animal waste disposal. The product integrates all of the models used to complete the paperwork, allowing farmers to enter basic information in one place. MMP360 then produces the information they need to submit to the government.

He got connected with the company through relationships he established during graduate school at Iowa State—ten people work at AgSolver, and seven of them went to ISU. He received his master’s in mechanical engineering in December 2013 after completing his undergraduate degree in the same discipline in December 2010.

As he transitioned from school to his career, Sloan says emphasis on teamwork and his engineering design courses, especially the final presentation that showcased a lot of hard work, have stuck with him.

“Understanding how to work in a team is so important because no one person can do everything,” he explains. “Working together with everyone to make our projects go is really cool.”

He adds that many of the experiences he had at Iowa State changed the course of his life. Topping that list is meeting his wife (an elementary education major). He also got to experience some international travel, studying abroad in New Zealand and traveling to Africa.

“I worked with a sustainable design class to create solutions to the developing world. We traveled to Africa to implement these solutions,” he says.

Sloan learned a lot from going to Africa, including adaptability outside of the laboratory and that hands on experience with the customer is critical to the success of the product, as well as how to quickly problem solve solutions with a limited set of resources, which was often the case for them in a remote African village.

While he was in graduate school, Sloan enjoyed getting to work in the C6 and working with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Lab.

Sloan is now learning many new things as part of his career, especially about the world vocabulary of agriculture. He also enjoys the project and product management his career offers, as well as working with and meeting new people.

“I’ve never worked in the agricultural sector, so I’m having fun applying my software skills in a new area.”

Another new thing Sloan is learning about—resource management. For example, a software developer may not have time for all of the requests that come in, so prioritizing them and determining what the most important parts are for the customer is vital.

But he’s taking it all in stride, along with managing AgSolver’s Twitter and Facebook pages and working on additional commercial products that are being developed.

Outside of work, Sloan recently became a dad and enjoys walking to work. He said, “I think that being a dad is pretty awesome. It is so fun watching my daughter grow up and learn new things everyday. Making my daughter smile makes it all worth it.”