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SF Q&A: Joy Parr Drach
While Joy Parr Drach may have been born into a farm family who wanted sons but turned out daughters, her parents created the expectation that with hard work, girls could do anything boys could do. It’s a belief that has served her well as she pursued a career, which led to both starting and running companies focused on recognizing and filling the holes in ag.
“I started my first company, Entira, because there was a gap in the market for consultants to help figure out the right strategy for a business and then stick around to help execute and make sure it worked,” Parr Drach says.
Today, she is the president and CEO of Advanced Animal Diagnostics. Based in Morrisville, North Carolina, the company specializes in on-farm diagnostics and real-time information that make livestock production more profitable.
SF: How did the idea for Advanced Animal Diagnostics come about?
JPD: Our scientific founder, Rudy Rodriguez, started the company. He’s made so many contributions to human medicine, and he wanted to make the same contributions to animal medicine.
Within a year of meeting him, I turned my last company over to a partner to go all in on the idea of an on-farm rapid test/data platform across species that is so simple anyone can use it to make better, more profitable decisions about managing animals. We were three people and an idea then. Today, we are about 30 people, and we’re excited to see our first product (which detects subclinical mastitis in dairy cows) going around the world with a global animal health company.
SF: What has been the most rewarding part of launching a start-up?
JPD: The most important part about launching a start-up is getting the right people on the team. I’m not sure if it’s more rewarding to see them grow or work beside them to create products that can change the world. Our team has created seven products to date.
SF: What one product has made you most proud?
JPD: I am most proud of QScout BLD, a product we are preparing to launch for cattle arriving at feedlots or backgrounders. It’s the only definitive, chute-side test of the immune system in cattle that can precisely target use of antibiotics and predict animal performance – all in under a minute. It demonstrates to the consumer that we are precise and responsible with antibiotics so we can continue using them and protect their effectiveness. I think livestock producers are caught in the middle between consumers and retailers who want us to cut antibiotic use and the need to protect the health and well-being of animals in our care. QScout BLD allows us to do both.
SF: How can farmers and ranchers help nurture innovation and diversity not only in the coming year but also in the future?
JPD: Your readers are all too familiar with the challenges of trying to feed a growing planet sustainably. If we are going to succeed, we need more innovation. That takes farmers and ranchers getting involved with innovators to provide feedback and to help shape the technology we develop. It also takes diversity of thought, which comes from diverse gender, age, ethnicity, and experience.
SF: What advice would you give a woman wanting to launch a start-up?
JPD: Just do it! If you wait for the right time, you’ll never do it. There always seems to be a better time: when the kids are older, when the economy is better, when we’ve paid off that land. Instead of thinking about the risks if you do it, think about the risks if you don’t. That was my prompt for starting my first company. It was part of an argument I made for an ethics class at the University of Chicago as I was getting my MBA while working full time.
Hometown: Pontiac, Illinois
Background: Joy Parr Drach started her career in ag public relations at Miller Meester and held a variety of roles at marketing communications agencies before starting Entira, a business development and management consulting firm for food and agribusinesses. Today, she is president and CEO of Advanced Animal Diagnostics in Morrisville, North Carolina. She is also a partner in Next Generation Farms, her family’s corn, soybean, and purebred seedstock operation in central Illinois. Parr Drach is active on several boards promoting agriculture, entrepreneurship, and livestock.
Education: She earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications from the University of Illinois and an MBA from the University of Chicago.
Editor's Note: Joy Parr Drach will be serving as the session chair on "Precision Breeding: Utilizing AI and Sensor Technology Tools to Facilitate Phenotyping" at the Animal AgTech Innovation Summit being held in San Francisco on March 16, 2020.