Q&A: Susan MacIsaac, The Climate Corporation
Growing up in an agriculturally rich area of western Canada, Susan MacIsaac was always interested in science. Yet, she wasn’t quite sure how that passion would translate into a career.
Pursuing a degree in basic biology at the University of Saskatchewan, she thought, would help define her path. At the time, the university was on the cutting edge of biotechnology and agricultural research. It had a major impact on MacIsaac and, ultimately, her choice in a profession.
Today, she is the discovery science lead at The Climate Corporation, where she works to develop digital tools that help farmers select the right hybrid and manage it for optimal yield in a specific field.
SF: What do you enjoy most about your current role?
SM: My favorite thing about working at The Climate Corporation is being a part of a company that is transforming agriculture. A lot of companies say they are doing this, but I see us truly making a material difference in the industry in a number of ways. We are able to impact yield through the products Monsanto offers farmers, while also sharing digital insights on how to manage and optimize those incredibly important decisions that they are making each day. This offers us the opportunity to provide real value to those individuals and operations. By helping farmers, we’re helping society as a whole.
I also really love being a part of an organization that is diverse in so many ways. When I look at my team, I see people who are the definition of a data scientist – individuals who are heavily into modeling and computer science. On the other side of the coin, we have people who are farmers by trade so they can provide in-depth knowledge that can’t be learned any other way. This kind of diversity is so powerful to our mission of helping farmers make the most of every acre.
SF: As we look to the future of food production, how do you see your role evolving?
SM: There are a lot of ways we are evolving and advancing in order to address the food production needs of the future. For example, we are providing new scientific insights into our products, how they perform, and how they are impacted by environmental conditions like soil and weather. By understanding these scientific insights, we are able to incorporate them into the recommendations and get the most personalized insights possible.
SF: Can digital agriculture truly transform agriculture?
SM: I absolutely believe it can, and there is evidence that it is happening today. As it continues to evolve, there is no doubt agriculture will look very different in 20 or even as little as 10 years. This will be possible, in large part, due to the increase in information that will be available to us through emerging technologies like drones and some of the sensing technologies that are being developed. With that increased information, our ability to understand, predict, and develop personalized recommendations on which products to use and how to manage them will become even more powerful.
SF: What do you want your legacy to be?
SM: I hope my legacy is one of curiosity and that I helped drive agriculture innovation forward. I started my career by following my passion and working with people who inspired and believed in me. I continue that today in my current position. As scientists, we each have a unique path that brought us here. Some were raised on farms; others were interested in data science. Together, we’re all working toward the same thing: helping farmers sustainably increase their productivity with digital tools.
NAME: Susan MacIsaac
TITLE: Discovery science lead at The Climate Corporation
LOCATION: St. Louis, Missouri
EDUCATION: MacIsaac received a doctorate in plant physiology from the University of Guelph, a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Saskatchewan, and a master’s degree in biology from the University of Saskatchewan.
BACKGROUND: In her current role, MacIsaac is focused on developing new digital solutions for farmers. Through designed field research and data science, she is driving new scientific insights that impact environmental and management practices on product performance. MacIsaac previously worked at Monsanto as a research and development specialist.