The ATA Files is an episodic blog series featuring upcoming guests of the All Things Analytics podcast to provide our listeners with a more comprehensive look into the interviewees and their skill sets. You can get content like this and more at globalinnovationpodcast.com/blog
The Expert: Jace Thurman
Education: Oklahoma State University, B.S. in Political Science and Economics
Occupation: Market Analyst at POET Grain
Location: Wichita, KS
Jace Thurman left Oklahoma State University a little over a year ago with a political science and economics degree and a job at a political consulting firm immediately following graduation. With a clear career path already laid in front of him, what pushed Jace away from the political sphere and into the agricultural industry as a market analyst?
For the answer to that question, you’ll have to hear it from Jace himself when he joins the All Things Analytics team for our first episode on analytics in agriculture, available to stream Tuesday, October 16. But first, let’s learn a little more about our upcoming featured guest, Jace Thurman, and his career in advanced analytics at one of the world’s largest producers of ethanol and other biorefined products, POET Grain.
Who is POET Grain?
POET Grain is a special-purpose company that handles the buying, market-to-market valuations of grain, and grain analysis to assist in purchasing low-cost feedstock for the plants. POET has created an integrated business model that combines technology development with expertise in construction, operations, risk management and marketing. Their main focus is to reduce the reliance of the United States on foreign energy, to revitalize global agriculture, and provide a cleaner, affordable alternative to fossil fuels.
According to their website, POET Grain’s vision “is to live in a world with natural balance. Where we no longer take from the Earth, but rather use its enormous ability to regenerate. Where we are no longer dependent on fossil fuels, but rather rely on the power of nature and the genius of the human spirit. Where farmers are the creators, and innovators are the heroes. Where we use the resources given to us in ways we believe God intended.” Their mission statement “is to be good stewards of the Earth by converting renewable resources to energy and other valuable goods as effectively as humanly possible.”
Their grain production headquarters are based out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, while the company’s marketing arm and our featured guest, Jace, are based in Wichita, Kansas. Sioux Falls handles the day-to-day production and operations of 27 ethanol plant across the United States. The Wichita office handles the selling, transportation, accounting, and marketing aspect of the business.
Who is Jace Thurman?
As we mentioned earlier, Jace didn’t originally pursue an education in data and analytics. He completed a B.S. in Political Science and Economics from OSU in 2016 and first went to work at a political consulting firm right out of college. Less than a year later, Jace decided to make a major career move from the political sphere to the agricultural industry with relatively little experience in the field.
When Jace first joined POET Grain, he worked in the logistics department, helping to move product via truck and railways to the end-users who then blend it with gasoline. In this position, he made his first venture into analytics when he was tasked with analyzing data relating to route efficiencies, product rates, and other grain transportation logistics.
When POET saw his natural ability for advanced analytics, they transferred Jace to a division that oversees purchasing grain for the company. This team monitors grain movement across the entire U.S. and the corresponding economic factors of acquiring, moving, and processing the grain. As a market analyst, Jace is tasked with assisting in the Supply and Demand Analysis of agricultural markets.
Jace specializes in data visualization in Excel and Tableau. His main skillset is the ability to scrub and utilize large amounts of data sets, then communicate those findings and forecast various supply and demand estimates. He often relies on the interpersonal skills he developed as a political science student to effectively gather his information and believes these skills are just as vital to the data visualization and market analysis process as technical skills.
What excites Jace most about his industry right now?
Jace is most excited about the potential for growth in the biofuel industry right now. Most gasoline is only a 10% blend of ethanol and E-85 (85% ethanol blend) is hard to find in some areas, but the market has been moving towards a higher blend rate. Eventually, Jace believes that ethanol blend rates will increase, which will increase demand for farmer corn.
What does Jace hope will change in his industry?
He hopes to see people’s perspective on ethanol change; whether it’s the petroleum industry who doesn’t want to make room for more competitors in the fuel market, or the circulation of consumer misinformation about what ethanol actually is and how it performs. The petroleum industry has been very successful at persuading consumers that ethanol is bad, or bad for their vehicles, when the science doesn’t support that claim.
He hopes in the future, ethanol will become a more mainstream octane fuel and to see an increase in its production and use. This will in turn help the producers (or the farmers) that POET purchases grain from by increasing the demand for their product. This is a monumental opportunity for a community that is often devastated by economic recessions.
Jace brings a fresh and innovative perspective to the data and analytics industry. With less than a year of experience under his belt, he’s already on his way to a prosperous and meaningful career in agricultural market analysis. Don’t miss the release of this reflective interview with Jace Thurman, Tuesday, October 16, in Ep 8 Grain Analysis: Agricultural Market Research.
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