Neil Havermale, founder of Red Hen Systems, has deep agricultural roots. He grew up on a farm in Illinois where he enjoyed riding horses, campouts, and all sorts of outdoor activities. When he imagined his future, he imagined farming.
Small wonder that he set off to Colorado to major in Agricultural Economics at Colorado State University (CSU). For four years he studied his books during the school year and worked on a ranch each summer. His dream? Manage a farm business.
Spreading his wings
But after graduation, he spread his wings and joined the Peace Corps. For two years he worked as a State Ag Economist in Malaysia, drafting and reviewing farm and credit plans for small rice and peanut co-ops. He then decided to extend his stay and moved to the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo. There he worked with very large tea and ginger plantations doing the same type of work. 1-1/2 years later he was ready to return to the U.S. His new dream? Work with a U.S. Aid Agency. But that meant graduate school!
So for three more years he attended graduate school at Kansas State University and worked as a research assistant. His plan? Work for the State Department or the Department of Agricultural. But when he was finally offered a position in Washington, D.C., he received a phone call that changed the direction of his life. An old CSU school friend asked Neil move to Grand Junction, CO to help him run his computer business … and Neil accepted!
A new calling
Neil discovered a new calling – he really enjoyed selling computer systems to farmers and ranchers on the Eastern Slope. With 14 large farm co-ops as his customers, Neil decided to strike out on his own and he started Delta Farming and moved to Fort Collins. There he helped ranchers and farmers store and monitor crop yield records and animal genetic records.
That’s when he discovered a potentially new market– farmers needed a way to monitor crop issues – to identify the locations of areas in their acreages that were experiencing pest, water, or soil problems.
Soon Neil was developing software to track locations of anomalies in fields and Harvest Mapping Systems was born. Some of his early agriculture customers included big names like John Deere, Ag Chem, and Ford New Holland. As his customer base grew, so did his expertise in GIS and GPS.
Once again, fate intervened when Ken Burgess walked into Neil’s office. Ken was a former electrical engineer from Hewlett-Packard who had started his own company and needed some assistance. He’d won a free consulting visit with a local GIS expert who pointed him to Neil. As Neil talked to Ken he realized that Ken was an expert in GPS signal analysis. This was the man that could make Neil’s dream of media geotagging systems a reality on the farm and off.
Red Hen is born
And that’s when Red Hen Systems was born – 1997. Since chickens were always Neil’s favorite animals on the farm, what name could be more fitting?
A lot has changed since 1997 and a lot has stayed the same. According to Neil, “GPS is still simple, GIS is simple, but media has become very complex.” Yes, putting the WHERE and the WHEN into every photo and every video frame is still the focus of Red Hen Systems. But there are now so many more digital still cameras and video cameras than back in 1997. Plus, camera phones and Android devices have become virtually ubiquitous!
Yet, with the challenge of so many more devices for media capture and so many media formats, comes the opportunity of a lifetime. Today, more than ever, the world needs an effective way to track critical infrastructure and monitor sensor data. Whether we’re talking about drones monitoring road construction in Brazil, helicopters flying over gas pipelines in Canada searching for gas leaks, or trains crossing the country, assessing rail encroachments, Red Hen Systems have products that meet their needs.
Today, Red Hen Systems strives to remain at the forefront of the geotagging and media capture industry, discovering better, more effective ways to collect and embed metadata into media captured by a wide array of cameras — sensor metadata such as temperature, gas concentrations, and more; and GPS metadata such as time, latitude, and longitude.
For almost two decades, Neil Havermale has kept his finger on the pulse of the GIS, GPS, and media industry. He firmly believes the future lies in organizing gigabytes of metadata and media and making both easily searchable. Together, with his team, he keeps the technology innovation process fresh so that Red Hen Systems products can continue to evolve.
Today, Red Hen Systems serves corporations, large and small, as well as government agencies, helping them track critical information that is their lifeblood. And even though Neil is far from the farm, his roots are still there. After all, says Neil, “running a technology business is a lot like herding chickens!”