Roger HoyShaping the agriculture industry’s leaders of tomorrow is the driving force behind just about everything Roger Hoy does in his role as a college professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and director of school’s Tractor Test Laboratory.

A lifetime devoted to and impacting ag has afforded Hoy countless opportunities to meet people who are just as passionate about making meaningful contributions toward feeding the world. And it’s his desire to see a bright future for ag that drives him to work with young people looking to gain a foothold in the industry.

“What gives me the most personal satisfaction is starting out with an 18-year-old farm kid that’s a freshman here, and – maybe he or she takes a few classes from me or works for me at the Tractor Test Lab – four years later, the person has become a confident 22-year-old that’s ready to go out and work for a company within the industry,” said Hoy, who has worked for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for 13 years. “Just seeing that development, and being a part of it, is tremendously satisfying for me.”

Ag Roots Run Deep

Hoy’s love for ag began as a child growing up on a beef cattle/cow/calf operation in Georgia, and it grew as he commenced with his undergraduate studies in ag engineering at the University of Georgia. Upon his graduation in the mid-1980s, Hoy was discouraged to discover no one in the industry was hiring. So off he went to graduate school, where Hoy earned a Master’s degree and completed MS and PhD degrees in Biological and Agricultural Engineering from North Carolina State University.

“Now it’s 1989, and no one is still hiring,” he said. “Eventually, though, I went to work for John Deere.”

According to Hoy, his last job at John Deere required him to travel across the United States and around the world to represent his employer’s interests as they related to standards development. While initially Hoy wasn’t completely sure the role was a good fit, he eventually came to grow in his appreciation for the job as a means to support the industry he loved.

“It was a great role,” he said. “You could be sitting in a meeting with government regulators and other manufacturers, and when you spoke and identified yourself as representing John Deere, you got this immediate respect.”

Building Momentum for the Industry

In the mid-2000s, however, Hoy was presented with the opportunity to join the faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and take over the school’s Tractor Test Laboratory. NTTL is the officially designated tractor testing station for the United States and tests tractors according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) codes. Today, NTTL currently employs more than 25 part-time student workers, the vast majority of whom are majoring in agricultural engineering or mechanized systems management through UNL's Biological Systems Engineering Department.

Hoy’s initial reaction to the potential job change was to remain with Deere, but he changed his mind during a four-and-a-half-hour car ride between an interview in Lincoln, Nebraska and his home in Waterloo, Iowa. Next thing he knew, Hoy accepted the position and was off to work at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in August of 2006.

“And I’ve been here ever since,” he added.

While his role at the university initially called for significant day-to-day oversight of NTTL, Hoy now invests more of his time and effort into undergraduate education.

“And it’s always fun and satisfying to use the reputation of the Tractor Test Lab in some way to help our industry. To know that we’re trusted with proprietary equipment, and that we are able to conduct research, I just feel very honored to be a part of it.”

What the Future Holds

Though Hoy has accomplished quite a bit in his 30 or so years in the industry, he is excited to consider what’s on the horizon for agriculture. When he asked what will shape the future of the industry, he pointed to the development of automation as a disruptor poised to have a transformative impact. 

“It’s foreseeable at some point that – in three or four decades or so – we’ll have automated equipment,” said Hoy. “And that really changes the paradigm in a whole lot of ways. There could be a significant upheaval in terms of what the agriculture industry looks like by the end of this century, compared to today. What role do different people play in that? What happens to companies like Case, Deere, AGCO, Kubota and so on. How do they profit, and who comes in?”

Whatever tomorrow holds for ag, Hoy says its future will be bright. There will be more mouths to feed, according to Hoy, and he believes the industry will be up to the challenge.

“We’re all going to have to contribute in a meaningful way to feed the world,” he continued. “And while we’ll have peaks and valleys along the way, I firmly believe the trend will be upward.” 

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