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Less than 2 percent of people have a job directly related to agriculture. That’s likely why when people think about farms and farmers, they picture rolling green hills, a red barn and maybe a few cows. It’s time to rethink that bucolic image. While farmers and fields will always be the foundation, today’s agriculture also is using technology, advancements in operations and even nature to transform an industry that is thousands of years old.
Here are a few agriculture industry trends the Standing Partnership team has witnessed this past year – by no means an exhaustive list of what’s happening throughout the industry.
AI in agriculture is not taking jobs away from people; rather, it has the ability to do jobs when people aren’t available, advise farmers and provide valuable insights. AI sees patterns and coherences between data that humans haven’t been able to see before, delivering aggregated insight to help farmers make the best decisions for their farms.
Robotic pickers are being tested to identify and pick ripe strawberries on a plant, all through artificial intelligence. An AI app informs small-holder farmers in India when to plant to increase their crop yields. In Vegetable Seeds at Bayer Crop Science, scientists are bringing AI and the human element together to develop “growing recipes” for tomato glasshouse growers in The Netherlands. They are helping to reduce the complexity of the growing process, without compromising the “art” of growing.
While farmers have adopted technology over centuries, disruptive technology is changing the way the agriculture industry is operating today. I had the opportunity to hear about a great example firsthand at the 2018 Women in Agribusiness Summit. Agersens is a technology company that has developed an animal collar and phone app to help beef and dairy farmers reduce their labor costs and increase their productivity by automating the movement and control of their livestock. Most interesting, I think, is that Agersens is not just using technology, but combining it with foundational learnings – a deep knowledge of animal behavior, learning and welfare – to transform agriculture.
Farmers have been practicing sustainability – producing more with less – for decades. Today, they are getting help from ag companies that are using nature to improve crops. From start-ups to the “big four” ag chemistry and seed companies, organizations are impacting the agriculture industry with advances in biological solutions that utilize processes or microbes that already existed in nature to work in harmony with existing technologies and agricultural practices to make plants healthier and help them fight pests, disease and natural challenges like drought.
Blockchain is a decentralized, distributed digital ledger that is used to record transactions across a network of computers so that the record cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of the subsequent blocks and the collusion of the network. Transactions are timestamped and recorded in blocks which are linked and cryptographically secured. Blockchain can be used to manage ag supply chains to create efficiencies and establish transparency and trust. The global grain industry is one great example. While origin and traceability have been a problem in the past, blockchain can create a digitized representation of a real-world transaction or process. In 2017, Cargill tested a blockchain-based system that allowed consumers to find information about the company’s Honeysuckle White brand turkeys, including photos, where they were raised and even comments from the farmers who raised them.
Agriculture organizations have a lot to navigate as they adopt new technology. They need to engage with customers, suppliers, value chain stakeholders and communities to avoid disruptions in day-to-day business operations and communicate the advantages gained through new agriculture technology. Please give me a call for a free consultation if you are looking for guidance on positioning your company’s technological advancements in a way that helps you stand out from your competitors.