January 31, 2019

Northwest FCS News

One of the benefits of traveling extensively is the opportunity to engage with agriculture producers and industry leaders with many different viewpoints. Recently, I used clicker technology that allowed participants to provide real-time feedback on questions strategically placed in my presentation. Let's examine a few of the highlights and interesting perspectives from approximately 400 producers engaged in this event.

Participants were asked to completely agree, agree, disagree or completely disagree with the following statement: Innovation and new technology will significantly impact my operation in the next three to five years.

Nearly 75 percent agreed or completely agreed with this statement. Fewer than 5 percent disagreed with the statement; these producers may be phasing out or have decided to avoid new technology.

What were the top two or three technologies and innovations impacting their businesses? These producers stated that robotics and machine learning will be important to their operations. New technology not only replaces labor, but often provides data that can be used to more efficiently examine the results of inputs and output responses. However, technology comes with a price. Higher-level employees are required to effectively use technology, grasp the benefits and troubleshoot problems if issues occur. The cost of paying employees to manage the technology is in addition to the upfront capital needed to purchase the equipment.

GMOs, plant and chemical sciences, and overall plant and animal health were listed next by producers as technologies impacting their businesses. These areas are accelerating at a rapid rate. Uniformity in crop production and the acceleration of production on the livestock side are noticeable. These changes are documented by national research reports but can also be seen by observant onlookers or those who monitor crops, field conditions or livestock responses.

The next aspect that was listed by the participants was big data and analytics. In my opinion, this could be the biggest driver of change in the next decade. Several billion dollars of venture capital from outside of agriculture is being invested in the food sector to link the consumer to the producer. Consumers are not only in the U.S., but global.

As you strategically think about this article, critically ponder how your agriculture industry or your individual business has been impacted by technology. How will you alter your production and business operations? Do you have the human horsepower to capitalize on these waves of innovation and new technology?