We all remember that TV trivia show with good ole Jeff Foxworthy, right? He’d ask an average adult 5th grade level questions while also seeing if a few select 5th graders themselves could outsmart them. It made great TV and also made adults question whether they actually had any smarts themselves anymore. I was thinking of this the other day and, using the same premise, asked myself “Is the precision agriculture industry smarter than the understanding and thought process of a 10- to 11-year old child?” Let me elaborate…
I’m not trying to say the agtech/precision ag industry is behind or not smart, but I want to put it in perspective to what that show actually showcased in my opinion. Sure, some adults didn’t remember basic geography or science facts that were taught when they were younger. For example, the capital of Egypt…. Cairo, or the first element on the periodic table…Hydrogen. Most of these kids were used to the type of questions that adults more or less didn’t think of anymore in their day-to-day lives. Of course, did the kids actually understand why Hydrogen is the first element and how it came to be and how it is used, or the rich history and human evolution surrounding Cairo in Egypt? Likely not. As well as many adults, the kids maybe couldn’t comprehend all of the other pieces to the puzzle.
Does the precision ag industry and the many people, groups, and companies involved in agriculture really take an understanding to what the technology they are selling or promoting does to the industry of agriculture itself? I would say many do but also many do not. This is a very large issue and one that I hear more and more concerns about, especially from veteran agronomists and precision ag specialists.
I think we are at a tipping point in precision ag — one that reflects how technology will solve all the answers, while many know that it’s not the only answer. You may know the answer to the question, but do you really understand why that answer is right or wrong? Does the precision ag industry understand the impact it is making with business decisions and even family decisions? Do we fully know how changing rates to certain areas affect the biology and sustainability of the system and environment it impacts? Do we feel the changes it makes to lifelong workers in ag and how that affects their job and families? My role here is not to answer those questions for you but for you to think of how technology will actually impact not only your position in ag, but others as well.
No one really knows how technology will eventually impact every inch of agriculture and they shouldn’t. It shouldn’t be necessarily assumed or be denied to evolve into something else. I recommend looking past what you are told technology can do, and see how it affects your business positively and negatively while understanding the history of why that technology is there in the first place.
My gripe may be the constant talk about how any product in precision ag will let you be more efficient or help you change rates and save money or increase yield and add more money to your bottom line. While sure the answer is yes, that ag technology can do those things, but do you understand how each one of those promises came to be and how it actually works agronomically and financially? Are we smarter than just the basic answers ag technology seems to answer? To an extent we are there, but it has been a struggle and we are far from understanding the full aspects of the impact of these advancements in ag and still have a long way to go.
I implore you to think about this more and not only just promote a singular idea in how precision ag affects the everyday decisions growers and trusted advisors make, but how it affects outsiders and understand the history of why this tech even exists. The more you understand these things the better you can serve the end goal and have those honest conversations that everyone really wants in agriculture. No more bull or hype but a real understanding of what that technology brings, where it comes from, what it can do, and how it actually affects things. It isn’t that hard.
All in all, be smarter than a 5th grader.