You Can’t Handle the Truth: 10 Things Agtech Needs to Admit

You Can’t Handle the Truth: 10 Things Agtech Needs to Admit

As I sit here pondering what is the next big thing needed for digital ag/precision ag/agtech/digital farming…..blah blah blah, it came to me to write down a list of things that we actually need changed or just need to admit need a solution or not. Not things that are on the horizon or some new product that is being designed or talked about. Just things that I’ve seen that we overemphasize or just haven’t figured out or done in general. This is also in no particular order and may make absolutely no sense to some. I’ll add some of my own reasoning with some of these as well. Bear with me here.

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1) Why oh why can’t we get past this whole illusion that Big Data is going to save us all?
Sure, it’s catchy and creates wild dreams, but it also creates a lot of wild accusations that simply aren’t true or that are going to happen any time soon. Let’s just hold off on this whole thing for a while, please, or approach it a little better.

2) Stop trying to make algorithms that try to replace people or processes.
This is by far one of the most ridiculous practices being attempted right now. I get it, automating some processes is going to be important to make certain things more scalable and easier. That is very true, but certain groups are trying to replace agronomists or other trusted advisors. Other lab related processes are also being threatened. All in all, some just have to slow their role here and be careful or else you screw up more than just the agronomics.

3) Can we please just stop making ridiculously expensive in-cab controllers?
iPads or tablets are cheap and replaceable. They basically work fine in the field based on plenty of experience. Also, you know there is like 1,000% markup on those big main controllers today. It is keeping many from adoption or to invest in other parts of their precision ag program.

4) Please, for the love of god, can people stop creating news articles about drones and robotics changing the world for agriculture?
We get it, they’re cool, and I like Rosie from the Jetsons, too, but don’t take the farmer out of the farm or any person away from the field. Then it just becomes a factory with no roof and rural areas will die. Plus, it just isn’t going to happen the way some talk about it. This one is very frustrating to me and others.

5) Let’s figure this whole “who owns the data” stuff out.
I know some are trying and that is great, but why is this still an argument and why are some not really answering the questions? Yes, it is complicated and lawyers usually are not the cheapest and/or fastest people, but the majors are sugar coating their answers and its leading to confusion.

6) As an industry, we need to be a lot more careful about giving away things for free.
Unfortunately, many system and processes are going this route since huge companies make money elsewhere and/or they want more market share. The thing is it also showcases that these services are not worth it and it also deters smaller groups from building new and better things. It is really dangerous for the evolution of data in ag and leads to complacency in certain areas.

7) I’ll say it, crop insurance and the USDA need to give incentives to use precision ag tools and data with discounts on insurance or by some other means like that.
I know this sounds very socialistic and also complicated since the rules to govern this would be complicated. Also, the term precision ag is very broad. I know there is a way and it would help immensely for not only efficiencies for government and crop insurance reporting, but also help build up the entire industry. I think it’s worth a real shot somehow and will help all sides of the industry along with public perception of agriculture in general.

8) Let us end this whole debate on what resolution and imagery type system is better than the next.
This one is more near and dear to me, but come on, they all have their place and really should all be used together as a system. It’s not hard, really, it’s pretty common sense actually. A jumbotron at a ball game has awful resolution up close but guess what, thousands of people can see it from afar. A phone has awesome resolution, but only one person can see it up close, pretty much. Let us use that common sense for perspective.

9) This industry, and in particular the few groups who control the narrative, need to actually just agree and make one darn file type used to transfer and create data.
I know this has and is being tried and there are a plethora of ways to go about it. Also, there are legacy systems and what not. We are not going to progress much more unless this finally gets solved though. Let us “you know what” or get off the pot.

10) Finally, stop saying that your tech or product or service or whatever was created to help feed the world by 2050. Don’t use the line that everyone says, “We are going to have 9.5 billion by 2050 and need to grow double what we do today” or whatever the stupid saying is.
Ahhh, I can’t even stand this saying anymore and I’m not alone. Growing more is not the problem people, and those numbers are far from perfect. Tech won’t solve that itself and especially your little product or software or data. Just say, “Hey, we just wanted to make something unique and cool that helps people in ag while contributing to the greater good.” Boom, it is that simple.

As always, I try to write down the frustrations I hear from others in my own words so in saying that, keep all this in perspective and don’t take it personal. Sometimes we just need to be a little more honest with each other and say what needs to be said to help the greater good. Some of these items above are hard and I know some may never happen or even work, but it’s a goal I believe myself and others should push a little harder for. Everyone is trying to race to be on top and really no one can win that battle alone in agriculture. It just doesn’t work that way. So let’s find ways to work together a little more and figure these things our or some “Care Bear” saying like that. Sharing is caring!

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Mona ABRAHAMSON says:

In your summation paragraph, if you replaced the word ‘agriculture’ with ‘politics’ you would have described the very situation existing in Washington, D.C. today! No one wants to be the first to budge.

Steve Booher says:

On point #3, all of our systems use an open source Android tablet for the display. $240 from your local Best Buy. And by the way, all wireless.

What a concept.

Bob Miller says:

Dead on: With regard to Point #2, lets just pass on AI being able to replace agronomists. It’s OK to vary the N rate with soil type, but not to manage N application timing and rate over the season. Sorry but N management is based on experience, weather and two dozen other variables. AI is based on an engineers model who never walked the field or grew a bushel of grain.

PM says:

Easily one of the best commentary pieces I have read about the whole topic. From top to bottom, this is what my college students need to know as well.

Dwight Peterson says:

Your comments reflect a viewpoint I suspect held by many of us who predate the digital age.
Although digital technology continues to automate life, the advent of fertilizers,chemicals, and the air conditioned cab are examples of the kind of technology that has revolutionised crop production.
Arguably the most significant ag related technological advancement in the last twenty years has been auto steer. It would seem that the 24 hour news cycle has too little real news to diseminate. While keeping an eye on new developements,focusing on the basics is still good strategy.