A popular joke within the tech industry was trotted out at GAI AgTech Week in Boston, MA, speaking volumes about the continuing – but hopefully narrowing – divide between agriculture and the technologists who hope to transform it.
Here’s how the joke goes: If it takes nine months for a woman to have a baby, put nine women in a room for a month and it’s bound to go much faster.
Such is the hope of tech companies, which have a bias for fast turnarounds on product iterations and speedy adoption by buyers – ideally before their seed money runs out. But most of agriculture has an annual growing season, giving farmers their fabled “40 chances” at making a crop over a typical 40-year career. Most of them understandably are not about to risk the entirety of one of those precious and expensive seasons on a speculative technology.
“Are farmers conservative?” asked Kirk Haney, CEO and Managing Partner of the accelerator fund Radicle Growth. “Or are they pragmatic? That’s a key distinction.”
Farmers also want assurances that a technology not only will “work,” but that it will have tangible benefits for their crops – meaning tech’s fabled concept of a minimally viable product (MVP) is “not necessarily applicable” to agriculture, said Ryan Rakestraw, Venture Principal at Monsanto Growth Ventures. Extensive field trials are important, he said. Companies need to prove the value of their products.