Riding the Technology Wave

  • Feb 22, 2016
Riding the Technology Wave
A recent article in Farm Industry News titled “Technology’s next wave” outlined a report by the Boston Consulting Group on the “fourth wave” of the Industrial Revolution: digital technologies. The report cites nine foundational technological advances that comprise “Industry 4.0” — or digital industrial technology. This includes technology such as autonomous robots, big data and analytics, and the cloud. These developments are having a profound effect not only on agriculture, but on how we all work and operate our lives.

I think the report leaves a couple of things out, though. Namely, mobile technology, which is so important in farming today; as well as social media and social insights.

 

Farmers Are a Social Bunch

There is a myth that farmers are not interested in social media or mobile devices as much as the general population is. But through our research, we’ve found that farmers are very social people who rely extensively on their mobile devices because of the distances they travel and the areas they need to cover. They are engaged in social media for things like commodity marketing tips, and sharing information on weather impacts and disease outbreaks with their peers.

 

Challenges Do Remain

Of course, with any new technology comes challenges. In many rural areas, for example, connectivity remains a barrier to widespread adoption. However, we are seeing more interest from government to help solve this issue. Land O’Lakes is also exploring public/private partnerships to remedy unmet needs. If we are going to leverage technology in a beneficial way, connectivity is one of the first issues we have to address across rural America.

 

Focused on the Future

I believe we’re now in the third year of a 15-year journey, where technology will significantly affect the way American farmers operate. Land O’Lakes and WinField are absolutely committed to their wellbeing. We take a very different view of technology than most companies; we are working to ensure that, ultimately, what we do with our technology capabilities is truly for the benefit of farmers, their operations, and the land they work on.

To that end, we operate on five core principles that drive our technology development. They are:
  1. Optimize yields.
  2. Maximize on-farm profitability.
  3. Reduce waste and improve environmental and economic sustainability on the farm.
  4. Manage through commodity and weather risks, both on inputs and outputs.
  5. Increase on-farm and retail efficiency in the way farmers leverage their land and assets.
With this strategic focus, we are leveraging the technology highlighted by Boston Consulting Group – as well as some of the platforms the report omits – to help our members and partners intelligently advance modern agriculture. We’re not just thinking about how this “fourth wave” of technological advances affects farmers today, but examining how the current iteration of technology tools and those on the horizon will drive the future of farming for years to come.