Attributes of the Future’s Farmers

March 18, 2019 02:26 PM
Technology and data analysis drive growth and success

Strategic planning. Risk management. Yield prediction. Food safety. Equipment management. What do all these have in common? They will be vital in the success of the future’s farmers. They can also be improved by smart use of technology.

Major disrupters will continue to transform agriculture, which is why farmers must think like futurists, says Nikolas Badminton, a futurist and researcher.

“Once you know what is coming on the horizon, you can start making really good decisions today,” Badminton shared at Bayer’s AgVocacy Forum.

How can you adopt this futurist mindset? Start by asking yourself what do you do and how do you do it? Will your business be relevant in three, five or 20 years?

“You need to do research to understand what is coming,” he says. “If you’re a pig farmer, you might want to look at trends in growing organs in pigs for human implantation.”

Analyze your business by doing a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. Then identify where you need to bridge the gaps, Badminton adds.

Farmers of the future need to illustrate a few key traits, Badminton says: a curiosity and a thirst to experiment, extreme data literacy and dedication to data analysis.

“Technology gives you the ability to really make better strategic decisions,” he says. “Better strategic decisions mean more efficient operations.”

Even in today’s tight profit picture, Badminton suggests farmers carefully weigh the return on investment for new technology. Not doing so can be fatal for a business.

“If you stop investing, you stop growing, that means both growing crops and growing as a business,” he says. 

Ag Tech: On the Brink of a Revolution

Fifty years ago, your parents or grandparents might have balked if you told them what the future of farming would look like. Automation, biotechnology, digital tracking and the list is still growing.

“Ag is the least digitized industry, but that gap is narrowing,” says Vonnie Estes, vice president of technology of the Produce Marketing Association. “Tech is important because we’re close to the consumer, and they want more traceability and knowledge about the foods they eat.”

In addition, labor challenges mean producers are up against a wall: they need to produce more and track how they’re doing it, but they don’t have the resources to get crops out of the ground. In fact, thousands of produce acres in California rotted in fields this past year because of this issue.

According to Estes, the future will be influenced by a number of factors and tech revolutions:

  • Technology found in biomedicine is being adapted for agricultural production.
  • Biological advancements are being propelled forward by gene editing, research on soil ecosystems and digital biology.
  • Digital technologies, such as sensors, imaging, robotics and machine learning, help farmers make better decisions.

“[Tech advancements] started with mechanical and chemical, moved to genetics with better breeding and today we’re moving into things like gene editing,” Estes says. “And a lot are based on data.”  —Sonja Begemann

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