Has technology’s steady march forward finally overtaken farmers? Is it a bit intimidating to step into a modern tractor cab with all its high-tech features? Has farm technology overall become too overwhelming? That certainly can be the case, says Sam Fiorello, COO at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and President of Bio-Research & Development Growth Park in St. Louis.
“One thing we have to do better with technology – farmers are inundated with information that’s not user-friendly,” he says. “We’re ahead on our ability to collect data, but we’re behind on understanding how to use that data to make better decisions.”
Fifteen years ago, the average farmer might brag that he or she could fix anything with a blow torch and some baling wire, Fiorello says. That’s just not the case anymore.
“You can’t do it all yourself anymore,” he says. “But there’s room for an industry to grow.”
On the bright side, Fiorello sees a new wave of technology on the horizon that promises to simplify how information is delivered and processed. Consumer technology is already setting the standards, he says. For example, on a recent trip to New Madrid, Mo., he was encouraged to see farmers at the local diner sharing field information with each other’s iPads. That's just one example of how technology is slowly becoming more user-friendly.
“It will continue to be a long, patient work filled with incremental improvements,” he says. “There are thousands of mini breakthroughs rather than a single blockbuster breakthrough.”
The Danforth Center supports twenty scientific teams that employ approximately 170 scientists working on various research areas that include bioenergy and crop improvement. It provides laboratories, office space and incubator opportunities to encourage and support agtech entrepreneurs and progressive technologies. Visit http://www.danforthcenter.org/ for additional information.