Jack Uldrich says agriculture has an 800-lb. gorilla in the room by the name of “new technology.”
The futurist and author who recently addressed attendees at the 2016 InfoAg Conference in St. Louis says few people understand technology can improve exponentially. He points to the modem as an example.
“Eighteen years ago, a 56k modem was the standard,” Uldrich says. “There has been a 1,400-fold improvement since then.”
The New Era. A broad range of technology is being applied to the agriculture industry. Uldrich points to numerous products early adopters are embracing, including:
- Wearable technology
- Augmented reality
- 3-D printing
- Sensors attached to real-world objects, collectively known as the Internet of Things
Any or all of these emerging technologies could prove to be gigantic disruptors, for better or for worse. Could a robotics revolution slash agricultural jobs, for example?
On the other hand, today’s easily overlooked technology could prove to be the savior of the industry tomorrow. Uldrich points to nanotechnology as a prime example.
Michigan State University researchers are developing a nanofilter that can remove phosphorus from water and recapture it as fertilizer. Imagine the potential that could have, Uldrich says.
“All of this change requires humility to understand what worked well yesterday might not work well moving forward,” he says.
How can farmers and ranchers future-proof their operations? It’s simple, Uldrich says: Spend time thinking about it.
“If you aren’t, who is?” he says. Sit down once a week and search out what technological advances the world is talking about next, he says.
Change Is Inevitable. British Columbia-based futurist Cristophe Pelletier says producers have to balance their curiosity with pragmatism. Be open-minded about new technology, but realize not every high-tech gizmo will be a game-changer on the farm in the long run.
Look past these technologies and into the humans who are driving them, Pelletier advises. You might just end up with some powerful and collaborative business partners.
“Don’t be passive in the process,” Pelletier says. “Don’t wait too long to say what you need. Let technology know what you need.”
By Nate Birt
Emerging Technology Spotlight: Multi-Hybrid Planting in the Field
Swath control and multi-hybrid capabilities are among the technologies changing farm operations for producer Jason Willimack of Oxford Junction, Iowa. They’re just two examples of the ways new and emerging tools will affect farmers’ businesses in the future.
“We set up one planter with swath control the first year. That was probably in the 2008/09 growing season,” Willimack tells “Top Producer Podcast” host Pam Fretwell. “We ran one planter that year, and with our terrain and our waterways and our hills, it didn’t take very long to figure out that paid pretty quickly. You overuse products.”
In the future, he envisions curating out-of-state hybrids that do well in states such as Kansas for sandy spots in his fields.”