A Kumbaya Moment (OPINION)

A Kumbaya Moment (OPINION)

In attempting to write this column, I stumbled upon a mystery that even the Internet, that vast bastion of truth, has not clearly declared an answer. I was looking for the absolute origin of one of my favorite lines — “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” — and while I won’t get into it here, suffice to say that we may never know for sure.

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Anyway, I wanted to be able to attribute it accurately and use it as a springboard for where precision ag, data sharing and wireless data transfer is today. For as long as I can remember, the big OEM manufacturers and aftermarket companies have been in an all-out war for the biggest share of the grower pie, by any means possible. Collaboration among and between companies was limited and controlled, and often of little value to service providers and growers whose choice of equipment strayed beyond one or two colors.

But there’s been a real watershed shift toward collaboration over the past year or so, matching all measure of previously unimaginable bedfellows, sharing information and in unprecedented ways. Manufacturers are offering to share their application programming interface, or API, to allow data to flow among and between machinery, computers, software programs and the cloud.

On a recent trip to the Des Moines, IA, area, I stopped to chat with folks at both DuPont Pioneer and John Deere Integrated Solutions Group (ISG) to learn more about what they are doing on the technology front, and their current views on collaboration.

Both companies are saying the right things, and the spirit of collaboration with other industry entities is apparent.

The people at Deere shared presentations and gave me access to a wide range of managers. I heard things like, “nobody owns the customer,” and “we know we can’t provide everything to every farmer,” things that honestly weren’t generally spoken before. I got a few managers one-on-one and ground-truthed the collaboration message, and I think it’s truly ingrained in the organization.

So, we’re in the throes of an interesting “kumbaya moment” in ag technology, with most companies choosing to be more open, picking partners and hoping to earn loyalty and, eventually, some form of revenue stream, in the future.

Ultimately, there will be winners and losers — there are simply too many organizations in the market vying for grower business. And it all has to get paid for somehow. When it comes to wireless data transfer, weather and climate information, agronomic recommendations, etc., how is it going to work? Who is going to be able to charge for these services? Will anyone be able to charge for these services? Will it be administered through ag retailers? Equipment dealers? The manufacturers themselves?

Many of these questions are impossible to answer right now, so in the meantime, we’re holding hands and singing, keeping our friends close and our “enemies” closer. It’s going to be one interesting ride.