Revisiting Agriculture 3.0

Some of you may remember an article I authored a year or so ago entitled “Get Ready For Agriculture 3.0.” I have been writing various articles in this industry for nearly 20 years, and I can unequivocally say that article elicited more comments (both positive and negative) than anything I have ever written. Change is always emotional, and the transition from the agriculture we all knew for most of our careers and the phase that started over the past decade or so (which I have dubbed Agriculture 3.0) is more emotional than most.

In trying to understand why this is such a difficult transition, I’ve become convinced the answer is technology convergence. Before I explain how this applies to agriculture, let me define the concept.

Remember back in the day (about 10 years ago) how we used to have a simple cell phone and a computer in our office? If you were “out there,” you also had a Palm Pilot or some other PDA to store your contacts. None of these tools talked to one another or really integrated much in any way. If you wanted to call somebody, you got out your PDA, looked up the number and keyed it in on your cell phone. You could export your contacts periodically from your computer to your Palm Pilot by connecting a cable.

Fast forward to today. Our smartphone allows us to get a name, surf the Web and make a call. It is synched instantly and wirelessly with our iPad and desktop via the cloud. The technology has converged, and now these three tools are connected with one another.

The challenge, which I found out in spades this week when I tried to view a Word document on my new iPad, is that Apple (iPad, iPhone), Google (Android) and Microsoft (Windows, Surface) are locked in an epic battle to see whose proprietary platform will rule the universe (with little interest in seamlessly connecting with their rivals).

There are lots of subplots and intrigue in this battle. It’s ironic, for example, to see the Apple folks who complained bitterly for years about how Microsoft was trying to leverage its huge “installed base” of Windows users to block others now vigorously pursue the “App Store” in an attempt to do precisely the same thing. It’s sad, too, to see companies like Research In Motion — that developed the highly successful Blackberry — see its fortunes decline dramatically when it was unable to offer the complete bundle and interoperability that customers demand.

Convergence In Agriculture

So what does this have to do with Agriculture 3.0? Well, the exact same technology convergence is happening in agriculture! So what technologies are “converging” in Agri­culture 3.0? In my view, the formerly distinct areas of crop nutrition, crop protection, precision agriculture and seeds are actively converging (Figure 1.)

While there has been slow convergence in agriculture going on for a while, the explosion of the seed treatment business is accelerating the trend dramatically. If a company takes a proprietary seed, coats it with a proprietary crop nutrition and crop protection package and applies it using proprietary application equipment which can leverage its database on the performance of its hybrids at various planting depths or in various soil types, what business is it in?

The answer, of course, is that this company is in all these businesses simultaneously, in exactly the same way that Apple or Microsoft are in the phone, tablet, PC and software businesses (and the desire to control the platform is just as strong).

What are some of the “hot spots” in this convergence play?

  • Seed Treatment — where all four disciplines can be brought to bear.
  • Precision Decisions — any area I refer to as Dynamic Decision Making (DDM), which involves integrating disparate sources of data simultaneously to optimize agronomic performance.
  • Micronutrition — understanding at a molecular level what drives nutrient availability and delivering appropriate solutions.
  • Cloud Computing — the ability to seamlessly integrate and store data in a single secure, remote location that provides for data security and optimal decision-making.
  • Microfarming — the ability to leverage highly accurate GPS tools to reduce precision agriculture to a strip within a field where optimum nutrition and plant health solutions are applied.

Finally, here are a few logical questions for thought based on this transition:

  • Will proprietary or “open source” systems predominate in agriculture?
  • Any guesses on who the aggie “Microsoft” or “Apple” are?
  • Which companies will become agriculture’s version of “Blackberry,” with great technology and arguably superior solutions in a narrow niche who get passed by because they cannot offer the integrated solutions the customers seek?
  • What role will the increasing powerful ag channel players play given their strategic position as the trusted advisor to many of the customers?
  • What kind of acquisitions will the larger players need to make to “complete their portfolio?”
  • How do earlier stage technology companies need to position themselves to be relevant and valuable in this emerging paradigm?

In coming months, we will be examining the impact of these technology convergence on the four areas outlined above as well as try and handicap the race to answer the questions above. While it is unclear how all this will play out, what is absolutely certain is that the strategic insight required of any senior manager in the ag sector has never been higher.

Leave a Reply

State of the Industry Stories
State of the IndustryAgriculture’s Troubled Waters
March 3, 2014
Water quantity and quality issues threaten to hamper agriculture on a wider scale in the not-too-distant future. Technology breakthroughs and improved practices are providing potential solutions. Read More
State of the IndustrySponsor Profiles: Simplot, SST And WinField Support CropLife State Of The Industry Report
January 8, 2014
The sponsor partners of the CropLife State of the Industry report have demonstrated ongoing leadership including their support of this report. Read More
State of the Industry2014 State Of The Industry: Agricultural Concerns Creep In
January 2, 2014
With many strong sales years under its belt, the agricultural community is hoping for another positive growth experience in 2014, but mindful of a few challenges that might keep this from happening. Read More
State of the IndustrySeed Systems Top Watch List
January 2, 2014
Retailers are closely following herbicide tolerance and drought resistance traits. Read More
Top 100 Articles
Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
CropLife 100Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
March 3, 2015
Two CropLife 100 retailers — South Dakota Wheat Growers (ranked No. 11) and North Central Farmers Elevator (No. 19) — have entered into a Letter of Intent to unify the two companies into a newly named cooperative. Read More
Growmark Group
CropLife 100GROWMARK In 2015: Back, To The Future
March 2, 2015
The nation’s third largest ag retail organization is simultaneously moving forward while remembering its past. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location In Indiana
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
corn field
CropLife 100The Andersons’ Humic DG Now Available In Canada
February 13, 2015
The Andersons, Inc. Turf & Specialty Group has announced its Humic DG product is now available to customers in the Canadian turf, agriculture and horticulture markets. Read More
Latest News
Crop InputsCommodity Classic 2015 Sets Attendance High Mark
March 4, 2015
With nearly 8,000 total attendees, the 2015 Commodity Classic convention and trade show, which took place last week in Phoenix, AZ, shattered previous records for the landmark event, Read More
Young corn plants
FertilizerNew Nitrogen Stabilizer From Simplot Protects Fertilize…
March 4, 2015
By using OmniPierce Technology, Eclipse-N from Simplot Grower Solutions coats and protects more nitrogen, increasing nitrogen efficiency and decreasing loss due to volatilization. Read More
Industry NewsOhio Corn And Wheat Growers Association, Ohio Soybean A…
March 4, 2015
The associations truly appreciate the comprehensive approach and diligent work that the Ohio House of Representatives has dedicated to addressing water quality and House Bill 61. Read More
Mahindra Implement
Industry NewsMahindra USA Aligns With Paladin Attachment For Impleme…
March 4, 2015
Mahindra USA will begin utilizing Paladin Attachments as its implement supplier in April 2015. Read More
Crop InputsValent BioSciences Acquires Mycorrhizal Applications
March 4, 2015
The acquisition adds another strategic platform to VBC’s rapidly expanding global biorational business, providing additional tools for the Biorational Window platform being developed with its parent, Sumitomo Chemical Co., Ltd. Read More
Nutrients for Life Foundation - Plant Nutrient on the Farm Station
Industry NewsNutrients For Life Foundation Launches New Station Prog…
March 4, 2015
This ready-to-implement station provides an interactive opportunity for farms to showcase crop nutrients’ important role in growing healthy crops. Read More
Adjuvants loading
AdjuvantsAdjuvants Continue Upward Trend
March 4, 2015
A dizzying array of developments in crop protection technologies promise to make specialty adjuvants a crucial piece of the puzzle going forward. Read More
Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
CropLife 100Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Me…
March 3, 2015
Two CropLife 100 retailers — South Dakota Wheat Growers (ranked No. 11) and North Central Farmers Elevator (No. 19) — have entered into a Letter of Intent to unify the two companies into a newly named cooperative. Read More
10 Tips for Spring Planter Preparation
Equipment10 Tips For Spring Planter Preparation
March 3, 2015
Kinze Manufacturing offers advice on how to ensure your planter is ready before you hit the field. Read More
Industry NewsOABA 2015 LAUNCH Program Recognizes 20 New Graduates
March 3, 2015
Twenty Ohio agribusiness leaders are being recognized as the latest graduates of Ohio AgriBusiness Association’s LAUNCH program. Read More
EquipmentNew AGCO Website Helps Customers Shop For Certified Pre…
March 3, 2015
RoGator sprayers are among the wide range of CPO equipment available through AGCO's site. Read More
Enlist spray Demo
HerbicidesGuiding New Herbicide Systems’ Launches
March 3, 2015
Under careful watch, the new 2,4-D- and dicamba-tolerant crops hit more acres this season. Read More
Eric SfiligojCommodity Classic 2015: Playing The Waiting Game
March 2, 2015
There was plenty of future-talk at this year’s event as companies (and growers) are largely in a holding pattern of sorts. Read More
Industry NewsHighway Equipment Appoints New Director Of Business Dev…
March 2, 2015
Cory Venable, who joined Highway Equipment Company (HECO) in 2013 as OEM Account Manager, has been promoted to Director of Business Development. Read More
Prairieland FS employees
Eric SfiligojWorkforce Worries
March 2, 2015
Finding good employees almost always ranks as the No. 1 or No. 2 problem for ag retailers in our annual CropLife 100 survey. Read More
Growmark Group
CropLife 100GROWMARK In 2015: Back, To The Future
March 2, 2015
The nation’s third largest ag retail organization is simultaneously moving forward while remembering its past. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location I…
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More