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

CropLife 100CHS: Driving Momentum To Help Farmer-Owners Grow
December 11, 2014
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, must capture new opportunities to Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT, Verdesian Ink Distribution Agreement
December 9, 2014
The agreement grants BRANDT the exclusive right to sell and market Verdesian’s patented Steric chemistry in the Turf and Ornamental and eastern U.S. ag markets under the BRANDT Reaction product line name. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: The Colors Of Custom Application
December 5, 2014
Although many color spray rigs are in the yards of the nation’s top ag retailers, the majority of them still come in only a few shades. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Invests In Meridian Agriculture Distribution
December 4, 2014
Meridian will provide retailers with supplier-branded products and numerous opportunities to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: Entering A New Seed Era
December 4, 2014
The seed category has been re-vitalized during the past few years, and more good news (and varieties) are headed the industry’s way in 2015. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: The Depressed State Of Fertilizer
December 3, 2014
Following downright giddy growth earlier this decade, fertilizer sales have fallen back down to earth the past two years. Read More

Latest News

Seed/BiotechKaren Arthur Joins AgriThority As Seed Treatment Produc…
December 19, 2014
Prior to joining AgriThority, Arthur directed research and development programs, overseeing laboratory and field research, to build the Valent U.S.A. seed treatment portfolio. Read More
EquipmentJohn Deere To Sell Crop Insurance Business
December 19, 2014
Deere & Co. has reached a definitive agreement to sell its crop insurance business, subject to regulatory approval, to Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. of Iowa. Read More
Crop InputsNufarm Fills Regulatory VP Position
December 18, 2014
Nufarm announced today that Rob Schwehr has been promoted to the position of Vice President of Innovation & Regulatory Affairs for Nufarm Americas. Read More
Seed/BiotechReport: China Approves Viptera Corn, U.S. Officials Awa…
December 17, 2014
Chinese authorities have informed some agriculture industry officials the government has approved U.S. imports of a type of genetically modified corn developed by Syngenta. Read More
FertilizerMonty’s Plant Food Brings In New Sales Rep
December 16, 2014
Monty's Plant Food Company has hired Warren Kearns as its newest Sales Representative for the South Carolina area. Read More
EquipmentHagie Wins 2014 CropLife IRON Product Of The Year Award
December 15, 2014
The self-propelled sprayer maker has a hit on its hands with the new STS Series model. Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Sees China Approving Contentious GMO Corn Soon
December 15, 2014
Syngenta will make an announcement when it receives official documentation from China that Agrisure Viptera corn, known as MIR 162, has been cleared for import. Read More
Crop InputsVerdesian Life Sciences Names Vice President Of Communi…
December 15, 2014
Amy Bugg will oversee the execution of all promotional strategies for the corporate brand and the complete product portfolio. Read More
StewardshipFarmers, Retailers Attend 4R Certification 4U Workshop
December 15, 2014
More than 160 farmers and ag retailer attended the “4R Certification 4U” workshop December 12 to learn more about the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship, water quality research in the area and cost-sharing opportunities. Read More
Matt Hopkins10 Best New Agriculture Apps For 2015
December 15, 2014
These new agriculture apps are certain to help ag professionals do their jobs more efficiently in 2015 and beyond. Read More
ManagementARA Learnings, Retail Buying Intentions: Welcome To Cro…
December 12, 2014
This informal video program puts news and events effecting retailers into context, and features Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Herbicide-Tolerant Technology Closer To Commer…
December 12, 2014
The final EIS moves Monsanto one step closer to the introduction of Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton and Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, paving the way to provide access to dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton. Read More
Seed/BiotechUSDA Issues Final Environmental Impact Statement On Her…
December 12, 2014
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is issuing a final environmental impact statement on varieties of cotton and soybeans that have been genetically engineered for resistance to several herbicides, including the one known as dicamba. Read More
CropLife 100CHS: Driving Momentum To Help Farmer-Owners Grow
December 11, 2014
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, must capture new opportunities to Read More
LegislationARA Applauds CFATS Passage Prior To Holiday Adjournment
December 11, 2014
The streamlined bill provides a four-year authorization of the CFATS program and guidance to DHS on key issues of chemical facility security Read More
Seed/BiotechBayer CropScience’s ILeVO Approved By EPA
December 11, 2014
EPA has approved ILeVO, the only seed treatment that protects the root system against infections caused by the Sudden Death Syndrome fungus and has activity against dangerous nematodes. Read More
Biologicals in Emerging Markets Map.
Crop InputsBiocontrols Could Quadruple By 2025; Will Regulators Pl…
December 11, 2014
The European experience with GMOs offers caution — and a promise — for biologicals. Read More
Crop InputsBASF Donates $75,000 To Feeding America
December 10, 2014
The donation will support Feeding America’s National Produce Program, an initiative that helps with planning, transportation and logistics to ensure fresh produce deliveries to the 200 member food banks around the country. Read More