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

Trending Articles

Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScience
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Offers New Support For Ferguson, Area Communities
October 8, 2014
Monsanto Co. has committed $1 million in new support for several collaborative efforts in Ferguson, MO, and surrounding communities in North St. Louis County. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnapproved Genetically Modified Wheat Found In Montana
October 3, 2014
USDA reports that one year after discovery of Monsanto's unapproved wheat in a single Oregon field disrupted U.S. wheat export sales, the GMO wheat has again been found in Montana. Read More
Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
The deadline to vote for the 2014 CropLife IRON Product of the Year is October 31. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More

Latest News

CropLife 100ValueAct Buys Stake In Fertilizer Dealer Agrium
October 30, 2014
ValueAct has bought 8.2 million shares in Calgary, Alberta-based Agrium, making them the second largest investor in the fertilizer dealer. Read More
InsecticidesNew Research Study Shows The Value Of Neonics
October 29, 2014
The study evaluated seed treatment, soil and foliar uses of neonicotinoid insecticides in the U.S. and Canada. Read More
StewardshipUSDA To Provide $4 Million For Honey Bee Habitat
October 29, 2014
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that more than $4 million in technical and financial assistance will be provided to Read More
Crop InputsValent Launches New Low VOC ProGibb LV Plus Plant Growt…
October 29, 2014
ProGibb LV Plus PGR is a high-potency, liquid gibberellic acid formulation designed to comply with California’s new air quality standards for high volatile organic compound agricultural products. Read More
Crop InputsBayer CropScience Acquires Certain DuPont Crop Protecti…
October 29, 2014
Bayer CropScience and DuPont Crop Protection have signed an agreement for Bayer to purchase certain DuPont Crop Protection Land Management assets in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. Read More
ManagementWest Central Names New President
October 29, 2014
West Central’s board of directors have announced their unanimous decision to name Milan Kucerak President and CEO-elect following Jeff Stroburg’s retirement at the end of the fiscal year. Read More
InsecticidesValent U.S.A., MGK Form Marketing Agreement
October 24, 2014
Valent has formed an agreement with Minneapolis-based MGK to manage the marketing and sales of MGK’s crop protection line of insect control products within the U.S. beginning April 1, 2015. Read More
StewardshipFlorida’s 4R Advocate Keeps Improving
October 24, 2014
Florida farmer Alan Jones uses the 4R principles of nutrient stewardship as the core of his fertility program, which allows him to maximize production and keep costs in check. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Named One Of The World’s Best Multinational …
October 23, 2014
Monsanto ranked No. 8 in the world’s largest annual study of workplace excellence that identifies the top 25 best multinational companies in terms of workplace culture. Read More
Crop InputsArysta Hires Former Agri-Chem, CPS Employee For Delta S…
October 23, 2014
New Territory Sales Manager Mark Peel’s primary role will focus on working with growers regarding fungicides in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Announces Appointments In Plant Food Division
October 22, 2014
GROWMARK, Inc. has announced the three key staff changes in its Plant Food Division. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Appoints New VP Of Finance And Risk Management
October 22, 2014
Wade Mittelstadt has been named GROWMARK Vice President, Financial and Risk Mangement, effective December 1, 2014. Read More
FungicidesEPA Approves BASF In-Furrow Corn Fungicide
October 22, 2014
Field trials show Xanthion In-furrow fungicide provides more rapid emergence, extended residual control and improved seedling health than untreated crops. Read More
EquipmentAgraScout App Available At No Cost To Universities
October 21, 2014
AgraScout, a fast and easy to use mobile crop scouting app, is now available at no cost to University students, Read More
LegislationNew Farm Bill Program To Provide Relief To Farmers Affe…
October 21, 2014
The USDA has implemented a new Farm Bill initiative that will provide relief to farmers affected by severe weather, including drought. Read More
ManagementGreenfield Scholars Program Aims To Sustain Agronomy Wo…
October 21, 2014
The program encourages talented students to study agronomy, crop and soil sciences while cultivating networks to develop the necessary workforce to sustain the profession. Read More
Paul SchrimpfPrecision Ag: Taking It To The Hill
October 21, 2014
A new coalition took the good news message of precision agriculture to Washington, DC, last month. Read More
ManagementUSDA Awards $18 Million In Small Business Research Gran…
October 21, 2014
The grants will provide high quality, advanced research and development that will lead to technological innovations and solutions for American agriculture. Read More