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 IndustryFertilizer Bracing For Slower Demand In 2015
January 5, 2015
Following a rough 2014, ag retailers expect 2015 to remain a challenge for crop nutrient sales for a variety of reasons. Read More
Crop Protection Bulk Storage
State of the IndustryCrop Protection Rise To Continue
January 4, 2015
Economics may tempt growers to reduce pesticide use, but ensuring yields may be more important. Read More
State of the IndustryYields Start With The Seed
January 3, 2015
There’s a reason seed sales were up in 2014 — new varieties are delivering the goods. Read More
Special ReportsUSDA Announces Funding To Train And Educate Next Generation Of Farmers
April 14, 2014
Nearly $20 million in grants to help train, educate and enhance the sustainability of the next generation of agricultural producers is available through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100United Cooperative Acquires Four ADM Wisconsin Facilities
November 12, 2015
United Cooperative, based out of Beaver Dam, WI, recently acquired four grain and agronomy locations from Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Car Makes NASCAR Xfinity Series
October 29, 2015
BRANDT will join JR Motorsports with driver, Justin Allgaier, for the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity (NXS) Series season. Allgaier will pilot Read More
CHS Building exterior
CropLife 100CHS Leaders Help Shape Succession Report
October 22, 2015
Succession planning was listed as a main concern of cooperative leaders at this summer’s 15 regional CHS owner town hall Read More
Fall Harvest
CropLife 100Pinnacle Purchases Eight Regional Seed Companies
October 12, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings has announced the purchase of eight regional seed companies to advance its seed business. Pinnacle has acquired: Read More
MRM Agricultural Service
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires CropLife 100 Ag Retailer
October 8, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC has successfully acquired the Missouri-based agronomy business of MRM Agricultural Service, LLC and its affiliates (MRM). Operating Read More
Eric Jenks, Wilbur-Ellis
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Opens Dry Fertilizer Storage And Blending Facility In Washington
October 8, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co., ranked No. 4 on the CropLife 100, has constructed and opened a 22,000-ton dry fertilizer storage and blending Read More
Latest News
HerbicidesBREAKING: EPA Pulls Registration On Dow’s Enlist …
November 25, 2015
EPA on Wednesday withdrew approval of a controversial new weed killer to be used on genetically modified corn and soybeans, Read More
FertilizerYara Tampa Ammonia Terminal Garners ResponsibleAg Honor…
November 25, 2015
Yara has received its first ResponsibleAg Certification for its Tampa, FL, Ammonia terminal location. This achievement demonstrates Yara’s commitment to Read More
ManagementReviewing The Top Ag Stories For 2015
November 24, 2015
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Paul Schrimpf discuss the most noteworthy events from this past year in agriculture. Read More
EmployeesAgriculture Jobs May Be Plentiful, But New Grads Are Sc…
November 24, 2015
Close to 60,000 jobs are set to open up in agriculture each year for the next five years, but there's not enough grads to fill them. Read More
Radish cover crop
StewardshipCover Crops Guide Helps Growers Improve Water Quality
November 23, 2015
A publication that teaches growers the advantages of using cover crops to improve soil health and crop yields has won Read More
Crop InputsThe Andersons’ Products Receive California Organi…
November 23, 2015
The Plant Nutrient Group of The Andersons, Inc. announced today that its Humic DG and Black Gypsum DG products are Read More
Eric SfiligojNew European Study Seems To Support Glyphosate Safety
November 23, 2015
Looking at any international news over the past few years, it might seem as if the European Union (EU) is Read More
Toggle Biostimulant corn roots
Crop InputsTwo New Biostimulants Added To United Suppliers’ …
November 20, 2015
Winfield US announces the launch of two new products in the United Suppliers portfolio for the 2016 crop season, Optify Read More
StewardshipNRDC Report: Cover Crops Contain Vast Benefits
November 19, 2015
As harvest season ends and farmers in the United States ready themselves for winter, one small change could make a Read More
Fall Harvest
Seed/BiotechArysta Launches New Seed Protectant
November 19, 2015
As spring wheat growers begin planning for a strong start to their season, Arysta LifeScience North America announces RANCONA V Read More
Crop InputsInocucor Receives U.S. Patent For Microbials
November 19, 2015
Inocucor Technologies Inc., the Montreal-based agriculture biotech company, was issued patent No. 9,175,258 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to protect Read More
ManagementSyngenta Rumors and ARA 2015 Preview
November 19, 2015
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj looks at the latest rumors involving Syngenta selling its crop protection business and talks about events Read More
EquipmentAGCO Announces Finalists For Operator Of The Year Honor
November 19, 2015
AGCO Corp. has announced the four top operators chosen as finalists for AGCO’s 10th Annual Operator of the Year program, Read More
High Plains Aquifer
StewardshipStudy: High Plains Aquifer Overall Usage In Decline
November 18, 2015
A new Kansas State University study finds that the over-tapping of the High Plains Aquifer’s groundwater beyond the aquifer’s recharge Read More
Golden Harvest Corn healthy leaves
FungicidesArysta Launches New Corn And Soybean Fungicide
November 17, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America has recently launched ZOLERA FX Fungicide. The highly systemic, powerful fungicide delivers broad-spectrum disease control with Read More
Young corn plants in soil
Crop InputsBioAg Alliance: Microbials Targeted For 250-500 million…
November 17, 2015
Monsanto and Novozymes have announced a new 2025 acreage target that will guide the companies’ microbials business for the next Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsSyngenta Still Being Eyed For China Takeover
November 16, 2015
China National Chemical Corp. approached sovereign wealth funds including China Investment Corp. to help pay for a potential acquisition of Read More
Cedar Country Cooperative
Eric SfiligojCooperative Consolidation Continues
November 16, 2015
As I put this enewsletter column together, we’ve just put the finishing touches on our magazine’s annual CropLife 100 report. Read More