Opinion: The Value of Collaboration in Ag Technology
With an increasing number of technology providers offering their services to growers with the aim of solving very specific problems or offering service in a small niche of agriculture, I see more and more ‘silos’ forming in the ag-tech landscape, writes Doug Fitch on PrecisionAg.com. And I’m not talking about the nice, shiny kind that help growers store their wares until they are sold, but the kind of intangible silos that prevent providers from different parts of the landscape from working together.
Industry experts are warning us that sharing data with advisors and peers is key to improving global agricultural productivity, which is imperative for obvious reasons. PepsiCo Europe Senior Procurement Director of Agriculture David Wilkinson, for example, writes in his latest blog post that “the use of precision agriculture techniques is starting to revolutionize sustainable food production by delivering breakthroughs in efficiently managing natural resources.” He also states that “collaboration is crucial to creating change for the better at scale. This is a principle that all stakeholders should embrace in everything they do,” and he is not alone. Increasingly the need to share knowledge in order to encourage best practices is becoming apparent in agriculture globally.
It is for this reason, and many others, that I see the collaboration between co-op, agronomist, and grower to be more important in the future than ever. However, much the value chain might change in the future, ag tech has the power to make those adapting to a collaborative service model more relevant than ever. Most ag tech aims to enable growers in making more profitable decisions; growers already work with a range of providers to help them make these decisions and it is therefore only logical to supply new information to these providers, so they can help the grower make more profitable decisions. Growers don’t want to, or need to for that matter, speak to a group of extra ‘advisors’. Just ask any grower whether he is interested to get visited by another 10 additional seed sales reps this season and you’ll get the same answer that I got on many occasions.
By growers, agronomists, and other service providers using tools they can all collaborate on, we can create the ‘virtual kitchen table of the future’. Where growers once used to sit around the kitchen table with their trusted advisors, this will increasingly become a digitized process. It is critical however, for ag-tech advisors and other providers to ensure they provide real evidence on how they help growers, efficiently manage their risk and reward. In other words, they need to make sure that the benefit perceived by their clients consistently outperforms what anyone else can offer their client year in and year out.