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Shovels, hoes, tractors and laptops? The next generation of farmer is here.

September 9, 2015
Adam Winters

Adam Winters

No business, no matter how analog it may seem on the surface, is untouched by our modern technology revolution. Even in the classic field of agriculture, tools such as laptops, tablets, and custom apps are increasingly just as crucial as shovels, hoes, and tractors for getting work done.

Whether you’re a gentleman farmer with a handful of acres under cultivation or one of Litchfield County’s biggest producers, if you’re farming to feed anybody beyond your friends and family, embracing technology is a key to success.

That’s no surprise to the biggest agricultural conglomerates, who are fully embracing the opportunity presented by Big Data.

“I could easily see us in the next five or 10 years being an information technology company,” said Monsanto Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley.

Technology brings significant opportunity to the agricultural sector, but also risk. Understanding how to embrace and overcome the challenges that come with it will help set your farm business apart.

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Don’t just react, plan — Other than paying heed to often iffy weather forecasts, historically farmers have had little predictive information to rely on. All moves they made were reactive…to weather, to market forces, to inventory threats. But capturing and synthesizing data about a wide range of variables — everything from weather to equipment maintenance to workforce performance — is the first step to creating planning models that help farmers make informed decisions.

Silos are for corn, not information — Once gathered, all that data can’t get Big until it gets mixed together like a tasty organic primavera. That requires the expertise of data chefs who understand the agricultural business and can help build custom solutions that bring out the power of raw information.

Go off schedule — Precision agriculture uses data collected in real time to help inform decisions about what to plant, when to plant, when to fertilize, and when to harvest. Backed up by Big Data, a farmer no longer follows a rigid schedule, planting this crop at that time simply because that’s how it was done the year before and the year before that. Instead, information analytics drives the process. Again, the key is a proactive, not reactive, approach.

The possibilities are significant, but challenges also confront the smaller-scale agribusiness operator that wants to go Big on data. Once your data systems are in place, do you have the skillset on staff to manage and interpret the results? How secure are your systems? Cyber threats are a growing risk  in virtually every industry vertical, and agriculture is no exception.

Savvy consumers are caring much more about where their food is coming from and are quick to share their experiences on social media, a boon for quality local farmers. But this is a double-edged sword that can quickly turn disastrous in times of crisis (foodborne illness outbreak, questionable labeling, etc.) Do you have a communication expert at the ready to help guide you through any troubles?

At Founders, we have a special interest in agriculture and offer a suite of products that help our agribusiness customers manage risk. Interesting in learning more? Contact me today.

Adam Winters Commercial Lines Account Manager awinters@foundersgrp.com

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