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September 23, 2022

Farmer First: The Better Way to Develop AgTech

By Ehsan Soltan

There was once a farmer out working his land in the August heat when suddenly a sports car screeched to a stop on a nearby road...

A young man jumped out of the car and began to walk towards the farmer. Being a little alarmed at the unusual disturbance, the farmer stopped what he was doing and looked at the man dressed in designer clothes and sunglasses.

"Can I help you?" asked the farmer.

The young man answered, "Yes, I have a proposal for you. If I tell you exactly how many acres of corn you have here, can I take one of the plants?"

The farmer, slightly amused, responded, "Sure, why not?"

The young man stepped back and pulled out his brand new smartphone, he tapped and clicked away on an app that made a series of real-time calls on an advanced satellite system, which presented him with an ultra-high resolution image of the field. After carefully drawing a boundary around the field, his system quickly analyzed the area and spit out an answer.

The young man studied the data for a few more seconds and returned to the farmer. "You have exactly one-thousand five-hundred and eighty-six acres here."

"That's right," says the farmer, mildly impressed. "Well, I guess that means you get to take one of the plants in this field."

The young man made his choice and loaded the uprooted plant into a garbage bag that he put in the back of his car.

Almost as an afterthought, the farmer said, "Hey, if I can tell you what you do for a living, will you give me back my plant?"

The young man, feeling confident, agreed.

"You run an AgTech company," said the farmer.

"Wow, that's right," said the young man, taken aback, "How did you guess that?"

"No guessing required," answered the farmer, "You showed up here and demanded a fee to run a test that promised to give me an answer that I already know, to a question I never asked, and you know nothing about my business...Now, please give me back my potato plant."

The most damaging thing that has happened in AgTech over the last decade has been the mad dash to force technology onto the farm without stepping back and asking the question, "how does this improve the life of the farmer?"

Then we wonder why no one wants to adopt our novel technology.

AgTech Is An Ecosystem

The first wave of AgTech was characterized by companies focused on the grower, but they delivered technology that was not ready to be used - or was so simple, that it provided a negligible lift. This largely failed to scale due to the ROI challenge for farmers and the lack of benefit to their downstream partners.

Next, companies stepped back and looked at the broader ecosystem of agriculture and began to try to sell to the many vendors and advisors around agriculture. This began to work better because they were selling to audiences that had time to invest in the complexity of their offerings. These incumbent agricultural companies essentially acted as translators for technology to farmers. The challenge for this wave of agtech was that it was too complex for the grower and it fell flat. At the end of the day, farmers will always be the center of the agricultural universe.

We believe that there is a third wave of AgTech that is being built today. This technology will be the bridge between farmers and their downstream partners, helping the entire industry deliver on changing consumer demands for more transparency and sustainability.

The Future We See

It is critical that this technology is easy to use, simple to set up, and delivers tangible benefits to farmers and their downstream partners. It must also be farm-hardened and durable, functioning in the most extreme weather conditions, while continuing to deliver valuable insights.

This is a tall order for any technology, but it's exactly how we have built our systems at Soiltech - grower first, with the capability to help them better collaborate with their downstream partners.

The Soiltech Solution

That is why we have built the Soiltech solution to be the first fully integrated seed to shelf analysis tool. It all begins with the sensor delivering data through the entire crop and product supply chain - from the soil where it's planted as a seed, to the storage facility where it is transformed into fuel, food, or fiber. This provides farmers and their downstream partners to be proactive about the decisions they're making throughout this process to deliver better quality goods, enhance product value, and solidify the partnership between the farmgate and their customers.

The Soiltech ecosystem actively monitors real-time success factors including soil moisture, temperature, humidity, damage, and location. These measurements provide growers, advisors, researchers, and downstream supply chain partners with critical insights, enabling optimal decisions and outcomes.

Learn more about how Soiltech Wireless can help you unlock the value of your supply chainĀ today.

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