By Jason Tatge, Farmobile co-founder and CEO
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When I co-founded Farmobile with two colleagues, we set out to empower farmers through easy-to-use, plug-and-play data collection technology that would help them improve profitability and yield. Farming has never been easy, and Farmobile was created to give farmers more power in a world where their margins continue to thin.
What I never imagined is that we’d be where we are today.
Farmers have always been at the mercy of factors outside of their control, but it’s difficult to remember a time when things came together in a way that’s as challenging, and frankly insane, as it is today. Trade wars and Washington bureaucracy and inaccurate reports, volatile weather and climate changes, consolidation in the ag industry, and robust consumer demands have created a perfect storm that is decimating the businesses and family farms that growers in this country have built.
Amidst this backdrop, plenty of farmers are hunkering down; they’re slashing expenses wherever they can and delaying investments in their business indefinitely. I’d contend that now, more than ever, is when farmers should be investing in building a data strategy for their operations. And I’ll tell you why.
Many of the same issues and trends that are putting unprecedented pressure on farms will also be the opportunities that help reverse today’s situation.
Agdata to Ease Tensions
No, Ag data won’t end a trade war. But the tension between farmers and the agency that serves them is palpable. When the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) most recent report came out, farmers were shocked by the conclusions the report drew, and furious. Threats were made to one USDA staff member, and all USDA employees were removed from one of the industry’s most prominent crop tours. All because of conflicting perspectives on what was happening out in the fields. If we had true, real-time data flowing directly from the machines to the markets, uncertainty, and this problem, would be completely eliminated. No more paper surveys. Just ground-truthed data that farmers—and the markets—can rely on.
Our changing and volatile climate is also proving a huge burden for farmers. Excessive flooding and droughts, and the soil erosion that results from these natural disasters, are becoming increasingly common. This year’s floods were one of the worst planting seasons in recent memory. And if science has anything to say about it, things are only going to get worse.
The truth is, farmers are going to need to learn how to grow their crops in a very different type of climate; the old ways that “dad did it” are going to become less predictable in the future. Fast.
AgData Empowering Farmers
That is exactly why we need more agdata. We need to turn every field in this country (and ultimately, the world) into its own research plot. And farmers should be compensated for running these experiments and licensing their systems of performance.
Beyond weather and politics, consumers serve as agriculture’s new, additional pressure point.. Over the past decade we’ve seen an increasing demand for transparency around the food supply chain. Consumers want to know where their food comes from and how it was made. They are searching for specialized foods grown with practices that increase nutritional content and are environmentally sustainable and responsible.
These trends are not well aligned with the current commodity markets in terms of segregated storage, transportation and delivery methods that are generally used today to move high volumes of food through the supply chain. In the near future, I firmly believe that we’ll see even more ag data being used as a commodity differentiator. This enables farmers, who keep detailed electronic field records for every activity layer, to distinguish their crops and share their information with perspective buyers — leading to better opportunities to increase the value received for their crops.
A Sane Path Forward
The long and short of it is that high-quality, direct-from-the-machine ag data is going to be the best way for ag to overcome the mounting forces currently knocking at its door.
These trends seem here to stay. Rather than merely surviving the storm, we need to plan for the long term. That’s why we created the Farmobile DataStoreSM. At Farmobile, farmers own a high-quality source of agronomic and machine data outright. And they have the choice (and it’s always a choice) to license copies of their data files for a recurring revenue source.
We believe that this is the most effective way to support farmers in building digital strategies for their operations, while putting money back in their pockets through a new voluntary revenue stream from data. Even in times of insanity.
What other issues do you think agdata will be able to address in our industry going forward? Share your ideas.
Farmobile co-founder and CEO. Passionate about advocating for the farmer. #FarmerPower.