The Future of AgTech is S.E.T.

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The unprecedented explosion of the COVID-19 pandemic has caught the world off-guard. The secondary effect of a probable global recession has affected every business. Some industries have the luxury of absorbing hardships and standing firm in the face of changing conditions. Agriculture is not typically one of those industries. In a good environment, agriculture has its challenges… 

Being Realistic  

Farmers operate under tremendous pressure to feed their families and the world… 

  • Low commodity prices mean each bushel counts. Each investment must be scrutinized as demand continues to rise beyond production.  
  • It’s an unpredictable industry due to Mother Nature. 
  • Workforces must be protected from coronavirus which means slower production and reduced supply.  
  • Crops being harvested now were planted based on a pre-COVID-19 demand, and that demand has abruptly shifted to accommodate a global population confined to their homes. For example, onion farmers in Florida are having to plow their onions back into the ground. Why? There are not enough families making onion rings at home.  
  • The agriculture supply-chain is also impacted, with supply chain workers falling ill, deliveries delayed, and product availability fluctuating, COVID-19 will transform consumer buying habits.   

Being Part of the Solution 

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Okay, fine. Now what? We can’t change what’s happening so we need the farmers, companies, and leaders who will see us through to a post-pandemic world to bring answers. We need the crops to come in, the trucks to keep rolling and the grocery store shelves to be stocked. We can’t change history or our circumstances, but we can work together to make a change now and prepare for the future. The forward thinkers are taking stock of how they can secure the food supply chain and empower the farmers to pivot their operations and maintain our world’s food supply. 

S.E.T. — Scaling, Enablement, and Transformation   

Solutions will no doubt require people and processes, but we believe technology can be the most immediate path to getting through this. Headstorm has had the luxury of working with some of the most innovative organizations in the industry ranging from Fortune 500 leaders to game-changing start-ups. The commonality we see in their leadership is a focus on today. How can we create, innovate and rethink solutions to serve the entire food pipeline? As we contemplate where to place tech bets, we have found a simple model that is helpful to frame the opportunity and ensure its success. We call it S.E.T. – Scalability, Enablement, and Transformation.  

That may seem like keywords for business bingo, but in our experience, they are more than industry-agnostic terms…   

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Scaling is about preparing for success. This is the foundation that allows your technology to effectively serve one farmer or serve the world. Understanding the data and assets you have, how your pipelines are ingesting data, the localization and internationalization of that data are all the tools of scale.  

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Enablement is about effectively serving customers so they can serve themselves. By freeing your organization of the constraints that can be managed by technology or customers you provide an opportunity for your own organization to focus on the next innovation. Some of the tools of the trade for enablement are self-serve interfaces in apps and dashboards, the maintenance and cleanliness of data, the hardware and products that seamlessly integrate technology into the work process.    

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Transformation is about the journey. There will be a number of ideas generated in the weeks to come, but if a company cannot see the stages of use and acceptance those ideas will falter. It is incumbent for innovative companies to meet their customers where they are and give them the tools and technologies at the right time and the right place. It’s about having the foresight to stage your innovation and bring your customers along with you.  

Catalysts of Change – S.E.T. in Action  

If you want a real-world example of how SET works, look no further than the Internet of Things (IoT). In recent years, field sensors and in-cab IoT has been a catalyst for change and a workhorse of farming.   

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IoT worked because organizations like John Deere understood how it would completely transform a farm, but in order to do that, they had to prepare for success through scalability planning. That meant access to the data generated, upgrading data pipelines and product design.  

Once they developed the foundation for scalability they turned the solutions over to farmers. The data captured became a mainstay in apps allowing for sensor strategies and advanced precision agriculture decisions.  

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The result for farmers has been a true transformation of their business, but that’s not where the journey ended. The transformation continues as it impacts every stage in the food pipeline. IoT is a requirement in the heavy equipment, the sensors for soil, weather and water monitoring, in data provided for dry storage and delivery, to grocery store inventory. It will continue as we take to the skies with drones scouting in the field, as well as delivering packages to our front door.   

Ready, S.E.T., Go!  

You know how IoT started? It was an idea, a technology, and a plan. It started because we were looking forward.

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The firms that intelligently respond to their growers’ changing needs will be the ones that succeed in this challenging economy. Those that apply Scaling, Enablement, and Transformation technology strategies to their business will make an immediate change and have an advantage post-pandemic.  

The stage is set for the next great wave of innovation to set the modern farmer up for sustained success and feed future generations. Now is the time to look forward again and create solutions that will change the world, because the world will never be the same. 

 The Stage is S.E.T.  

Over the course of the next few weeks, the Headstorm AgTech Special Interest Group and I will do a deep dive into each area of S.E.T. In each article, we will share examples of how you can implement each stage, provide examples of companies using the strategy and results you can anticipate by being S.E.T. for success.

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