12 takeaways from agtech from 12 conversations with global agriculture experts
The views expressed in this guest post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the AFN.
It is believed that the English accent changes every few miles in England.
It’s a rarity Professor Higgins which understands the nuances of different accents and places them in specific areas of London. Many of these differences relate to the historical development of English in the British Isles.
As with accents, farming changes by region. The farming practices, challenges and opportunities are different in, say, Iowa compared to India. There are also regional differences – for example, between eastern and western Nebraska.
To better understand some of these differences, I had conversations with 12 agricultural experts from Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia and the United States. .
These countries bring together 48% of the world’s population, and the majority of the agricultural population. The conversations I had with agricultural experts highlighted stark differences – not only in land size, crops and access to technology, but also in marketing strategies, infrastructure and potential for improvement.
Here are 12 key takeaways from the 12 conversations:
Agtech needs diversity in funding because the VC model isn’t always the right fit. American agriculture is homogeneous, in terms of who farms. The industry must be intentional to increase the diversity of voices and solutions within agriculture.
Carl Lippert (USA, FluxX)
Most of the problems are cultural problems – and this is also true for agricultural problems. Technicians need to understand the farming culture, which is an “opt-out” culture rather than an “opt-in” culture in the United States. If we believe in a “definite future” philosophy, we must work to achieve it.
Kim Keller (Canada, The Do More Agriculture Foundation)
Farming is not just about inputs, machinery and yields. Humans are a key part of this and the mental health of farmers is fragile due to factors beyond their control. [and] unreal expectations of themselves. Farmers need mental health help and support.
Farmers need to find new sources of value outside of yield, because row crop yield is a commodity. Technology and automation will redefine what “close” will mean in the future.
Sarah Mock (USA, journalist and author)
The dominant narrative of a small family farm in the United States needs to be re-examined. The current euphoria of the carbon market in agriculture is not yet based on science and we should think seriously before deciding to pay farmers for carbon sequestration.
Eli Pollak (Kenya, Apollo Agriculture)
In Africa, access to input finance – and the ability to provide a flexible set of finance, input and technology products that meets a farmer’s needs – can not only be a profitable business at scale, but also put farmers on the right path to prosperity and entry into the middle class.
Megz Reynolds (Canada, Do More Agriculture Foundation)
Policies should be science-based and are an important lever to drive technology adoption. An “us versus them” — farmers versus consumers — mentality in agriculture is counterproductive. Respectful conversations will lead to better understanding and better results.
Venky Ramachandran (India, analyst and consultant)
You cannot push the model of ag and agtech from the developed world to a developing country like India. A typical zero marginal cost mentality for technology does not work well in India.
After overtaking Alibaba, Pinduoduo agriculture market focuses on food tech to achieve profitability – read more here
Xin Yi Lim (China, Pinduo-duo)
A laser focus on customer value, while providing a fun experience, will create deep engagement and scale your business. A direct connection between consumers and farmers accelerates the learning and feedback loop, and can be used to drive farm-level innovation.
Patrick Gerlich (Indonesia, Bayer Crop Sciences)
Digital tools should increase the human relationships inherent in small-scale agriculture. You cannot reach millions of smallholder farmers without collaboration and a multi-level distribution network.
Kellan Hays (Zambia, Good Nature Agro)
Smallholder farmers in Africa need full farm support. Innovative funding models that combine cash and in-kind contributions can provide this support. Farmers can benefit from valuable supply chain links, access to better inputs and markets for their produce.
Jehiel Oliver (Nigeria, Hello tractor)
Mechanization, access to good quality inputs and a market for products can improve the lives of millions of farmers in Africa. Farmers seek access to basic infrastructure.
The 12 conversations with agricultural experts are compiled, in full, in my e-book: “Global Perspectives on Agricultural Technology.” All proceeds from the sale of the e-book (less taxes and transaction fees) will be donated to a charity working to improve food and agricultural systems. I will match the first $1,001 in dollar-for-dollar sales with my own money.