By Linda Kull, Ph.D., ISA Director of Ag Innovations
Evaluating new technology for the farm is not one-size-fits-all. What works successfully on one operation may have a lower-than-expected return on investment (ROI) on another. However, these three considerations can help you determine when to try out an innovative product or practice on your farm and how to evaluate its impact.
1. Know your agtech nature. Trying a new technology is exciting, and to make the most of this opportunity you’ll want to take time to learn about the technology and how it can benefit your operation. Weighing the benefits of using the technology with the costs to you and your bottom line will help create a successful on-farm trial and experience.
It is normal to experience a learning curve when working with a new technology, but many agtech companies provide training and support to make it a smooth process. Ask for advice from others who have experience with the technology. Your personal interest and excitement are important. Those factors will drive learning and engagement and lead to successfully integrating the technology it into your operation.
2. Take a long-term view. Every season is different and trying a new technology may require more than one season to produce consistent results. Weather, soil conditions and other factors can impact potential ROI on an annual basis. Whether the technology works great in the first year or not, consider giving it another year. Manage your expectations and evaluate the outcomes over at least two years to give the technology a fair shake.
Also, be aware of the tech company’s funding and how it might impact long-term technology support. Product development plans, priorities and service may change over time, whether it is a startup or an established agtech company.
3. Consider intangibles as well as financial returns. Time savings, convenience and improved quality of life are potential agtech benefits that go beyond yield and lower costs. Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) board member and agtech early adopter Steve Pitstick of Maple Park, Illinois, looks for innovations that solve pain points on his operation. For example, before the advent of cloud data storage, one of Pitstick’s frustrations was the hassle of getting data from his tractor onto the computer where he could use it—involving cumbersome data cards and USB drives.
“A Bluetooth device on my tractor addressed that pain point. By the time I got in from the field, the data was already on my computer at home,” Pitstick explains.
He advises farmers to identify their own pain points that agtech can relieve. “Look at your operation and see where you’re struggling, then look for solutions,” he says. “For some farmers it might be labor. Everyone has their own set of goals that technology may help them reach.”
Agtech companies are actively seeking ways to address these pain points, and they want to receive feedback from farmers in the process. For farmers looking to gain experience with new technologies, AgTechConnect is an ISA checkoff-funded program that connects interested farmers with agtech companies seeking input on new product innovations. View current opportunities to partner with leading agtech companies and sign up here.