The TOP 5 Checklist for Adoption of Agtech on your Farm
There is no question that technology has its place in the evolution of Australian agricultural production, supply chains and productivity. If we are to reach the Agriculture 4.0 targets and create a $100Bn industry for our economy the fact is we will need to use technology and innovation in all areas of Agriculture /Food production and delivery, but for many farmers that remains a daunting task. In a busy life full of would-be alternatives …how do I know what is worth doing and what is not? Adding COVID19 concerns to the equation and many farmers will be thinking…”Do I really want to get those extra backpackers this year or could I run the farm better with technology ?”
There are many important factors that Farmers should take into account when they are considering new technology for their operations to avoid wasting money and get better, more timely outcomes from adoption. Here are some key ways to avoid pitfalls and make better decisions when adopting new technology on farm and to ensure its fit for purpose and will live up to expectations.
1. START with the problem – what is the problem you are trying to solve? The first thing you need to do to start making your business more productive and profitable is START considering areas of your business that could be more efficient. The fact is doing what you have always done won’t get a different result but you have to be honest with yourself about this and think about how much time and effort you spend every day/week/month on various tasks/ inputs that you could optimise. Once you’re focused on the problem you are solving you can begin to prioritise the benefits of the adoption and likely impacts on your business relative to other opportunities you could invest your time and money in. If you prioritise the problems you want to solve that would help make your farming operation more efficient you will be better placed to work out what technology you want rather than have it thrust upon you indiscriminately. Whether you are thinking about what to do or being approached by a would-be Agtech provider – know the problem first!
2. Consult your Industry Body on technology providers – Many industry bodies are running active programs to assess different technology applications on farms in your sector. Whether that’s the MLA for Livestock, GRDC for grain growers, Department of Primary Industry in your state, Agrifutures Australia, or one of the other Rural R&D organizations there are many people around Australia who are creating digital farms, running events and online seminars that will help you find out who’s working on the solutions to your problem via technology. There are also some really awesome programs and podcasts from people like Agthentic that can also help you better consider the adoption of Agtech on your business.
3. Consider the return on investment of the adoption of the technology – Once you’ve determined the problems and are engaging with service providers identified by your industry body the first thing you should ask the provider is if they can provide a financial analysis of the benefit for you of the adoption of their technology and then weigh that up against your own numbers to see what it means for you. Any good provider would have worked this out in evolving their business case and will have hard numbers or a cost calculator for you. There are still plenty of solutions looking for a problem to solve in all areas of emerging technology but by considering the hard numbers early you avoid the pitfalls of trying things that sound great but have no material benefit to your operation.
4. Case Studies and Testimonials matter – Once you’ve decided there may be money in it for you, you should then ask the provider to give them a real-world case study, check how many real-world ( paying ) farms/ customers the technology has. There are plenty of gold plated testimonials out there that were well written by the founder’s uncle. Make sure you ask to see some testimonials or videos from real customers and people you know in the industry so that you can verify them. There are lots of early adopters out there who have already learnt the hard lessons so why not learn from them and take note of what they are using and what they are not.
5. Call a customer. Having determined that the tech is real, the benefit is there for you and they have a material footprint, you can verify your final investment decision by calling a customer. Any bona fide technology provider will happily give you a list of customers to call in your area and you should check in with a few of them to see what the pros and cons of the technology are to do your final check.
If you follow this process in your assessment of new technology on your farming operation you’ll certainly save yourself some time and get a more material Return on Investment for your operation.
Andrew Coppin is Managing Director of Farmbot Australia, a successful Agtech company focused on the water and farm monitoring solutions. He is also a founding member of AusAgritech Association an inaugural member of the Australia New Zealand Agritech Council that both seek to promote better adoption and investment in regional Agritech to domestic and international markets.