Earlier this week, I had the pleasure to sit along-side 25 early stage investors in an Ag leader panel about agriculture technology trends, industry challenges and opportunities ahead. Moderating the panel was Claire Kinlaw, Director of Agriculture practice, LARTA Institute. The other panel participants were Pete Nelson, President, Ag Innovation Development Group; Blake Hurst, President, Missouri Farm Bureau; Garrott McClintock, Director of Operations, Oxbow Agriculture and Jude Conway, Executive Director, Ag Venture Alliance.
Not surprisingly, several eager investors asked the same question almost in unison: What disruptive technology do you anticipate or want to see next? Is there a fundamental big problem to solve?
The panel’s first reaction was a vote for incremental innovation rather than disruption. However, this did not stop each panel from offering their own big innovation ideas. Here are the top themes from the discussion:
- Targeted super herbicides for super-weeds (pigweed, waterhemp and other pesky weeds can really impact yield and there is no easy way to contain them)
- Better animal diagnostic tools
- Better vaccine, in particular for avian flu in swine
- Grower operating financing. The risk has to shift from a grower only into participation along the supply chain, especially if we want growers to have long term outlook to their business.
- Retrofit older tractor equipment with new automation technology. There is a glut of big iron sitting in many farms given the relaxed financing terms in recent years. New equipment sales are significantly down and now there are more opportunities for manufacturers to offer upgrades and accessories to drive incremental value to older models particularly in precision implement components and auto steer.
Garrott said it best… you can no longer rely on yield and soil maps to drive higher yield value. Learning from this panel reinforce that we are on the right track.