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The Autogrower

Are growers ready for technology? Probably not.

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One of the questions I’ve been asked recently, by producers and investors, has been whether growers are ready to adapt to the new technology we are creating.

My answer has always been consistent – it’s not about whether they are ready, it’s whether they can afford NOT to be and how we get them there.

Given the changing environment in which growers operate including new consumer demands, increased distribution costs, climactic changes and growing restrictions on land use, water or legislative demands; understanding how technology can improve (or save) their business is paramount.

I’ve spoken previously on LinkedIn about the hurdles in place including the need for high-speed multi-modal internet to the farm and onsite network infrastructure; the need for intermediaries between the product innovators and the producers; the need for more education across the industry, and most importantly collaboration.

I acknowledge that some of those are easier to establish than others but just because something is hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. I’d say that a large percentage of growers globally aren’t ready for automation or cloud-based software solutions, but we still need to create the tech, have the conversations and engage industry leaders and governments to actively move forward. Food production is not something we can be lazy about.

In our space of horticultural CEA (Controlled Environment Agriculture), technology is a key factor for success. If you consider that produce like leafy greens are highly perishable with a shorter cold-store and shelf life to other outdoor crops like apples or potatoes; you need to use every bit of data and technology to be successful.

Data = optimization. Optimization = savings, healthy plants and better utilization of resources.

We have growers that still use paper notebooks to log their data and some don’t see the requirement to change. There’s the old saying “If it aint broke, don’t fix it”. Someone probably thought the same thing when the Model T Ford came out to replace the horse. But it happened and we moved into a new modern era. Now we’re on the cusp of another.

We have barely scratched the surface of what contemporary data science, AI coupled with technologies like machine vision can bring. Machine vision alone stands to be one of the most disruptive technologies to agricultural production especially indoors; not just eyes on the crops 24x7 but eyes that can see ‘inside’ the plant and determine its health and function.

Overall, change and progress is coming. Some growers are engaged and ready for technology; others will need a bit of convincing. The winners will ultimately be those that take the time to consider their business model, talk to innovators and get on board.

For more on this discussion check out the interview Darryn did with ReThink for the Indoor AgTech Innovation Summit - https://indooragtechnyc.com/autogrow-interview/

 

Darryn Keiller

Written by Darryn Keiller

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