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The Future is on its Way (It may already be here)

The 1984 movie “The Terminator” created the mental image of artificial intelligence (AI), cyborgs and unmanned machines for those of us in the ‘over-50’ crowd. Arnold provided an action thriller that showed how a machine dominated world could provide potential doom for humans. A cyborg with cool sunglasses carved a memorable image for the follow on Terminator films.

New Vantage Partners, LLC published their annual survey for 2018 entitled “How Big Data and AI are Driving Business Innovation.” Their survey included information from sixty (60) of the Fortune 500 corporations. Farmers Insurance, Goldman Sachs, GlaxoSmithKline, IBM, Motorola, and Verizon are just a sampling of the corporations that participated. They found that developing advanced analytics to support improved business decision was the highest priority for investing in artificial intelligence and big data.

“The Terminator” provided an image of doom and gloom with the advent of artificial intelligence, but the movie’s future view was just to sell movie tickets. The more realistic future is on its way and according to the New Vantage Partner’s survey results, it may already be here.

The future for farmers utilizing data analytics and artificial intelligence is certainly not doom and gloom, it’s just the opposite. You may have been one of the farmers that pushed back against auto steer a few years ago and now you can’t live without it. Most of you will be the same way at first with the new data technologies and that’s normal. Let’s investigate some steps to help you prepare for your improved business decisions and innovation, just like the Fortune 500.

Become a student

Don’t just study what data analytics and artificial intelligence are, understand how to apply them to your farm operation. Your farm generates mountains of data each year. Financial, agronomic, machinery and weather data are now pouring out of your operation and the questions is, what are you doing with it? New tools are available to help you make that data work for a better bottom line. Those farmers that learn how to use it will position yourself to be in the top quartile of the best run farm operations.

Think differently about your farm

Farmers memorize every ‘nook and cranny’ of their farm. What would happen if you had a new set of information (data analytics) and a tool that could analyze large amounts of data (artificial intelligence) to provide a perspective of your farm that you have never seen before? Seed selection, chemical use, water conservation and financial decisions united together in a new way will assist you in thinking about your farm differently.

Select your business partners carefully

Ag companies have been developing and selling new technology to farmers for several years, but it’s only just beginning. There will come a day that you make buying decisions more on the data generated from your farm machinery than the machinery hardware specifications. Selection of your vendors (business partners) should be made carefully as it is their technology you will be utilizing. If you don’t have accurate data analytics and an effective way to incorporate it into your farm you will just be making bad decisions, faster. That’s right, not all technology companies are or will be the same. Select your business partners carefully with a well thought through requirements list that is important to your success, not their marketing slogans.

Ask yourself, “What business am I in?”

Defining the business you are in shapes the way you make decisions. If you limit the vision of your future, then the decisions you make today will be limited. When you think of your farm from the perspective of your physical fields and your current finances you confine your decisions within those restrictions. It will be hard for you to understand how to utilize new technologies even if it they could propel you into the top quartile. Determine what business you are in and create a plan that fits that business model.

It will take more than cool sunglasses to leverage new technology for your farm’s advantage. We are on the first step towards a technology change that is significantly more impactful than the change from horses to engine power or the introduction of seed hybrids. “The Terminator” created images of a scary future state of technology, but it will be scarier for those farmers that don’t make it part of their plans for their future, today.


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