Make technology assessment a core skill
Over the past couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to farmers across Canada about technology, and there are some common lessons to be learned.
Don’t be intimidated
Taking advantage of technology is first and foremost about attitude. Keep an open mind and don’t assume it’s beyond your abilities or scope. Getting comfortable with new things is done in baby steps.
Have a goal
Whether it’s a $4.99 mobile app or $200,000 variable rate planter, the process should be the same. Look for innovations that solve an existing problem or generate a benefit not currently available. It’s no different from the way we’ve always approached this, the difference today is the speed at which new technologies arrive and evolve. Today, it’s less about welding rods and more about software-driven tools.
Understand the management required
Good technology works for you, not the other way around. If you’re investing in new seeding, spraying and harvesting monitors that generate more data and transfer it wirelessly, are you prepared to calibrate the machines, organize and direct the data transfer, ensure that the data is accurate and relevant, and (this is a big one) make use of the data?
Sometimes a major shift in technology, such as switching to robotic milking, involves a complete change in the day-to-day responsibilities and management. For some, this is the primary benefit. For others, it turns out to be the biggest challenge.
There will be speed bumps – it comes with the territory. Support from vendors, specialists and other farmers can be the difference between seeing it through or abandoning the project midstream. Team up.
We have the world at our disposal thanks to social media tools. Twitter is incredibly powerful if you’re looking for other farmers who are in the same headspace or doing similar things. By using the search function, accurate hashtags and creating lists for specific areas of interest, you can really drill down into Twitter to mine information and find people to follow and communicate with.
Before making any purchase, it’s a great idea to enter the make and model into YouTube. Farmers around the world are generating reviews that offer the pros and cons for various equipment and products.
Assess – without emotion
The biggest upside to the ever-expanding ability to collect on-farm data is that we can assess new processes and tools with greater certainty and accuracy. There’s no benefit to sticking with something that’s not delivering the goods.
Thinking about how you can assess a new technology should be part of the process from the beginning.