| Published: March 12, 2024

Farmers’ Integral Role in Shaping Ag Tech Innovation

Person in field hold a ipad

by Joe Waddell, Horizon Farm Credit’s Director of Market Innovation


After spending more than a year wading through the ag tech scene and orienting myself to the advancements in that space, I find myself reflecting on the value and usability of new and emerging ag tech innovations. I often wonder what farmers have to gain from these proposed solutions, and if we’re truly addressing and understanding the daily challenges farmers face at the ground level.


Within the agriculture industry, there is no cookie-cutter approach to solving shared complex issues across the same segment, let alone multiple segments. While outside viewpoints often bring fresh perspectives to potential solutions, there seems to be a key element missing in much of the early discussions around creating said solutions — involvement from those in the trenches, our farmers.


Communication and Innovation

Like many issues that pop up in our daily lives, there is usually a common theme that either causes or helps solve the problem at hand — communication, or lack thereof. Too little communication brings about innovations that either don’t address the issue at hand or are too costly to implement. 


We must then ask ourselves how we change the culture of communication within the ag innovation space to foster a more robust pathway to success. No matter how well-intentioned, solutions that require a heavy upfront investment and long road to tangibly see payoff often face a much lower success rate.


There’s something to be said for a direct investment approach in current ag tech solutions at the farmgate. Could we stretch dollars to have an immediate impact on farm level sustainability? And, how do we get a better grasp directly addressing solutions on-farm? A solid communication pathway between those developing ag technology and end-users is vital to bringing about solutions that are viable in the marketplace and sustainable long-term.


The Role of Perspective in Decision-Making

Choosing a solution that makes the most sense for an operation typically revolves around personal perspective. For example, sustainability holds a different meaning for each person, and deciding which solution is most sustainable for an operation is subjective. From examining what can be done to impact the bottom line to make a business viable in the future, to exploring approaches that incrementally lead to greater efficiency, developing a one-size-fits-all solution is nearly impossible. 


Beyond that, farming budgets are often on a razors edge of profitability. When thinking about the return on investment, solutions don’t always need to provide a strict monetary outcome — although, those do see the highest adoption rates. Often, the decision to adopt different practices or technologies is impacted by time gained because of efficiency, which allows an indirect monetary gain. Time is money, as they say.


What works for one operation may not work for another, and that’s the beauty of innovation. Whether old technology or new, many factors influence producers’ decisions, with perspective playing a major role in the adoption — or lack thereof — of innovations.


The Farmer’s Voice

When the experiences, challenges, and feedback of farmers is sought out during the innovation process, those solutions often see the highest rate of adoption. Success hinges on gathering the perspectives of farmers to ensure new innovations and technologies truly address root problems, while also keeping cost efficiency in mind. It’s vital ag tech innovators work hand-in-hand with farmers to develop solutions that work for farmers and enhance the success and profitability of their operations.


Interested in keeping up-to-date with the latest trends in ag? Reach out to me at to talk shop.


This blog is part one in a two-part ag technology spotlight. Check back next week for part two.

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