| Published: March 20, 2024

The Nuts and Bolts of Bolstering Ag Tech Adoption

Person in field holding a iPad

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

This blog is part two in an ag technology spotlight. Click here to read the first blog.


In the world of ag tech innovation, we can get caught up chasing the new shiny object and often overlook solutions that are proven in the marketplace. Efficiency gains that can be made by implementing current technology solutions lift the entire industry and make a significant difference in economic viability and sustainability.


At the same time, it’s vitally important we continue investing in startups and developing novel solutions for the future advancement of the industry. However, we need to make sure those developments have applicable use cases.


As mentioned in my earlier blog, communication among all stakeholders is key to finding solutions for future success. Sharing knowledge and ideas within the agriculture community fosters healthy collaboration around innovative solutions. There is still a time and place for competition — which ultimately drives innovation — but communication is vital to addressing challenges with solutions that work for farmers and producers.


So, how do we achieve this? Through building a robust support system, understanding the marketplace, and creating a sandbox for ag tech innovators to play in, among other things.


Build a Robust Support System

Using high-tech equipment provides wonderful upsides when it’s properly functioning, but it is incredibly frustrating when it’s down and you’re left without a viable support network. A robust support platform is another key to adoption and long-term success. 


Entering this space is no easy feat and it’s incredibly important to understand the landscape and on-the-ground issues that can present themselves. Farmers often rely on neighbors’ experiences with tech and best management practices to help drive decision-making. If you put a bad taste in someone’s mouth because of poor technology support, it doesn’t take long to make the community’s discussion board. Even if you have the best product on the market, if you offer poor support to customers, you will lack adoption.


Understand the Marketplace

While seemingly obvious, little time is often spent understanding the problem and those facing the challenges. Within the startup space, it’s not surprising to find numerous novel solutions looking for a problem to solve — the classic case of the hammer in search of a nail. This is where collaboration comes into play. 


There are lessons to be learned from the major ag players who develop products with lifecycles meant for the ag environment, which is no easy task, but an incredibly important one to creating a robust end product. The tried-and-true companies in the ag space have refined their processes over decades to develop products that have a place in the market. By investing time researching the problem being solved — like using in-field trials throughout the entire product lifecycle — solutions are tailored to a diverse set of operating environments.


When developing solutions, engaging larger groups of end-users falls toward the end of the pipeline, making it nearly impossible to successfully pivot when problems present themselves in the field. But what if we had a national database of potential pilot farms willing and able to test solutions to allow entrepreneurs to ground truth in their ideas?


This could include farmers and producers, or as far back as cooperatives that serve large swaths of agriculture communities with diverse testing grounds within their footprints. AgLaunch — a non-profit connecting entrepreneurs with growers — is an example of an accelerator working to implement this type of model.


Play in an Ag Tech Innovation Sandbox

I am encouraged by the growth of regionalized centers — like Grand Farm in North Dakota — that are fostering innovation and competitive collaboration. Centers like Grand Farm promote testing across a multitude of technologies and cropping environments and invite multiple stakeholders to the table. Major industry players, startups, and most importantly, the local ag community implement use cases on the ground to understand real life implementation in their area.


Creating a sandbox for ag tech innovators and end-users alike can also be used as an educational tool to get a new generation engrained back into rural communities. The agriculture community is eager to add enthusiastic folks to the ranks, and a key to success in this area is to have multiple regions showcasing different solutions across a multitude of locations, highlighting the viability of products. This will go a long way toward generating excitement around efficiencies and advancements in the industry.


To get true adoption and foster growth within the industry, we must strive to create a complementary agricultural innovation ecosystem and refrain from a one-size-fits-all system. 


Is your community making strides in this space? I’d love to hear about it! Please send me an email at to connect. 

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