Technical Information Transfer: The Missing Link in Agriculture 4.0

The pace of technological advances in agriculture is both invigorating and, if we’re honest, a bit daunting. Robotics and autonomous equipment, Internet of Things devices that take advantage of ever-advancing sensors, big data generation and powerful algorithms to drive decisions, genetic editing and nanotechnology: these tools are not on the horizon – they are here today and the impact on the agriculture and food sector is going to be dramatic.

For farmers and ag professionals, the ability to optimize all the new tools, products and management opportunities is becoming a primary skill set. Unfortunately, while the innovations are compelling and the potential benefits are there, the missing link in many cases is support. A fancy new widget is of little value if there is no resource available to the farmer to help use it efficiently and effectively. The same goes for agronomy and production practices. Leading edge extension required for in-season management decisions is still hard for producers to access in some cases.  

Here’s what is needed:

  1. Searchable, interactive product resources

While seeding, harvesting, spraying and all classifications of farm equipment become more complex, the primary support resource is….wait for it……a printed owner’s manual with black and white photos. We have super high-tech tools with incredibly low-tech product support. For the capital cost involved, a searchable, interactive user’s guide is not only doable, it’s long overdue. Many of the go-to agronomy and crop protection resources are still largely distributed via print manuals. Some are available as giant PDF files on-line, but this can be unwieldy for a smartphone user in a tractor at night.

  1. Efficient technical content management and multi-channel delivery

It’s not that long ago that the buzzword for content was convergence. I think it’s time to have that discussion again as it pertains to technical information for agriculture. Print remains as a cornerstone for many equipment and extension manuals, but farmers are now looking for online and mobile-friendly versions. Our vision at AgNition is to offer a platform that allows the print version to be loaded into a content management system. From here, the content can be pushed via websites, mobile apps, even social media. The standard for technical content deliver is to get it to those who need it where and when they need it. Solutions must be easily accessed via searchable and intuitive programming.

  1. Automated, real-time updates

The benefits go beyond improved access for end users. Print content can only be updated by creating a new version. Digitizing the content for multi-channel distribution means the content can be updated and pushed to users in real time. Updates to machinery or changes to crop protection or animal health product labels are examples where it’s just not reasonable for farmers to have to wait for another printed manual to bring them up to speed.

If you are looking for more progressive ways to deliver technical information to farmers, we have a solution. Let’s talk.

Peter is co-founder of AgNition, corn/soy/wheat producer, and a sought-after technology thought leader who delivers workshops across Canada.