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Agtech Insights

We share our experience at the 2022 World Ag Expo as well as what we learned there. We discuss some of the current market of agtech as well as some hurdles for the industry.   Full Transcript Below:  Cris: To the World Ag Expo out in Tulare, which was super …


We share our experience at the 2022 World Ag Expo as well as what we learned there. We discuss some of the current market of agtech as well as some hurdles for the industry.

 

Full Transcript Below: 

Cris:

To the World Ag Expo out in Tulare, which was super awesome. It was like worldwide, but these big, huge challenges that are being faced.

Andrew:

Machines that shoot dead pieces of fruit off trees.

Cris:

But going out to the expo, I did not realize the expanse of technology that exists within ag.

Cris:

We got the opportunity to go out for the first time and hopefully not the last time, to the World Ag Expo out in Tulare, which was super awesome.

Andrew:

Oh, yeah, it was great.

Lessons from the World Ag Expo

Cris:

Something I always wanted to do. So, let’s just kind of start off. What were some things that we learned by going out to that World Ag Expo? And these can be generalities or very specific things that we didn’t know coming in that we learned. So, what are some things we learned going out to Ag Expo?

Andrew:

I mean, we got to meet a lot of great people who were the operators in the fields, who were the farmers or the people that either manufactured the equipment, were users of the equipment. We learned a lot of real-world experience, and just started to get into, what are the pain points in ag and what are problems? What do we learn? I mean, we learned a lot about service neglect, about how everything is driven by water, and how it’s insanely expensive in California, in particular where we are. Yeah. I mean, we learned that farming is hard.

Cris:

Yeah. I definitely got the takeaway that it is. I mean, I knew farming was huge. Having grown up most of my life in the Central Valley. I also am just aware of all the farms and the ranches around. But going out to the expo, I did not realize the expanse of technology that exists within ag already, and then also these huge deltas that don’t exist to face problems and challenges. People that are literally farming here in the Valley and we’re talking to people that were doing farming in Israel, and I talked to someone from Germany. It was like worldwide, but these big, huge challenges that are being faced. So, you mentioned water, you mentioned maintenance. What are some other things that maybe are challenges that are facing the ag right now? Or maybe unpacking those two a little bit more.

Challenges Facing Agriculture

Andrew:

Well, with water, getting visibility on how much water to apply to an area when you’re dealing with areas is that are very kind of oddly shaped and aren’t perfect squares or rectangles. I mean, there was all sorts of cool stuff about machines that shoot dead pieces of fruit off trees. I mean, it was kind of a run the gambit. They had this cool thing that you’d basically plug into your tractor and it wouldn’t just show you the error code like it did in a car, it would actually walk you through how to maintain and troubleshoot all these problems. I mean, there was a litany of problems.

Agtech Today and Opportunities for Tomorrow

Cris:

Yeah. So, how is tech being leveraged right now in ag from what we could kind of see in talking to farmers and the ranchers? And what are some of the areas that we think tech can improve and help right now in the ag space? Even if those are just ideas that we’re kind of coming up with.

Andrew:

Yeah. Tech is being used to monitor spray, make sure too much chemicals aren’t being used or are being wasted, to monitor water levels in tanks. There was a lot of tech that had to do with milking cows, which I had no idea, but makes sense. As far as areas it could be used, everything can be evolved. But a common reoccurring thing we kept hearing was service neglected machinery, or not knowing what fuel levels were, not being able to accurately forecast when farmers would need new equipment based on their previous history and things like that. So, there was a lot of things, and of course, water dominates everything that was there.

Cris:

Yeah.

Andrew:

Talking to one of the farmers who was like, “Yeah, that’s the first thing we always ask each other is, what are you doing about water?” So, there’s always problems with water.

Cris:

Always, always. Well, because it’s expensive and when you’re dealing with putting this down on a crop, if you are off by a quarter of an inch across 90 acres, 900 acres, whatever it is, 9,000 acres there’s a massive, huge operation, that’s a lot of water that’s wasted.

Andrew:

Yeah.

Cris:

So, monitoring is really, really important. So, I think definitely one of the things that can be benefited from is just monitoring of general processes that are happening quite regularly on the farms and the ranches. But if you’re not doing them to a really high degree of detail, there’s so much waste, which of course equates to the cost. What are the barriers right now? Because ag has been around for a very long time. Ag and tech have not been around for nearly as long. What do you think is kind of some barriers right now between the ag community and then the tech community being able to successfully partner? What’s holding us back?

Barriers between the Ag and Tech Industries

Andrew:

That we’re a bunch of pretentious jerks who don’t know what we’re doing, and coming in and trying to superimpose technology to solve their problems. I’m only half-joking.

Cris:

Yeah. No, it was the truth on that.

Andrew:

But we did hear a lot of that. There’s a big cultural divide, and I’m sure that is probably true with tech coming into other areas too.

Cris:

Sure.

Andrew:

Outsiders and tech coming in and saying, we understand how your business works when we don’t.

Cris:

Right.

Andrew:

And this is what you should do. And this is how you should totally change your operations around to fit our new process that will solve all your problems. So, there definitely was very much like us and them sort of thing.

Cris:

Yeah.

Andrew:

I mean, people were very friendly.

Cris:

Right.

Andrew:

But talking to the farmers, it was kind of like, well, you don’t dress like us. You don’t deal with our problems on a day-to-day basis, basically, you’re out of touch. So, I think a cultural barrier is a big one. We have the very unique advantage of we’re based in the Central Valley, so we’re surrounded by ag. And we have the opportunity to kind of meet with people and learn and really understand what their problems are. Yeah. I mean, it’s a cultural barrier.

Overcoming those Barriers

Cris:

Yeah. And in the defense of the farmers, I probably wouldn’t trust someone like me walking onto a farm and saying, I’m going to fix all your problems. So, how do we overcome these barriers? Because we obviously want to be able to leverage technology within the ag space, because I think it’s a huge untapped market, and it also can be extremely beneficial and cost-effective with the savings for the farmers. So, how are we going to marry these two worlds? How do we get across this cultural barrier and kind of overcome this other than getting cowboy hats and boots?

Andrew:

Yeah. Other than superficial things.

Cris:

And buying them all skinny jeans and superficial things.

Andrew:

I think we lost all potential clients at this point. But one of the farmers has this great line about tech built from the dirt up, and how that was so valuable. And his point was that you have to start with the operations and boots on the ground and a deep understanding of what’s going on, and then build technology around that to actually solve problems rather than to prescribe from the outside without an understanding of what’s happening in the soil. So, how you get around that is through the slow process of relationship building, understanding the problems that farmers face, spending time with them, spending face to face time and trying to build something and iterating with them until it actually does solve their problem in a real and meaningful way that ultimately can be proven by numbers, right? Because that was a big thing, was we have to see the numbers. We have to be able to quantify the savings or quantify the additional income.

Cris:

Yeah. And one thing too, that was interesting when we’re having lots of these conversations of just theorizing a problem and the solution out on the farm is kind of just like the custody of ownership of stuff. And the idea of ensuring that, like you said, building from the ground up on the process. Understanding these key pieces of information, who’s going to collect them, and what’s the best way to collect them.

Andrew:

Yeah.

Cris:

And is the person that would be the easiest way to collect this information, whether it’s like, oh, we’ll just have them pull out their tablet and punch this information in. Well, does the person that’s in the field, do they actually have a tablet? Does it actually make sense for them to have a tablet?

Andrew:

Right.

Cris:

Where are they in the command chain of administrative and in field hand and so on and so forth? And so not putting problems in front of people whose decision isn’t to make that kind of assessment is really important. And that’s one thing that I realized a lot, some of these tech processes that are getting pushed into ag, it’s not thinking about the chain of command and it’s not thinking about the importance of hardware in the field, integrity of that hardware and making sure the right people are actually making the right choices.

Andrew:

Now I found that really interesting when they were talking about basically having a target audience, and how this data that you’re presenting and a lot of it was presenting data so that they could make decisions.

Cris:

Sure.

Andrew:

Was, okay, who are let’s say the five different people that need to access this data, and what are they each trying to get out of it? And sort of having this view of, okay, the agronomists needs to see this data and the person monitoring the vineyard harvesting needs to see this data. And not just being like, well, here’s a dashboard that everybody’s going to look at, right? Who are you selling this data to? Not selling it externally, but who’s making use of it and is really investing their time in the data?

Cris:

Makes sense. As we’re wrapping up here the final thoughts, anything that we want to throw out to the audience watching this, maybe they are a farmer themselves involved in the ranch in some way. Why is working with us going to be different than maybe another tech project that they’ve gone down? Or why is it a good time now to get involved in tech with their farm as opposed to just letting that go by?

Identifying Opportunities Where Tech Can Help

Andrew:

I mean, anytime you’ve got pain points and repetitive processes you’re doing, and a process is very well defined. A lot of times those sorts of things can be automated with tech. So, what we’d like to do is look at what is this group of people doing over and over and over again? What about that isn’t great, what about that could be automated? So, if you have a lot of monotony or a lot of just kind of grindy sort of work that is prone to human error, we’re happy to talk those things through with you. And at this point, what we can offer is, particularly to people in the Central Valley and California areas, just that ability to really engage and understand their problems, right? We’re not trying to be everything to everybody. We’re not trying to say how we’re going to affect farming in Israel at this point.

Cris:

Right.

Andrew:

We want to really understand our local community, and so we’re happy to work with people.

Cris:

Yeah. We can get out at a farm in Hanford, and Tulare, Lemore, and so on and forth, and we can actually walk the fields and walk through the packing houses and actually be at the farms and start building those processes out from the dirt up.

Andrew:

And that’s been so fun to go into the packing houses and different things like that and start to really get boots on the ground and understand your pain.

Cris:

Makes sense. Well, I’m excited, and hopefully moving forward we will start to see this continued growth in ag and tech.

Alexandra:

Thank you for joining us for this episode of Bixly Tech Tuesday. I hope you enjoyed that conversation between Cris and Andrew, as they talked all about our recent experience at the world ag expo here in Tulare, California, as well as some of our thoughts on the agtech industry in general. If you have any questions, go ahead and leave them in the comment section and we will get right back to you. And don’t forget to check out the description box down below. We have a bunch of really helpful links for you guys, including a link to our free custom software guide, as well as a link to our free DevOps guide, and a link to our website, bixly.com. There’s a link right at the top of our website that says, start my roadmap. And that actually gets you a free 60-minute conversation with Cris to talk about your next app idea. Until next time, this has been an episode of Bixly Tech Tuesday.

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