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DTN Connect screen

The Future of AgTech

 

“We’ve created everything there is to create.”
~ The Fool

 

But I will say that everything we have created has been done so in silos (ag pun intended), and it’s stored there as well.

We have come a very long way since the days of Post-It notes, Microsoft Access, and the TRS-80. I’ve been involved with two successful Ag startups and in the middle of my third.

The trouble is, we are not making as much progress as we should. By combining data from diverse sources, layering, and interpreting it in different ways, we’re able to create new tools. In our attempt to own the IP, we often reinvent features and functionality that already exist. If we intend to ramp up innovation in AgTech, our tactics must include more collaboration. Sharing IP. Sharing our “Behind the Curtain” moments. Our Golden Geese.

 

If we intend to ramp up innovation in AgTech, our tactics must include more collaboration. Sharing IP. Sharing our “Behind the Curtain” moments. Our Golden Geese.

 

When AgTech companies interact and cooperate earlier in the process, even potentially sharing IP, we’ll start introducing technology that will catapult our industry. How can we do this? Let’s look to other industries for examples…

I have four, count them four Zapier accounts. If you don’t know what Zapier is, here’s a link. They are many products out there that use something called an API to connect with each other. Why do they do it? Because they are not interested in recreating the wheel when a perfectly good one already exists elsewhere.

 

Zapier screen example.

 

This unnecessary waste of resources is fueled by capitalism and the misnomer of Intellectual Property (IP). Instead of concentrating on the single product characteristic that makes our tool better, we try and build our own version of the other features that we need to make our “Golden Goose” functional.

Let’s say I built a tool that tracks nitrogen concentration in soil and makes application recommendations. Do I really need to build an entire farm production management app around it? That could take months, if not years. Why wouldn’t I try and work with an AgSquared or FarmBrite? Trimble, Granular, FarmLogs, they all have 99% of it figured out.

Instead if I can build an API layer to talk to those systems (which BTW already have tons of users) why shouldn’t I just concentrate on what makes it better…and stronger? The part I can build best.

 

Effort chart for API versus IP

 

The future of innovation in AgTech 2.0 will rely on speed to market and adoption. Speed to market means building what you do best, and only what you do best. Adoption relies on existing customer bases.

Features, designs, and brands are worth squat without data. It’s the data that makes or tools important. If I connect my tool to other mature, full-featured platforms, I can offer those platforms a more robust feature. In return, they are providing me a tremendous amount of accurate data to work with. Additionally, their built-in customer base essentially kickstarts my product into the marketplace.

If it’s a better way to do it, why aren’t more companies working together to these ends? Simply put we’ve been lied to about the value of IP. Furthermore we have misplaced ideas about what is considered IP.

Currently I’m helping AgWikibuild a social network for solving world food problems. The value and IP in our platform is not the ability to chat, post articles, share documents, create groups, follow topics and people, view commodities and weather data, etc.

All those features exist individually in other platforms and services like AgWeb, LinkedIn, and Google apps. The value and IP is in its ability to bring people together from across all channels in food and provide tools that promote problem solving.

We decided early on to, when prudent, use existing open source scripts and modules when building the parts of our platform that don’t benefit the bottom line of our IP. Instead, we concentrated our development efforts on the parts of our platform that made it unique. It got us to market in a fraction of the time.

Next we’ll begin talks with several existing products to provide meaningful interaction between and within our tools. This will mean coming to agreements that may even result in the sharing of data, IP, and even customers with other (even competing) companies.

This will mean coming to agreements that may even result in the sharing of data, IP, and even customers with other (even competing) companies.

 

Can we work together to get the best tools to farmers, ranchers, and produce markets? Or will we continue to slow down innovation in the hopes of dominating a saturated market? If you’d like to work with us, I’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading, and have a great day.