If you’ve been following my recent series, you’ll know that I’m working through six fundamental shifts in agriculture that are (or will) affecting everyone in the industry. Today, we look at number 5: The changing technology landscape. Let’s start here: everything written in this section is already out of date—at least it seems that way concerning how fast information can be transferred today. We all know the impact of the internet-enabled world will be magnified immensely for the next generation of leaders. Though still an issue, broadband access is steadily improving in rural areas, as rural telecommunication providers and even rural electric cooperatives strive to make investments in fiber optics and expand the availability of ‘gig’ internet service. In a 2018 report on industry trends, ag lender, CoBank, reported a “bullish” outlook on all things data-driven in rural areas. Expressly, they indicated, “Applications such as 5G, augmented/virtual reality, and edge computing will continue to fuel growth in data traffic”.
An uptick in the option to work remotely is already occurring, enabling farmers to use professionals who don’t even work at the farm to aid in farming itself. And virtual reality may allow for business consulting and even equipment repairs (yes, seriously) via the internet. Farm leaders going forward will need a better understanding of the value of data generated from monitoring and tracking systems on the farm, and the sensitivity not to share this information too carelessly or too frequently with the multitude of vendors offering the latest free software or a gadget to collect it. You’ll need to become more selective about whom you work with to protect your valuable data assets.
Technology use also becomes a personnel management issue— how is your current expertise with public relations and crisis communications? For most operations, these skills will need brushing up (or even may require hiring a PR specialist on retainer). Today, employee use of social media during work hours is not only a safety issue when operating equipment but also a serious concern when a thoughtless social post piques the interest of PETA or the local news. Going forward, farming will require managers who are trained and capable of building social media use policies and handling data breaches.
So, what is the good news? For starters, technology is cool. And degrees in technology— beginning with more significant efforts to focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) starting in primary school—mean your future generations are not only interested in these areas, they are far better prepared to lead than you are.
So, in evaluating the roles of the future, have you considered an on-farm data analytics specialist?
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