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The HQ
Insights into agriculture politics and trends

March 6, 2020

Data and innovation driving the agriculture conversation in Kansas City

By Brett Wessler

The Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City hosted its Ag Innovation Forum on February 20 with a full day of speakers and panel discussions to provide insight into the academic, entrepreneurial and data collection aspects of innovation. The theme of the day was the importance of clear communication as an integral component of driving innovations in modern agriculture.

Dr. Jim Carrington, President of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, delivered the keynote presentation, “Science and Innovation: Our Purpose and Our Message,” stating that the need for science has never been more urgent. Our ability to address environmental challenges, the growing world population and the need for greater food production will affect how well we live in the years ahead. Carrington highlighted the need for innovation to manage water use, recapture CO2 and manage pests and pathogens.

But, in order to encourage the adoption of agricultural innovations on a large scale, the industry must communicate the science behind each innovation. Research shows the scientific community is widely trusted by the public. Scientists and the agricultural industry can earn the support of the public – through financial contributions to the universities conducting research, investors bringing ideas to market, or consumers buying groceries – by providing a fundamental education on new innovations and its impact on people’s lives.

Panellists bridge science, data and entrepreneurship

The academic panel included speakers from the University of Missouri, the University of Nebraska and the University of California-Davis. Dr. Justin Siegel, associate professor at the University of California-Davis, says the agriculture industry can encourage acceptance of new technologies by learning from the medical field. Seven of the top 10 medicines are GMOs. When the public sees the positive impact science and technology has on their lives, they are more willing to accept it.

The entrepreneur panel addressed funding for new technologies. Again, communication was identified as an essential aspect of product development. Translating scientific ideas to common language not only ensures the audience understands the technology and its benefits, it also increases the chances of gaining funding.

The data panel dived into how data can drive agricultural productivity. While data cannot replace a trusted advisor, it should be used as a tool to help that person make a more informed decision even faster.

Access to the farmer’s data continues to be a concern. Knowing who has access to the data and how are they using it is critical to many farmers, and an issue they must confront to maximize both data utilization and security.

The data panel also emphasized the need for drones and robotics training at the high school and college levels as these technologies become an essential part of the farm within the next five years.

Bottom line – the drive to bring new technologies to the market remains strong. Investments and advanced tools will create opportunities for new technology that help farmers to produce more with less. The challenge will be in communicating the value of these advancements to both farmers and consumers; those who succeed in that communication will win.

To continue the conversation about ag tech and innovation, contact Matt Weeks.

Brett Wessler is an Account Manager in AdFarm’s Kansas City office. Outside of his lifelong career in agriculture, he spends his time running, skiing and spending time with family.