Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Risk Takers Going Hi-Tech

If I asked you to choose between two people, one a casino employer in Las Vegas and the other a farmer in rural America, who is the gambler? Who would you pick? The answer is the farmer. Yes, the employee could place a wager from time-to-time, but year in and out, farmers are the ultimate gambler.
Crystal ball
Farmers always have to lookout into the future to figure commodity prices, costs for each type of crop, growing season with climate and water. They will need crop insurance for a harvest many months from the day they begin planting. They truly have to know when to "hold'em and fold'em."
Help is on the way. Hi-tech is going up the country and at the Agri-Tech Summit(yes, farmers have a hi-tech summit) new devices and gadgets were revealed. This is not new news as the big boys like DuPont, Dow and Monsanto have dominated the field for years with special GMO seeds, fertilizers and water measuring devices, but the demand is so great that startups are entering into the fray. One reason is the big boys want a big return, and are not interested in smaller markets. This is exactly where the new players are entering.
Dog Collars for Cows
Connecterra and Y Combinator are two firms with that approach cows with collars. It is like Fitbit for cows. These smart collars can detect diseases entering the cows food chain and treat them before it gets dangerous. They also monitor ovulation cycles to breed in a more smoothly manner or to find a wondering herd.
Of course, the big boys do not want to lose dollars and market share. Monsanto and Dow have developed funds to meet farmers needs and the application of technology. They started venture capital programs for tech to assist farmers. With that said, the old return factor still looms large. This is why farmers can relate to newer, risk taking companies like Drone Deploy. This firm uses drones to check pastures which saves time and wages. They are getting their shot. Drone Deploy also makes software to map out fields and that follow the growing season.
Another new company is Blue River Technology. They use cameras and computers to harvest crops more efficiently.
All these smaller firms can make adjustments on the fly, and they are quick to the market. It is why they are getting their market niche. They don't have the burden of higher management dictating company policy. This is an inside plus since farmers talk to each other and the word gets out. That point was not missed by another startup, Farmers Business Network. They answer challenges presented by farmers like hiring a sales force. They place their resources to the farmer both physically and online, virtually.
As for myself, I prefer Caribbean poker, but we all get hungry. The bottom line: From smart collars for cows, drones that map pastures, to online and virtual reality, hi-tech is in the farming business.