AGRICULTURE TECHNOLOGIES 2016
A monthly supplement to The Delmarva Farmer
Carroll sees how industry benefits from innovations
People look to Jim Carroll for insights on the future.
With a client list that ranges from NASA and Oracle to Burger King and Lockheed Martin, large corporations and organizations look to Carroll for thoughts on the rapid emergence of technology, impact and innovations in the industry.
He’s also an agricultural enthusiast who’s spoken to clients such as the USDA, Monsanto and Syngenta.
The Delmarva Farmer spoke with Carroll this month to get a quick look at how he sees technology issues and their future in agriculture.
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What’s your background in agriculture?
I don’t have a background in agriculture.
Essentially, what I’ve been doing for about 20 years is I’ve been looking at future transformation in a huge variety of different industries in which agriculture is one.
What are the biggest challenges facing agriculture, and what technological improvements or shift do you think will address those?
Let me start here, and I don’t say this facetiously: I think today’s modern farmers are some of the most innovative people I know.
Maybe the biggest challenge is not having the public understand how advanced they are, how innovative they are.
The challenge that comes with that is the rise of organics and suspicion over GMOs and suspicion over many other things, and maybe that’s an indication the general public doesn’t really understand just how sophisticated and smart these people are.
That’s the first thought that comes to my mind.
But more specifically, how can a farmer expect their job to change, say in 20 years and beyond that?
The biggest change is one that’s staring us straight in the face.
The baby boomer farmer who’s 50, 60 (years old), grew up with mainframe (computers) and didn’t grow up with a great relationship with technology, they’re not going to be around running the farm in 20 years.
The farmer is going to be the kid who grew up with Nintendo, Xbox, microcomputers — they’re a new mindset.
They embrace technology. Baby boomer farmers, they’ve done everything they can to embrace technology. They sort of have a weird, little hang-up about it because of what they went through.
I’m 57. My first thing was a mainframe.
A kid who’s taking over the family farm or an industrial farm (in the future), they don’t know a world that doesn’t involve technology.
They’re going to do everything they can on the farm to utilize technology to the full extent.
They’ll achieve yield improvements, run the business better, improve revenue and squeeze out costs.
What can farmers expect from the world of precision agriculture in the future?
When you think about technology companies, Facebook, Google, they all innovate very quickly.
The technology matures so quickly. That’s the type of thing that has come and will continue to come to precision ag. GPS tracking.
The rapid acceleration of drone technology. The key trend is acceleration.
When you consider recent trends such as urban farming or warehoused farming where crops are stacked inside a closed environment, is there a right way to look at those things in terms of what they might represent for the future?
Some people see a trend and see a trap. Innovators see a trend and see an opportunity.
The numbers are staggering.
The whole vertical farming trend, crazy numbers of people are going to live in the city 10, 20, 30 years out.
The cost of bringing food into the city is absolutely mind-boggling.
It just makes wonderful sense.
You capitalize on wastewater runoff, you recycle water more in terms of vertical power — just compelling arguments.
Sure it’s confusing to a traditional farmer.
I don’t think they need to look at it as a trap.
They need to look at it as, “Wow, this is a validation of what we do, and that is we feed the world and make a good living while doing that.”
We know we have to grow food production to keep up with population growth, and if this is part of what it takes, hey, it’s a great thing.
I was in Sao Paulo, Brazil last year. Twenty-five million people in an urban area.
Think of the logistics of bringing food into that area. Just ridiculous.
Is the ag community prepared for that future?
It’s just like any industry: some are, some aren’t.
There’s a little story I tell on stage.
I was brought in to talk to some farmers and I said there were two types of farmers: those that are tired of the industry, they don’t see a lot of upside, their whole mindset is behind the political subsidy gain and what could happen with that, they’re not really trying to engage with new ideas and they’re ready to sell the family farm and get out.
And the other side of the room was a group of farmers who were saying, “Wow. Let’s wait for the property to go up because I want to buy it, I want to increase my property and increase my acreage because there’s so much huge potential here.”
There’s two types of people in every industry.