4 Trends from InfoAg 2016

This year, the InfoAg conference was held in conjunction with the 13th International Conference on Precision Agriculture. The two events bring together academics and scientists from around the world in addition to agronomists and large growers. We look forward to participating in the event each year as it provides a great view of the industry and an opportunity to talk to a wide array of people. Being veterans of the conference, we’ve noticed four key trends emerge that transcend this event – providing a good view of the industry overall:

1. Drones continue to create buzz.
With the recent FAA regulations announced, it is no surprise that drones were once again a trending topic. We fielded a number of questions on drone verse satellite imagery during the conference and continued to point out that it’s not an either/or proposition. Each technology brings a unique set of advantages to agribusiness – one will not replace the other. If you want more thoughts on this, check out our post from July on the topic.

But despite all of the drone buzz, it was clear that the industry still deeply values the data being delivered through satellite imagery (Farm Industry News hits on a similar point in Remote Sensing Reawakens). We spent a fair amount of time demonstrating the GEOSYS Bridge API to showcase how we are able to quickly pull data from the cloud.

2. The industry is maturing.
You can tell that the industry now has more experience with the various tools and technologies being offered because people are asking insightful questions. And we were thrilled to talk shop. Questions ranged from spectral and temporal resolution to image processing to algorithms. Additionally, people were interesting in available historical data and how they could integrate that information with in-season data (which we were able to showcase with our Croptical monitoring application).

We like being asked these more detailed questions – not only because we enjoy talking tech but as users better understand the technologies being offered, they are going to demand excellence. Which will help address the two next trends…

3. The Space is crowded.
Physically and metaphorically. We noticed almost a 25% increase in exhibitors at the show – in addition to a large number of technology companies registered as attendees. While this is great news for the conference, it raises a lot of questions about the future of ag tech. Fortune recently wrote an article titled Is There an Ag Tech Bubble? in which it noted “Investment in agricultural technology is surging. Are farmers buying what Silicon Valley is selling?” Time will tell but consolidation in the market is certainly on the horizon.

As the industry in maturing, the growers will be the ones to determine who is truly delivering value and who is making dubious claims. After all, it’s not the technology that’s complicated. It’s the agronomy. (Yes, we’ve said this a lot. And we’ll continue to say it because it’s true). Growers are smart and they are only getting smarter. As they better understand the capabilities of the various technologies, they are able to quickly see what can and cannot add value.

Arama Kukutai sums this up well in his recent Tech Crunch article, “The digital ag players that will thrive are the ones that are extremely easy to use, can prove they deliver substantial value and have a strong business model.”

4. The all-in-one silver bullet still doesn’t exist.
But that’s not stopping developers from trying. Everyone wants as much data as possible so they can plug more information into their algorithms so they can get closer to a single system to deliver all of the technology needs for the grower.

The smart ones are trying to get there through partnerships. Realizing that no organization can master everything by themselves and they can accomplish their goals faster (and probably better) by focusing on their core expertise and using outside resources to offer more to their customers. For example, GEOSYS is not an expert in weather but we understand the value that weather data delivers. So, we’ve partnered with Pessl Instruments – who joined us at the conference – to expand our offering. Another example is that GEOSYS offers customers to use our core expertise in processing satellite imagery for agriculture faster and better through our Bridge API.

The ability to deliver value is the ongoing struggle of the ag tech industry and the result is a lot of duplicated efforts that continue to miss the mark. While growers would like a silver bullet, they seem willing to invest in multiple platforms as long as there is value being delivered.