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Why the Future of Ag Hinges on Digital Product Development
| April 11, 2023 |
Spraying weeds in the field

This time of year always serves as a great time for reflection – Spring itself feels like a refresher in all facets of life.

And for the agriculture community, we know that it’s just the start of the season ahead – and await to see what challenges and opportunities this season may bring. After all, as I’ve learned from all of you and experienced for myself last year, the only sure bet in ag is the unpredictability of the season.

But, as we anxiously anticipate the season ahead and what’s to come, there’s a more predictable component of ag that has shone through in the past few years. AgTech has begun to leave a lasting imprint on the industry with digital technologies that have proven to add value.

After all, innovation has always been core to agriculture. As a now tenured and proven member of the AgTech community, Sentera has moved beyond the “early adopter” phase and has transitioned into a trusted partner that is helping to accelerate the pace of innovation of our enterprise agriculture customers.

Much of this has been initiated by macroeconomic factors that have transformed our industry itself; from the drive for sustainability given how climate continues to evolve agronomic practices to the quest for meeting the growing demands for food productivity.

But even further upstream, as we continue to expand and enrich our support of transformative ag research and product development, it’s about more than what it does for the broader good.

It’s about accelerating the efficacy and adoption of innovative agriculture products, or transforming a product already in market; perhaps one that has become a commodity because of market conditions or changing practices due to advancements in technology. And in turn, uncovering how to unleash the power behind the product by enhancing it to meet these everchanging dynamics.

How do we create that power? How do we transform what a product’s capabilities may be, even if it’s been in the market and serving the industry for decades?

 

The Differentiator: Digital Product Development

It’s layering on technology to make the product or application more effective. Now, maybe it’s a result of the variability in weather, but I’ve learned that a reality in ag is that “it depends.” And it really does depend – site-specific conditions and seasonality are two of the major factors that contribute to this.

But, what if it didn’t have to? What if we could create a digital technology that eliminates some of the variability to help create insights that can be leveraged in real time, helping to augment ag research and product development, or accelerate adoption?

This is what we at Sentera often refer to as digital product development, or the “digital wrapper.” It’s the final aspect of a product to effectively bring it to market or further differentiate it within today’s competitive landscape. It provides the data-driven insights agriculture companies can attach to their products to help inform growers when to plant seed or apply a particular input given the conditions or factors that they face, whether it be things controlled by management practices (e.g., planting date, input application, irrigation strategies, etc.) or those controlled by the environment (e.g., growing degree days, weather conditions, etc.).

 

Let’s Take Weeds, For Example

Managing weeds and their impact on crops serves as one area of the market that requires innovation. Over the past several decades, the industry has gravitated towards several preferred conventional practices for treating weeds; but, from supply chain issues to changing weather patterns to herbicide-resistant weeds, we need to augment the solution to accommodate the challenges for today’s agronomic innovation leaders.

With digital technology, we can commercialize the decision process by using data and technology to augment application for key inputs; an area that isn’t well defined today and can create challenges throughout the production lifecycle. 

But, imagine a world where these questions can be answered – where, given the variables within a season, there would be an understanding of which weeds may populate. And, by using technology (like Sentera’s direct georeferencing technology paired with an ultra-high-resolution aerial sensor), we can identify weeds at earlier growth stages so even if this understanding doesn’t exist; we can know with certainty which species are sprouting where, earlier, and without having to scout the entire field or incurring the significant expense of on-hardware sensing technologies.

 

It Doesn’t Stop There

Imagine a technology that can then take that data, and deliver an actionable insight of where to spray and when; and with which chemistry. Instead of blanketing an entire field, which is costly and resource intensive, it could be focused in on the areas the technology has identified as the biggest problem areas, effectively unlocking the adoption and precision application of innovative species-specific herbicide products.

This is just the start for the next great age of agriculture innovation – by leveraging digital product development as part of the product’s commercialization strategy, it can transform the future of our industry – and our world.

But, it begins with this season ahead of us – by embracing what we’ll learn from #plant23 and each growth milestone ahead. In doing so, we can continue to capture the data required to transform the ag research and product development process with a goal of creating the data and tools that will make growers more successful, seasons more productive, and our processes more sustainable.

 

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