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Agrimarketing : May 2009
52 Quarry Communications:32 Feature Story 5/13/09 12:22 PM Page 52 AGENCY UPDATE THECOMINGDIGITALREVOLUTION A by Brad Bremer, Quarry Integrated Communications,Waterloo, ON s digital technology changes our lives on a daily basis, can the same be said for those towhom wemarket—NorthAmerican crop and livestock producers? The answer would seemto be a resounding “not yet.”And,while there’s no doubt that digital information technologywill have a transformative effect onNorth American agriculture—and theway inwhichwemarket to farmers and ranchers—a true picture of that transformation has yet to emerge. Understanding the nature of the coming revolution in agriculture from the producer’s perspective is a critical first step. Thiswill help us best determine howthemorewidespread adoption of digital technology—when it occurs—will influence near-term on-farmpurchasing decisions, and drive longer-termtrends. “Rural Broadband at a Glance,” published earlier this year by USDA’s Economic Research Service, reports that the percentage of farmers using the Internet for business purposes increased from30%to 63% between 2005 and 2007. The same study also indicates that rural broadband Internet access,while difficult to accuratelymeasure, has increased significantly since 2000. The availability of rural broadband service—and the use of the Internet as a business tool for farmers—continue to grow.Atrue digital revolution in agriculture, however, awaits those yet-to-be-developed technologies that will enable producers to integrate the knowledge available via the Internet with their own, on-farmdata to get themost fromevery acre and every animal. PRODUCER PERSPECTIVES According to Urbana, IL-based David Kurtz,who raises 3,000 acres of corn and soybeans in a central Illinois farmpartnership, the primary limitation of the personal computer as a farming tool is that it’s, “neverwhere I am.”Hismost powerful tool is his cell phone.And, while Kurtz’smobile phone isWebenabled, he considers that feature to 52 Agri Marketing s May 2009 be expensive and unreliable.What he valuesmost about his phone, he says, is the ability to immediately address opportunities andmake better use of travel time. For Kurtz, the true value of digital technology has yet to be realized. “The best thing about the Internet is that it givesme access to a lot of information and knowledge that Imight not otherwise have,” Kurtz adds. “The limitation is that none of that information is localized tomeetmy needs. “What I’mlooking for is technol- ogy thatwill access the knowledge available on the Internet and integrate itwith the information gener- mation and decisionmaking. “I’m sure that the Internet has had a huge impact on agriculture overall, particularly formy suppliers,” he says. “But—right now—it’s the technology that paysme the least as far as deciding on cropping inputs.” He adds that printmagazines and farmtabloids typically provide him with amore local perspective on cropping inputs and practices than the Internet. Youngmann has “all the toys” in terms of yieldmonitors,GPS devices, and automatic steering and related technology, but believes that he is not really getting all of the value fromit that he could. “The yieldmoni- Darren Youngmann,who farms near St. Gregor, SK, believes there is a “huge” learning curve involved with adopting and integrating newtechnology into the farmdecision process. ated onmy own farm—both agronomic and financial—and provide it tome in real time—when and where Imake decisions.” Darren Youngmann farms approximately 3,000 acres of canola, wheat, barley and canary seed in St. Gregor, SK.He, too, considers the cell phone to be hismost powerful information technology tool. “The one piece of electronics that I don’twant to bewithout ismy phone,” Youngmann says. “You just can’t put a value on it.After that, I would probably gowith the Global Positioning System(GPS).As far as actual farming input decisions are concerned, the computer and Internet rank a distant third.” Youngmann uses the Internet today primarily formarketing infor- tor is amust, and the auto steer is terrific for reducing operator fatigue— and improving seeding, spraying and fertilizer placement accuracy. It’s worth it for those benefits alone.” Youngmann’s bottomline is that he believes there is a “huge” learning curve involvedwith adopting and integrating newtechnology into the farmdecision process. “I knowthere will be a big payoff, but I’mstill having a little trouble putting all of the moving parts together,” he says. SOPHISTICATED NEEDS Thosemarketing to producers like Kurtz and Youngmann—both members ofQuarry Integrated Communications’ Rural Roots Network—need to understand not only the decisions theymake, but
May 2009 Supplement