Technology is a funny thing. I can’t imagine life without my smartphone, and yet when you consider the length of human history, such technology has been around for a relative nanosecond.
But on the other hand, there’s a reason true technological innovators, those on the leading edge, often find themselves on the bleeding edge. I clearly recall a neighbor of my family sometime back in the mid-1970s purchasing a Sony Betamax.
It was, in a word, magical. It also cost about $1,500, which in today’s dollars is close to $7,000. But the world went the way of the VHS format, and that was that, a lot of money down the drain.
I got to thinking about that while editing our cover story in this issue, “Integrating Man and Machine,” by my colleague Christina Herrick. She raises an excellent point, that mechanical harvesters may be wonderful, but if not accepted by the intended audience, they’re about as useful as a Betamax.
Growers who don’t stay attuned to the latest technological developments are going to find themselves at a serious disadvantage down the road. In regard to mechanical harvest, I’m obviously not referring to smaller operations, but larger-acreage growers who sell wholesale. If your picking costs are just 10% more than the industry average, you’re going to be in serious trouble.
Another important point in Christina’s piece, raised by Washington State University’s Karen Lewis and others, is that orchards need to be planted as part of a system. That means you have to start thinking — today — about exactly how you’re going to plant your future orchards.
I just can’t emphasize this strongly enough, because I think the gulf created by technology will not be so much between the successful and the mediocre growers, but between those who become multi-millionaires and those who go bankrupt.
Where to start? Obviously, you need to educate yourself. Read all you can in whatever format is available. But don’t overlook personal communication. In fact, one drawback of technology is we are losing the personal touch.
If you have kids, you probably know exactly what I mean. If I text them, I get a reply in a matter of seconds; but if I call them, they might not answer at all. Among young people, talking on the phone seems to have become oddly passé.
In other words, get out there. I know your time is valuable, but there’s just no substitute for making contacts with those who will be shaping the future of fruit growing.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t put in a plug for my company’s own inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference, “Accelerating The Promise of Technology-Driven Agriculture,” which will be held this October in Phoenix, AZ.
The conference is devoted solely to the broad promise and business opportunities that precision agriculture presents across all segments of agribusiness and food production.
You can learn about game-changing systems and technologies, find out the latest data challenges and strategies, and see the companies and products that will drive the future.
There will be the usual expert speakers and panel discussions, but with a twist: each will focus on truly understanding this highly fragmented industry, which is not widely understood even among the most senior managers in all sectors of agriculture.
If you don’t get out there and network with precision agriculture professionals, you might end up investing in the fruit industry equivalent of a Betamax.