Stop Viewing Fellow Growers as the Enemy [Opinion]

Stop Viewing Fellow Growers as the Enemy [Opinion]

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On a typically cool afternoon in the Salinas Valley, I visited with a farm manager who oversees a large operation. As we moved from one field to another, he talked about the precision agriculture ideas he was testing on the farm.

Like many of you, when he’s unable to find what he needs to improve efficiencies on the farm, he figures out how to create his own solution.

One particular project he spoke about is a harvesting machine he and his team are testing, and it’s showing real promise.

But then he told me another story about the harvester, something that really frustrates him.

Developing new farm equipment can be pricey, so his preference is to purchase the machinery. But in this case, the crop he wanted to harvest automatically isn’t a big enough crop to warrant industry development. So he reached out to area peers, hoping to pool resources on solving the problem. That way, they would spread the risks and the benefits.

Not only was this a financial move, but a creative one as well. The more experienced growers you get together, the better the results.

But no one was willing to join him.

What bothered him most, though, was that at least one of those growers is forcing him to use his new harvester after dark. He claims this grower snuck onto the property to take photos of his prototype.

He was willing to work with these growers on the project, so he feels stung when one of them tried to steal his hard work.

We Accomplish More Together Than Apart

The challenge is to stop viewing each other as competitors, especially when that attitude gets in the way of innovation that benefits all.

What growers should focus on, instead, is how to gain a stronger voice when negotiating with retailers, as well as finding ways to improve your array of technological tools that will help trim input costs. Perhaps even by finding a cost-share development program with Silicon Valley types on the hunt for investments.

It’s my hope that cutthroat competition is turned to the real problems and no grower ever has to harvest crops at night in order to protect his investments. If everyone worked together to solve these issues, just imagine where the industry would be.

 

Oh, One More Thing…

We couldn’t fit everything in from Lee Allen’s excellent report on Yuma, AZ, growers’ adoption of precision tools. Here are a couple things we couldn’t include:

  1. According to the European Agricultural Machinery Association, CEMA: “For 10,000 years, crops were cultivated using trial and error, generational wisdom like how the soil felt when rubbed between a farmers fingers. Mechanization pushed most of that into the past as satellites, precision positioning systems, smart sensors, and a range of IT applications brought about the latest agricultural revolution called Precision Farming.”
  2. In a recent visit to Iowa to discuss the importance of high tech for the future of agriculture, President Trump commented:
    “If we continue to train workers in these new technologies, we will usher in a new era of prosperity for American agriculture.”
  3. President Trump’s visit to Iowa included demonstrations of adjusting fertilizer application rates with the touch of a smart phone
    and watching drones gather crop data in real time.