Agtech is Useless if We Cannot Engage Farmers

Agtech is useless if we cannot engage farmers. That seems pretty obvious – a product without a customer is of little value, and including customer input into the design and development process is best practice in every industry. But the question of how farmers and the agtech community of entrepreneurs, investors, and accelerators can work together to build great products is much harder to answer.

Why is farmer engagement hard?

We’re all busy, but farmers have it especially tough. On top of relentless workloads, farmers are constantly managing uncertainty. From weather to disease to trade policy, they are subject to variables outside their control. So how can we expect them to also spend time helping eager (but often naive) entrepreneurs and innovators?

At the same time, agtech entrepreneurs are often up against the rural-urban divide. Though an entrepreneur might want to get input from a farmer or set up a trial to get feedback and refine the solution, she might not be able to. Especially for agtech entrepreneurs- most of whom are still on the coasts of the US and in cities around the world- who didn’t grow up on farms and lack networks into the ag communities, even calling a farmer for a 30 minute chat can be a challenge.

Is agtech making it worse?

Improving the engagement model between agtech and agriculture is a critical challenge that, if solved, will benefit both communities. The folks on the agtech side of the equation have been trying, and will continue to try, to solve the problem because it is critical to their businesses. It doesn’t take very long for an agtech company to realize that they need to engage with experts and users in the agriculture industry. Whether for feedback, expertise, trials, or as customers, involving farmers is a must.


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