But, did my experience match that of my farming peers—well yes! We have all heard stories of farmers who had big plans to use their shiny new drone to achieve yield mapping, weed identification and ‘see lice on a sheep’s back’. After a month or so, that investment often turns out to be a cool camera that enables farmers to take great shots and up the ante on their social media profile.
What I realised was that I was short on practical pathways and examples of how we could use technology to make our thriving business better—case studies of producers who had leapt in, made the tech investment and were now reaping the rewards of a more profitable and productive business. I was missing access to tools to understand the return on investment (ROI) that would create a line of sight from initial investment to financial reward.
Was I asking the right question? Like many others, jumping to technology to solve an ill-defined problem is not the answer. After some soul searching, I realised that we needed to clearly define the problem or opportunity for our farm business that technology has the potential to solve. And voila, the tech solution was staring us in the face.
So what have we learnt, a couple of things…
1. Technology can’t provide a solution to a question you don’t know you are asking. A shiny gadget, a new piece of machinery or a ‘smarter’ way of doing things won’t in itself deliver your business gains.
2. Get your house in order by critically analysing your business’ strengths and weaknesses and invest in technologies that can negate risks or strengthen your overall business position.
3. Do the work to identify technologies that answer the right question and fit your production system.
4. Don’t overinvest and start simple!
5. Do your homework and sums and look for novel ways to use a piece of technology to add additional ROI to your investment.
If everything comes together and the seasons are a little kinder, hopefully you can create your own step change towards a technology fuelled profitable farm enterprise. For our business, we are only part way through this journey, but so far we seem to be heading in the right direction!
Jen Medway has a unique perspective on agricultural innovation, as a successful sheep producer from Gunning, NSW as well as Senior Manager at AgriFutures Australia, involved in cross-industry research and agtech ecosystems.