You are here

The quicker the farm technology adoption, the wider the profit margins

Farmers are going to have to grow a lot more food in the coming decades than they ever have to meet world demand.

How will it happen? Technology is thought the best way to yield more with the same amount of land and resources today. But, not all technology's the same. Some takes time to bring into an operation and reach profitable levels. Other new tools can be brought into a farm's management right away.

Regardless of how long it takes a new tool to reach the marketplace, be ready to act fast if you're going to take full financial advantage of technology, says Kansas State University Extension ag economist and Rawlins County, Kansas, farmer Terry Kastens.

Kansas State University Extension ag economist Terry Kastens says it's important to be able to act quickly in adopting new technology on your farm. Doing so can add to profit margins down the road, he said Thursday at the Agriculture.com Ag Innovator Roundtable and awards program in St. Louis.

"Early adopters see technology as a tremendous opportunity," he says. "Late adopters adopt just to survive -- everybody's doing it, so I have to do it too."

Being able to identify whether a piece of farm technology is "fast-moving" or "slow-moving" is the first step in the process that should ultimately yield higher profits on your farm, Kastens says. Slower technologies -- like no-till, for example -- can take years or even decades before they're widely adopted. Others, like auto-steer, are quicker to be adopted because the results are easier to prove in a shorter timeframe.

But, be ready to act quickly once you reach this conclusion.

"If it's a 'duh' technology, just invest in it now. Almost just close your eyes and do it. Don't wait. I know you'll say 'but it's going to get cheaper!' There's always stress with that," Kastens said Thursday at the Agriculture.com Ag Innovator Roundtable and awards program in St. Louis, sponsored by Asgrow. "You're going to have to do it anyway, so you ought to do it now."

What if it's a technology that's slower to develop or be adopted by other farmers? Take the same tact, Kastens says. Doing so ensures an "edge" you can leverage over other farmers who wait before they bring along that new tool.

"If it's a slow-moving technology, I should invest. Why?" Kastens says. "I'll have an edge over my neighbor for decades. You get to clip that coupon for decades."

Kastens contends there are very few farm technologies today that are adopted just as easily by smaller farmers as the big guys. "Scale neutrality" is the application of economies of scale with farm technology: The economist says almost all new technology is not scale-neutral.

"Big farms adopt new technology faster than small farms. The fundamental reason for it is the investment. Part of the investment you make is the education," he says. "I don't know of any technology right now that's scale-neutral. If I am trading in 4 24-row planters, I'm going to get a better deal than if I'm trading one."

Farmers are going to have to grow a lot more food in the coming decades than they ever have to meet world demand.

Read more about