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AgTech Adoption: Engage the Right Talent with the Right Technology on the Right Problems

Editor’s Note: Janette Barnard is vice president of sales for DecisionNext, a SaaS analytics platform applying machine learning to help buying, pricing, and sales teams make “risk aware” decisions in commodity markets. Her background is in agribusiness & agtech.


In 1908, Wilbur and Orville Wright were the only ones with a flying machine that could sustain flight. And they wowed the world with their breakthrough.

But by 1909, there were more than 150 people with flying machines that played off the underlying invention by the Wright brothers.

Innovation is contagious. And one breakthrough leads to something else new & interesting as its applied to new situations.

Something new & interesting happened at an event that’s 91 years old.


The National FFA Convention is an annual gathering of 65,000+ students, advisors, and sponsors who gather for a variety of agriculture & leadership events. This year at the event, FFA hosted the “Blue Room”, an event that intersected the agtech startup ecosystem in a way that highlights how digital technology is becoming integral to every aspect of food & agriculture value chains.

The startup ecosystem was represented with the likes of Microsoft and Amazon (AWS), along with agribusinesses like Cargill, BASF, and Elanco as well as growing startups like AgVend, AgriSync, and Farmland Finder.

Of the 65,000 high school & collegiate FFA members at the National FFA Convention, a good portion went through the Blue Room and were exposed to all the opportunity to apply digital technology to solve business problems in food & ag. And then that message will be shared with the additional 650,000 FFA members across the country.

One of the speakers on the Ted talk-style stage was a robotics professor turned agtech entrepreneur and spoke of the ways his company, Spensa Technologies, is applying hardware and software solutions to improve fruit & vegetable production. While a leader from Granular spoke of the ways software applications are helping farmers capture and track farm-level data to make better decisions.

So why does it matter?

This whole event exemplifies the underlying theme of successful technology adoption, regardless of the who, what, or where. Successful technology adoption happens when the right talent engages with the right technology. It’s the synergistic equation of human plus machine.

Which means the technology matters.

And so does the cultivation of the talent that will use the technology.

And develop the technology.

And commercialize the technology.

There’s a digital revolution happening across food & agriculture and it’s driven by human talent.

So why was the Blue Room and the exposure of the brightest and best minds in agriculture to all things digital and startup and agtech so important?

Because Wilbur and Orville Wright led an aviation revolution as others saw what was possible because of their original breakthroughs.

Innovation is contagious.

And for the sake of farmers, consumers, and everyone in between, let’s hope the brightest & best young minds in agriculture caught a bad case of it.

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