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4 Life Lessons from a Farmer About Using Technology and Changing Habits

It used to be that farmers had to sow their fields with a plow pulled by oxen, but now they have industrialized tractors and specialized seeds that help them grow the best crop possible. It’s easy to assume that farming is a quaint industry that never changes, but in reality, farmers are constantly switching to new technologies and changing their habits for the benefit of their business and the world.

Technology is all about doing more, faster and more efficiently, but it’s also about sustainability, especially when it comes to farms. Farmers are using more technology, like moisture sensors, drones, and smart irrigation to produce food more sustainably. The previous generation of farmers could never have imagined the new technology that’s changing farming today. It would have sounded like something out of a sci-fi movie.

When we say “sustainable,” we don’t just mean the long-term sustainability of their business, we’re also referring to environmental sustainability. With climate change shifting the landscape (literally) of farmland and the industry, farmers must be more innovative than ever to continue yielding crops that support their livelihood.

According to The Economist, farms are getting “teched up” when it comes to growing food to be both sustainable and profitable. The boom in farm technology is showing up in an increase in AgTech investments, with AgTech companies taking in more than $1.75 billion during the first half of 2016.

In our business, we help people change their business in ways that were unheard of even a few years ago. Paperless business is the way of the future, but many people are resistant to that change. Let’s take a look at what we can learn about innovation and technology from the life lessons of a farmer.

1. Change Can Be Difficult, But Necessary

It’s just easier to do what you’ve been doing for years. You don’t have to learn anything new, run tests or struggle to find a solution. But in an industry like farming, staying the course can lead to lower crop yield and fewer resources for your family — not to mention fewer resources for the people buying your crops.

Take Pedro Esteban for example. He and his family have farmed in the Guatemalan highlands for generations, and he has had trouble getting enough water to irrigate his fields. He isn’t a large-scale agribusiness; he farms for his own family and sells whatever is left, so his irrigation troubles quickly affect his family’s well-being and could threaten their survival.

A project called MásRiego (“more irrigation”) has become the main effort to protect farmers like Esteban and help farmers stretch available water resources as far as possible. The goal is to distribute drip irrigation systems to farmers in the Guatemalan highlands and train the farmers to use and maintain the systems themselves.

Irrigating Esteban’s land with the drip irrigation system is very difficult. Since rainfall is so inconsistent, they have to transport water from a river more than six miles away using only the power of gravity. But making the change is necessary for Esteban’s family to survive and make ends meet.

2. Smarter = More Sustainable

We’re used to the idea of “smart” as a descriptor for the technology we use every day, like smartphones. Farmers are using that kind of technology to build a smarter and more sustainable version of the family farm.

Farmers can program routes into their self-driving and GPS-enabled tractors and navigate fields more precisely than if they were driving it themselves. They’re able to use water more precisely and customize water-use and application by detecting moisture in the soil. No more over- or under-watering, and they can avoid excessive evaporation of the water they’re applying to the ground and conserve it for later.

3. Great Things Take Time

Perhaps one of the biggest life lessons from a farmer we can learn is patience. Your crops don’t grow immediately, so you’re forced to be patient to see if all your hard work in the spring pays off in the fall.

Farmers aren’t switching to modern technology and always immediately seeing considerable increases in crop yields or a difference in their water conservation. It can take time for the farmers themselves to adjust from their old way of doing things to acceptance of the new.

Just like your office might be resistant to going paperless after decades of using an older system, farms might experience an adjustment period before they’re used to new technology. Huge changes are happening on America’s farms, and we’re just beginning to see what a difference technology can make in one of the country’s most important industries.

4. It Pays to Keep Up with the Times

It can be scary to make a huge shift in how you’ve been conducting business for as long as you can remember, but farmers have been using advances in technology to improve their bottom line in the shifting agricultural landscape.

Whether they’re farming only on a small plot of land or a huge agribusiness, farmers are using technology to improve their bottom line and keep up with the times. For example, farmers who used genetically modified seeds brought in on average more than $117/hectare in 2012. Making the change to a seed that was improved using biotechnology had a substantial economic benefit to the farmer, and it improved the environmental sustainability of their farming operation.

Technology can help farmers be more precise and efficient in their planting and irrigation, which will increase yields, reduce waste, and mitigate the inevitable risks that come with being in the agricultural business.

Take it from Farmers: Change Can Be Good for Business

Change can be challenging, and sometimes it might not work out in your favor. But we hope that the constant innovation seen on America’s farms has inspired you to look for possibilities in your own industry, or even just in your office.

Where can you streamline processes and become more precise? Where can you be more efficient?

We suggest starting with digitizing documents and transitioning to a paper-free office. We can help make it a smooth transition and continue to aid in document management and storage. Contact us today to see how we can help innovate your office.

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