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Ag tech is taking off -- and we all benefit

The future is bright for technology on the farm

Ag tech is taking off -- and we all benefit

Farming is an uncertain business. Just ask any producer here in Minnesota as they wrap up harvest amid low prices and market tension. But while markets and weather vary, one important element farmers can rely on is technology that advances year by year.

History demonstrates how American farmers have leveraged technology to lead the world. You might have heard about how self-guided tractors and precise field testing have helped producers grow more. In fact, Minnesota farmers have nearly doubled yields of some crops from the 1980’s to today thanks, in large part, to the use of “ag tech.”

As Chief Technology Officer for Land O’Lakes, Inc., I see every day how producers are using these tools to improve their businesses. Better yet, I have a front-row seat to what’s around the corner.

The next generation of technology is being developed for use on the farm, but a wide range of new tools are built on technology Minnesotans use every day in our living rooms.

For example, many of us use voice recognition systems to play songs and radio stations at home. Agronomists at WinField United, our business that provides agricultural products, services and insights, are researching how that same technology could help farmers manage their fields in the future. Rather than asking a voice-activated system to play Springsteen, a farmer could ask for the right product to control a unique pest outbreak in a specific field. This could greatly boost efficiency and help sort through a huge amount of information.

Other experts are looking into how we can help farmers get a better view of their fields, using tools like autonomous drones and real-time satellite images, and leveraging computer models to decipher the information. This builds on tools that exist today, like WinField United’s Field Forecasting platform that employs computer modeling to help farmers plan and efficiently manage their fields in a way that could deliver more profit potential.

And while virtual reality tends to be associated with new video games, expert teams are developing virtual reality systems that could display individual plants for viewers who could be miles away. As the technology takes off, it could allow farmers to see and address highly-targeted problems early and effectively, increasing their productivity across multiple fields.

In addition to helping farmers produce more, technology is helping them safeguard the air, land and water – and show us all what they’ve achieved.

For example, consider the work happening at Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN, our business focused on advancing farmer-led stewardship. Their new Truterra Insights Engine provides a unique digital platform that helps farmers visualize the stewardship that's best for every acre they farm. No matter where farmers are on their sustainability journey, this new tool leverages technology to help them advance their stewardship. 

Importantly, this technology also equips farmers to “show their work,” demonstrating the sustainability results they achieve. That matters for anyone who cares about where their food comes from and how it was produced.

To be clear, our cooperative is proud of our work in ag tech, but we’re not alone in this space. Minnesota companies big and small are doing incredible work to advance on-farm technology, creating a depth of agricultural innovation that’s hard to find anywhere else. This was recently highlighted in the Twin Cities at the first-ever Food, Ag, Ideas Week led by Grow North Minnesota, showcasing big ideas spanning the food value chain, and being led by people across our state.

From where I sit, every Minnesotan should expect to hear more about ag tech in years to come. From voice recognition to virtual reality, Minnesota is leading the way -- and we’re going to help farmers around the world become more productive and more sustainable as a result.

Teddy Bekele is Chief Technology Officer of Arden Hills-based Land O’Lakes, Inc., a farmer-owned cooperative with more than 3,900 members in dairy, crop production and agricultural retail.

Media Contact: Chuck Lippstreu 612.368.5600

About Land O'Lakes, Inc. 
Land O'Lakes, Inc., one of America's premier agribusiness and food companies, is a member-owned cooperative with industry-leading operations that span the spectrum from agricultural production to consumer foods. With 2017 annual sales of $14 billion, Land O'Lakes is one of the nation's largest cooperatives, ranking 216 on the Fortune 500. Building on a legacy of more than 97 years of operation, Land O'Lakes today operates some of the most respected brands in agribusiness and food production including LAND O LAKES® Dairy Foods, Purina Animal Nutrition, WinField United and Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN. The company does business in all 50 states and more than 60 countries. Land O'Lakes, Inc. corporate headquarters are located in Arden Hills, Minn.

4001 Lexington Avenue North Arden Hills, MN 55126 | Mailing: P.O. Box 64101 St. Paul, MN 55164-0101 | 651.375.2222