Thursday, June 13, 2024

Midwest Ag Summit highlights the essential role of technology in American ag

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WEST FARGO, N.D. — In a week focused on technology in agriculture in the Fargo region, a common trend emerged among speakers at the Midwest Ag Summit on Tuesday, June 11: For the U.S. agriculture industry to continue to be a leader and in touch with future generations, technology is key.

The U.S. touts itself as a world leader in agriculture commodities, and for good reason. It has for decades led the world in major commodities like corn, soybeans and a large portion of the wheat supply. Trends show that upper Midwest states including North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota have increased corn and soybean acres exponentially since 1995. But trends described by North Dakota State University professor Dr. William Wilson show that world dominance is slipping to other countries like Russia, Ukraine and some nations of South America.

“We used to be the dominant producer and exporter of virtually everything,” Wilson said.

Rather than try to outproduce those other countries, the objective is to do more with less — thanks to an ever-increasing focus on technology. Wilson considered that as competition continues to increase, technology is key.

NDSU professor Dr. William Wilson speaks about megatrends in agriculture on Tuesday, June 11, 2024, during the Midwest Agriculture Summit at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds in West Fargo.

Michael Johnson / Agweek

“Why do we need ag technology? Because we are in a very competitive market,” Wilson said. He explained that technology has to pay off for producers to use it. Wilson said studies show that the return on investment is healthy for ag technology because it involves lower costs, fewer errors and more precision.

Attendees heard from a panel of producers during the event including Krista Swanson, lead economist for the National Corn Growers Association;

Josh Gackle

, president of American Soybean Association; and

Neil Rockstad

, president of American Sugarbeet Growers Association.

Swanson said while there are growing technology trends in precision ag, the seed itself is one of the best technologies allowing farmers to do more with less.

KristaSwanson.png

Krista Swanson, lead economist for the National Corn Growers Association.

Michael Johnson / Agweek

“The development in seed has been so impressive and has made a huge difference for farmers. The amount of corn that we can grow per acre has increased with those improvements in biotechnology and seed developments,” she said.

Gackle said there will be early adopters and later adopters of technology for good reason. Some technology just doesn’t work for all areas, such as autonomous tractors for areas of the country where rock piles and pot holes are scattered around crop land. He said what most producers are going to get on board with are those that offer cost savings, especially in years like 2024, where commodity prices have plummeted while input costs have held fairly steady.

“Any way that you can be more efficient and minimize that cost is helpful and a lot of those tools apply to many farmers in this region,” Gackle said. He adds that it doesn’t hurt being close to an area where innovations are being born.

Leveraging digital technology

Not all generations latch on to technology in the same way, as Billi Hunt, executive director of America’s Cultivation Corridor explained. While her generation got news from a newspaper, radio or the evening news, she said that today’s generation gathers information from 114 different types of social media. While some of these mediums are more opinion than fact gathering, surveys show they are still trusted sources for emerging generations. She pointed to TikTok, Instagram and Reddit as their go-to sources.

“Reddit is one of their top sources for information. I think that’s gossip. They see it as news,” Hunt said.

Opinions aside, the opportunity Hunt pointed out is to meet that generation where they are at. She gave examples of today’s influencers like the

Cornfluencer

, an Iowa doctor that talks about how corn is in virtually everything we use to function daily. She spoke of an 8-year-old boy (JustaJacksonThing) on TikTok who is helping John Deere get their product and message to new audiences around the world.

She encouraged all in attendance to get on social media and try to share their story and make a connection with a larger audience.

“And really challenge ourselves, how do we get there to provide them with true information that is really giving a good view of what is happening in America farming today.”

The Midwest Agriculture Summit was hosted by The Chamber of Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo and was day two of events featuring ag technology during

AgTech Week 2024

. Events continue Wednesday including a Bushel Buddy Seat Conference, groundbreaking of the Bolley Agricultural Laboratory and dedication of the Peltier Complex, along with a Grand Farm Field Day.

Michael Johnson is the news editor for Agweek. He lives in rural Deer Creek, Minn., where he is starting to homestead with his two children and wife.
You can reach Michael at mjohnson@agweek.com or 218-640-2312.

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