By Amy Skoczlas Cole

What is Smart about Smart Farming?

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April 4, 2024

Ask a farmer what sustainability means, and you’ll often hear: that I financially survive to farm into the next season. 

In agriculture, sustainability and profitability are inextricably linked.  As farmers are being asked to do more and produce more, with less, the razor-thin margins that many farm operations exist under are becoming quite dangerous.  

The challenge is real. The latest USDA Census of Agriculture showed a loss of 20 million acres of farmland in the last 5 years in the US – representing over 141,000 fewer farms than in 2017.

In the early part of 2024, as Midwest farmers are gearing up for the new growing season, Farm Journal has been providing resources and insights into Smart Farming, technologies that can help ensure farmers can capture efficiencies on their operations – in time, in labor, and smart input use.

Earlier this week, we released a Farm Journal Intelligence report to help the value chain more fully understand how farmers make these technology decisions. Unsurprisingly, the report found a link between agtech adoption and profitability as a key driver for the majority of farmers. More than half believe that new tech gives them a competitive advantage and nearly half are willing to pay a premium for it—data points which signal that farmers value technology and the benefits it can have for their operation.

What’s the connect between these decisions and sustainability? As any producer will tell you, a farm has to be in business to implement sustainable agriculture practices. Economic sustainability is a key element of a 3-legged stool.

But too little attention today is given to the sustainability benefits of efficiency – doing more with less. Obviously, when efficiency drives poor natural resource use in ways that compromise the future, that’s not sustainable. But the converse holds true. It is hard to imagine a truly sustainable agriculture system that meets the world’s needs and isn’t driven to be increasingly efficient.

Those of us that value the myriad benefits of well-managed agricultural land in the US should heed what producers are telling us. For all of these endeavors that can help a farmer be more sustainable – technology, conservation practices, and efficiency gains– one part of the adoption picture is becoming quite clear.  Farmers must be able to clearly see how it adds value to their operation before adoption becomes inevitable.  

Our Smart Farming Intelligence Report is available for everyone to review. I’d encourage you to do so and I’d also love to hear what stands out to you in the research. Please get in touch at acole@farmjournal.com.

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