Don't get burnt by the white heat of technology
By: Justin Wright Date: 20 July 2017
Do you remember the TV programme Tomorrow’s World? In the 1970s and 1980s, we saw weekly predictions that our lives would be transformed by technology; much of it seemed to belong in science fiction – the prospect of carrying around a telephone in our pockets, for example, was simply ridiculous.
Of course, we know now that yesterday’s science fiction often becomes today’s mundane reality; we would nowadays regard a mobile phone that you could only use for voice calls as quaint. In every aspect of our lives, technology has completely changed the way we do things.
So it has in farming. It is not so very long ago that the idea of guiding farm machinery across a field with the aid of several satellites would have seemed unachievable. But who would buy a tractor today without GPS?
It is interesting how our reaction to technology can sometimes lag behind what is technically feasible. Lovewell Blake carried out a survey among visitors to our Royal Norfolk Show stand in June, asking about attitudes to technology and the results are fascinating.
96% of respondents regard technology as an opportunity and yet only 21% feel they are very up to speed with the latest tech. GPS (54%) and weather technology (42%) are the most adopted technologies, with no-one saying they make use of driverless tractors – but, having seen the demonstration at the Cereals show, it can only be a matter of time.
It has often been at the point when control of the farm passes down a generation that wholesale adoption of new technology happens, but this can frequently be a ‘snapshot’ of that particular period in time and it is no guarantee that the farm will then keep up to date with further developments as they happen.
With the pace of technological change accelerating all the time, we will all need to be more open to new ideas – but it is important that we are able to evaluate how useful each new piece of kit is to the business and not find ourselves dazzled by the latest, shiniest gizmo, simply adopting it because we feel we must be at the cutting edge or because it helps reduce tax liabilities!
The important thing is that agricultural businesses regard technology as something which is there to serve us, not something to become enslaved to. We must increasingly approach new technology with an open mind, being prepared to let go of ‘the way we have always done things’ and embrace newer, more efficient ways of operating.
That means making sure we keep up to date with what is out there – but not letting the white heat of technology make us lose sight of the basics of good business.