The Bayer AgVocacy Forum, being held just prior to the Commodity Classic this week in Anaheim California, brings together a wide variety of points of view on agriculture, food, and technology. The goal is to have an in-depth and wide-ranging discussion on the issues impacting agriculture in front of a group of the nation’s leading agricultural journalists. Indiana is well represented at this year’s event. Dr. Jayson Lusk from Purdue and Kyle Tom from Tom Farms in Kosciusko County are on the program. Lusk will address the current state of the farm economy and implications of the 2018 Farm Bill.
In previous years, social issues have been the focus. However, this year’s focus is technology and its impact on farmers and consumers. Technologies like sensors and aerial imaging let growers diagnose disease outbreaks before they are visible to the naked eye. Artificial intelligence lets growers who encounter an unknown weed go from in-field photo, to identification, to management plan in a matter of minutes. Soon, predictive analytics will be so ingrained in how farmers grow crops, that companies will be able to offer something unheard-of since humans started growing food: more predictable outcomes. Innovation isn’t just happening above ground and in the sky; just as much is happening underground as innovators use the soil’s own microbiome to give plants a boost from day 1. These technological innovations and more are transforming agriculture to help farmers and their businesses. “When we started these forums 13 years ago, we could not have imagined the technology growers can access today. And we are only seeing the beginning of this transformative innovation,” said Adrian Percy, Head of Research & Development and Executive Committee Member for Crop Science, a division of Bayer.
While new technologies in agriculture enable growers to improve their business as they sustainably produce more with less, consumers do not always understand the benefits and have expressed concern about long-term impact. A recent survey* Bayer conducted found 95 percent of American consumers believe ag innovation will help farmers grow more food to meet the demands of the future. Yet, some are not sold on the tools that are mainly responsible for farming’s success. Many of those surveyed believe treating crops with pesticides to control weeds, pests or diseases does more harm than good, and even more said they avoid purchasing genetically modified foods.
Even though some consumers are concerned about the impact of agricultural innovations, Bayer is optimistic about the future. “Among survey respondents who believe agriculture innovations don‘t have a positive or negative impact or that they do more harm than good, nearly 60 percent say they would be more likely to support technologies if they were to learn how these innovations could help address the world’s most pressing food issues,” said Rob Schrick, Strategic Business Lead of Broad Acre Crops for Bayer. “That’s why this forum and other AgVocacy efforts are critical to helping bridge the divide and ensure growers have access to the tools required to grow a sustainable food supply.”