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Agtech companies need old fashioned marketing

Agtech start-ups should not bypass traditional agricultural gatekeepers like dealers and agronomists, said experts at the World Agri-Tech Investment Summit.

With more companies competing to bring data analysis, sensor technology and biotech to the world’s farmlands, start-ups are preaching potential over results to an increasingly sceptical farming customer base.

Agtech companies must show growers how their products will improve profitability at the farm gate, growers and investors at the World Agri-Tech Investment Summit in San Francisco said on Wednesday.

“Farmers have been promised precision agriculture for a lot of years and it hasn’t paid off. A lot of farmers feel that it’s a lot of smoke and mirrors,” said Garrot McClintock, technical director of Oxbow Agriculture, a farm operator that uses precision agriculture and internet of things technology to bolster its operations.

Former Skype product manager Martin Rand, who currently heads Estonian farm management company Vitalfields, said companies hoping to make connections with farmers communicate the value and benefits their new technologies introduce. He said one solution was to simplify the user experience for farmers, allowing them to focus on farming rather than technology.

“The value should be presented in a really simple way,” he said, adding agtech companies should market to farmers based their services’ on the monetary value.

Director of strategic partnerships at agri data company Geosys, Dave Gebhart, said companies should consider contacting producers through traditional distribution networks and dealers. He said too many companies are directly contacting a grower-base weary of technology marketing.

He said growers had told him: “If I see your name on an email, I am going to delete it right away. If you come to me with my agronomist, who I trust, you’ve bought yourself 15 minutes. If my agronomist brings me the plan that you’re working on, then I am going to really listen.”

Smart companies, he said, should be building up these relationships with traditional gatekeepers in the agriculture sector.