Jack Uldrich says agriculture has an 800-lb. gorilla in the room, and it goes by the name of “new technology.”

Uldrich, a futurist and author who recently addressed attendees of the 2016 InfoAg Conference in St. Louis, Mo., says few people understand how truly exponential technology can be – but they are relatively common. Uldrich points to the modem as just one example.

“Eighteen years ago, a 56k modem was the standard,” he says. “There has been a 1,400-fold improvement since then.”

Everywhere he looks, Uldrich sees a broad range of cutting-edge technology being applied to the agriculture industry. He points to numerous examples of early adopters embracing:

  • Wearable technology
  • Augmented reality
  • 3D printing
  • Nanotechnology
  • Robotics
  • “Internet of Things” (sensors attached to real-world objects)

Any or all of these emerging technologies could prove to be gigantic disruptors – for bad or for good. Could a robotics revolution slash agricultural jobs, for example?

On the other hand, the easily-ignored tech of today could prove to be the saviors of the industry tomorrow. Ulrich points to nanotechnology today as a prime example. Few farmers would acknowledge its potential relevance to them. Even so, a Michigan State University study is developing a nanofilter that can remove phosphorus from water and recapture it as fertilizer. Imagine the game-changing potential that could have, Ulrich argues.

“All of this change requires humility to understand what worked well yesterday might not work well moving forward,” he says.

Change is inevitable. Some of the change will have tremendous impacts on agriculture. So how are farmers and ranchers expected to “future-proof” their operations? It’s simple, Uldrich argues – you just have to spend time thinking about it on a regular basis.

“If you aren’t, who is?” he wonders. “And once you do, you’ll be astounded with how fast the world is moving. The one thing I know for certain is the world of precision ag will change again. If you pick up on those changes, you’ll be flexible and adaptable enough to steer your farm into the future.”

All it really takes is sitting down once a week and searching out what technological advances the world is talking about next, he says.