USFRA takes SMART Farm concept to tech world USFRA

Expanding the ag tech story

The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance has found a new way to reach a millennial audience with good ag information. You won't believe where.

The annual Consumer Electronics Show is a dream destination for a lot of technology nuts. In the first week of 2017, the event was the center of the universe for autonomous car talk, super 4K video televisions, enhanced gaming devices and combine technology. What?

You read that right. This year the show featured a farmer and a few others from the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance as that organization unveiled it's SMART Farm concept aimed at bridging the gap "between the acceptance of innovation that's a part of consumers' everyday lives with the science and technology happening on today's farms and ranches," according to the association press release.

Farm Industry News caught up with Randy Krotz, USFRA CEO, to talk about why the organization chose to have a display at CES. "About a year ago, we stumbled onto some research trying to find messaging that would break through with millennials," Krotz said. "We found research that showed if we start talking about technology and innovation, that people got engaged with agriculture."

Farming and technology

He also knows a truism that many farmers and ranchers already know: those outside of agriculture don't always view this industry as being very tech savvy. "When you step back and start looking at it, it is hard not to be awed by what we have in agriculture," Krotz noted. "So we thought it might be a crack in the ice to communicate to young people, and show how food is grown and raised."

Randy Krotz, right, talks with an attendee at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show. As CEO of USFRA, Krotz shares the technology, and sustainability message.

Of course if a company plans to exhibit at CES there better be a key message to deliver; or a brand name to remember. That's where SMART Farm comes in. Krotz explained that the association needed to call this tech something and playing on smart phone, smart kitchen and smart home, they came up with SMART Farm.

Krotz, who knows agriculture well, admits that the association didn't realize the extent that people were blind to the tech in use in agriculture. To tell that story at CES, USFRA invited Climate Corp. and John Deere to share technology at the event. Using large screens and videos the two companies showed off the tech their customers use in the field.

"We had people standing four deep in our booth to look at the technology we were showing," Krotz says. There were dairy videos, soil sensor data images and combine videos showing the tech in the cab as a farmer harvests a crop. He added that the interest generated at CES was higher than any trade show USFRA has attended since it formed.

A key message that Krotz says was delivered is that "farmers have always been science based, and that they're looking for ways to make data-driven decisions," he noted. And there was a farmer on hand too, which got some play on Twitter.

A little help

Brad Greenway, a Mitchell, S.D. hog producer, and the 2016 America's Pig Farmer of the Year, was also on hand. He shared how technology is being used in his operation to monitor animals and provide top quality care. Adds Krotz: "He showed that when pigs go off water it's a sign there is a problem and we can now monitor that more closely."

Having Greenway in the booth even got some notice on Twitter from Selena Larson from CNN Tech who tweeted to her 15,000 followers a picture of Brad noting that there are a lot of "cool celebs in Vegas, but I just met Brad, the National Pig Farmer of the Year #CES2017."

Brad Greenway, America's Pig Farmer of the Year, got some publicity during the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show - he was there to talk tech, but Selena Larson from CNN Tech liked his street cred as a hog producer.

Krotz added that Fox News, CNN and Yahoo Finance all stopped at the booth. While none has generated a story yet, he said just being noticed is a first big step in telling the ag tech story. The press release about USFRA being at CES with the SMART Farm display also got picked up by more news assimilators (a key way to get a message out these days) than a normal association release.

"My biggest message is that the technology story breaks through. Standing there talking about sustainability - that's our backdrop SMART Farm equals Sustainability - including GMOs that allow us to farm more sustainably," Krotz said. "People don't understand the tech it takes, and we can't push tech aside if we're going to meet the demands on food production sustainably."

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