5 Key Takeaways from THRIVE Innovation Series Webinar with Trimble CEO Rob Painter

July 13, 2020

It’s not often that two CEOs have the opportunity to engage in thoughtful discussion about the future of their industries in a public forum.

Trimble CEO Rob Painter and John Hartnett, CEO of SVG Ventures-THRIVE, an organization focused on the future of food and agriculture, shared such a discussion last week in “Trimble: Connecting the Physical and Digital to Transform Agriculture.”

This discussion and Q&A session was part of the THRIVE Innovation Series, in which industry leaders discuss the latest in food supply chain innovations, challenges, and trends.

The July 9 virtual event was the most popular and well-attended of the THRIVE series, with 1,286 registered attendees from over 80 countries. The audience comprised of farmers, corporate entities, start-up entities, and academic participants.

In this live webinar, Painter and Hartnett discussed important emerging topics related to the future of agriculture, including how ag technology is adapting to the “new normal” of COVID-19, what challenges and opportunities exist related to rural connectivity, and what’s next for agriculture automation. 

Painter also shared his vision for Trimble Agriculture and the Connected Farm vision, as well as how Trimble supports agricultural entrepreneurs and start-ups through the Trimble Select Partners program.

1. COVID-19 and Agriculture: Increased Digitalization

The global COVID-19 pandemic has put the world in a tizzy, and farmers across the globe are finding new ways to connect with their customers and find support.

Notably, the current pandemic has highlighted farmers’ ability to embrace technology out of necessity.

“The pandemic is amplifying some of the digitization trends we see in the market,” he said.

Such trends spur from widespread challenges that farmers continue to face throughout the pandemic. Some of the top farmer challenges include labor shortages, the ability to optimize profitability through production, and using data to make better decisions with a faster turnaround.

Painter views these challenges as opportunities to create a better “normal” in the context of agricultural technology and the overall food supply chain. 

According to Painter, farms have quickly adapted to a digital-first environment, and Trimble has also found an increased ability to provide remote support.

“We were fortunate for the years of investments we’ve made in the technology that enables us today to be able to support, train, and service our customers who are out in the field and to be able to do that on a remote basis,” said Painter. “That’s been a really important pivot to us because that direct interaction is fundamental to the business.”

2. Agricultural Autonomy: Gradual Progress to Network Optimization

Another hot topic on the market is autonomy in the agricultural industry. But Painter doesn’t think machines will take over farming operations anytime soon.

Rather, he believes that a progressive series of automation will be key to establishing autonomy among farming operations moving forward, starting with operator assistance, then machine and process optimization, and ultimately network optimization.

“We see abilities to automate workflows in the near future,” said Painter. “It could be crop spraying, tilling the land, lead-follow concepts at harvest time. Taking discreet workflows that have specific opportunities to be optimized and made more efficient.”

3. Challenges in Rural Locales: Cloud Connectivity

In discovering these positive shifts in the industry, other challenges are unearthed. 

Rural connectivity is a long-standing obstacle that many farms throughout the globe are faced with. In light of COVID-19, it’s clear that connectivity is essential for farms. Painter shared Trimble’s hypothesis that connectivity will happen in the cloud. This will also facilitate the future of autonomous farming.

“If that process is going to happen in the cloud, you’ve got to have connectivity to the cloud,” said Painter. “You take it to its logical extension to autonomous farming and you have to have connectivity, not just to the cloud but machine to machine.”

4. The Trimble Agriculture Vision: A Connected Farm Future

When it comes to connecting the physical and digital world, Painter envisions a more connected agricultural ecosystem through the Trimble Connected Farm.

This vision encompasses the seamless marriage of hardware and software that Trimble provides to facilitate more connected farms across the globe. Trimble Connected Farm uses real-time farm data to keep farmers with a mixed fleet operation engaged and up to speed with what’s happening in their field at all times in order to make smarter, more profitable decisions.

5. Maximize Market Visibility: Trimble Select Program

 Painter’s biggest advice to start-ups and entrepreneurs in the ag industry? Start with the consumer and work backward.

“Consider the needs of the farmers – The most important being ease of use, tangible ROI, and local support.”

The Trimble Select program provides an opportunity for companies with aligned or mutual goals to gain increased market access. It is the first precision ag marketplace to bring unique and complementary products to the farming community through Trimble’s worldwide network of Vantage and Trimble Resellers.

“We see the network of technology dealers, retailers, and agronomists as important parts of the ecosystem that really can’t be discounted,” said Painter. 

To learn more about the Trimble Select program, click here

Trimble Agriculture extends a huge thank-you to John Hartnett and SVG Ventures-THRIVE for hosting and inviting Trimble CEO Rob Painter to join the THRIVE Innovation Series! Be a part of the conversation with the THRIVE Innovation Series and connect with SVG Ventures on their website.

You can view the full webinar recording here.

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