12 Aug 2014

Some farmers 'fear' new technology

3:54 pm on 12 August 2014

A conference has heard that while top performing farmers are quick to adopt new technology, some are afraid of it.

The Mobile TECH conference that started in Auckland on Tuesday is highlighting the rapidly increasing adoption of technology ranging from smart phones and tablets to drones and robotics, in farming, horticulture and forestry.

Technology advocates tended to under-estimate the time it took to adopt their new devices on farms, said Mr Craner.

Technology advocates tended to under-estimate the time it took to adopt their new devices on farms, said Mr Craner. Photo: PHOTO NZ

But St John Craner from the rural communications company TRACTA told the conference that not all farmers were comfortable with this.

"One of the biggest recurring themes that we pick up with our farming panels is the fear of technology that can be presented with some farmers. They're worried about how technology might change the very identity of autonomous farmers who like to farm rather than be managed by others. We know farmers get into farming to be their own boss, so sitting behind a computer or being told what to do by a piece of software doesn't always go down that well."

Mr Craner said technology advocates also tended to under-estimate the time it took to adopt their new devices on farms.

He said the technology transfer process could take years and they had to be patient.

"There are five factors that will either make or break technology in terms of being adopted. The first is ease - if it's not easy to fit into the existing farm system it's not likely to be adopted. The other factors are: proof of concept - it needs to work and add value; simplicity's another big factor; triallability or observability is really important for farmers as well."

He said that meant farmers were more likely to adopt or buy the technology or software if they could try it out and observe its performance first.

"And the final one is, because we know that farmers are emotional folk - you only have to ask what their family and farming the land means to them - if the technology is not aligned to their value set or their philosophies or goals, then that's going to impede their adoption as well."