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Energy & Commodities

Farmer Engagement Is the Key to Digital Adoption

As agribusinesses increase investment in and focus on farmer engagements, reimagining intelligent and frictionless farmer-centric digital experiences becomes critical for scaling their core business models.

A holistic approach—with farmer engagement at its core—focused on both getting digital experiences ready for farmers and getting farmers ready for digital experiences can enable agribusinesses to build a foundation that enhances farmers’ adoption of digital as organizations mature from “doing digital” to “being digital.”

Integrating the farmer’s voice in digital farming solutions

Balanced and upfront engagements with farmers about the prioritization of features and functionality in a digital solution creation journey can make a difference in the widespread adoption and success of initiatives that promote digital agriculture experiences.

Farmer personas—informed by details of farmer characteristics (demographics, innovativeness, knowledge, income bands/age, etc.), farm characteristics (farm size, land ownership/use, use of complementary technologies, internet access, etc.) and many other factors (Figure 1)—can influence the final product, its accessibility, acceptance and usage.  

Motivators for farmers include farm size, biophysical characteristics of farm and perceived usefulness of product

Figure 1: Empirical farm-level studies on factors that influenced farmers’ technology adoption decisions, synthesized from 54 cases

As a manageable alternative to farmer participation, agribusinesses often commit their trusted advisors (like the internal business teams and/or their intermediate retailer network) solely to build digital solutions for farmers. While participation from such teams can help progress the digital solution development forward based on their perception of farmer needs/wants, it may not hit the mark in integrating the ground realities and challenges farmers face while operating an efficient business.


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Getting ready for digital transformation in farming

What does intrinsic friction look like? Here are some questions that can help uncover such resistance areas:

  • Why would the organizational layers—field reps, sales reps, intermediary retailers, etc.—that are responsible for engaging and growing the farmer network want to integrate digital ways of working in their work practices? 
  • Does this change bring operational efficiency or overhead? 
  • Does it enable them to do more for the farmers? 
  • Is the change impact at odds with their organizational incentive models? 
  • Does this change threaten their job security? 
  • Does the organization have the specific capabilities to market a digital product, or will it rely on extending its physical marketing and sales capabilities, approaches and teams?  

Proactively addressing these themes—including how the agribusiness teams responsible for engaging with farmers are feeling about, experiencing and communicating the digital changes—can make a crucial difference in farmer digital adoption experiences for an agribusiness.

Due to today’s economic climate, supply-chain uncertainties and inconsistent weather patterns, farmers already face tough challenges in operating their farming enterprise. These challenges also uncover various extrinsic friction points that present barriers to digital solution adoption, such as:

  • Farmers’ perception of a solution’s usefulness and its potential to disrupt existing business operations
  • Perceived ease of use—it’s not about looking for the next shiny, new digital toy but something that genuinely impacts farm economics
  • Social influences on farmers from family members and social/community groups 
  • Farmers’ desire to get more out of a digital agribusiness relationship—for instance, whether adopting a digital solution can provide farmers with data insights, monetary benefits for sharing their data or discounts on commodities, fertilizer, seeds, prices and the like
  • Commercial risk to farmers for integrating and enabling the digital change into their business operations

Given the dynamic nature of extrinsic friction, focusing on articulating the tangible benefits for farmers clearly and in line with how farmers rationalize their digital adoption decisions can make a world of difference in gaining farmer support. Hence, digital solutions that drive yield improvements and/or reduce input costs in today’s business climate are more likely to be compelling than solutions that are positioned to just provide data with little or no clear insights toward actions.  

In conclusion, as agribusinesses accelerate their aspirations to digitally engage with farmers, a digital adoption approach built by integrating the voice of the farmers and addressing the realities of the intrinsic and extrinsic friction factors can empower agribusiness to get more out of their farmer-centric digital investments and help enhance farmer-centric digital adoption. 

Sidhartha Bhandari
Sidhartha Bhandari
Senior Director, Agile Program Management

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