How Generative AI Makes Farmers (and All of Us) More Human

In agriculture, there is often a dichotomy– either actual or implied– between the opportunities and limitations of tech, and the relationship-driven (i.e., human) aspects of running a farming business.

Part of the challenge with agtech especially has been that the user experience has been so poor. This has not only made products more complex, but also meant that using technology has been a separate, additional (and often clunky & frustrating) task that takes farmers away from the work they love-- interacting with the people, plants, and animals in the real world.    

As generative AI tools like ChatGPT skyrocket in popularity, the user-experience paradigm is shifting. Rather than humans having to figure out how to work with data and algorithms, conversational interfaces enable computers to - in effect - adapt to humans, opening up whole new opportunities. This will have huge implications for agtech.

On our latest podcast episode, we sat down with farmer Marc Arnusch to learn more about how he’s used generative AI tools so far. We were quite surprised by what we heard…and what we didn’t. 

A surprising on-farm application of ChatGPT

A lot of the analysis we’ve heard about generative AI in agriculture has focused on how AI could be used to unlock or supercharge other technologies. 

Imagine what could be possible if decades of on-farm data could be put into a language model, allowing farmers to ask direct questions and get instant answers? What could be possible if farmers could use an AI assistant to strategize about input purchases, production plans, and marketing decisions with a model that has access to unique information about their individual operation but also access to the whole internet? 

But Marc shared a story about an entirely different use of ChatGPT: 

“So I asked this question about this neighbor and friend of ours who's getting ready to retire, and how he would react if I approached him and asked him to farm some of his farms… [ChatGPT] laid out a nine-point plan of how to approach it, taking into consideration his emotions, some of the things he might be thinking about, [and] some of the questions that I need to have answers to prior to engaging… I would say, of the nine points that it brought up, I implemented at least six, maybe seven, in my conversation. And I can tell you today, our friend and neighbor decided to exit… and not only rented some of his farms to me, but he also rented some to my son and my nephew, and it's really helped them as beginning farmers grow their operation.” 

What I loved about Marc’s experience with ChatGPT is how the technology helped him build a human-centric negotiation strategy, in effect proving that tech and humans aren’t separate in agriculture, but complimentary.

What does ChatGPT have to say about this?

Naturally, I turned to ChatGPT to learn more on this topic, asking how it thinks it can help support key business decision-makers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these “being human” skills were prominent on its list. A few highlights:

  • Making Conversations More Natural: Interactions that feel less transactional and more human-like foster better relationships and understanding between parties, and ChatGPT can be a powerful tool for building skills around having conversations, especially difficult ones.
  • Developing Empathy Through Practice: Recognizing emotions and responding appropriately is not always easy or intuitive, but one way to improve this skill is by practicing! Strategizing for key conversations in advance can improve outcomes and reduce the stress involved. 
  • Bridging Cultural and Language Barriers: Situations where farmers in particular are exposed to more global audiences - in terms of customers, suppliers, and employees - are only becoming more common. The possibility of having a tool to help navigate these interactions gracefully is huge. 
  • A 24/7 Brainstorming Buddy: Having a tool that’s always ready for brainstorming sessions, suggesting creative ideas, and contributing to innovative discussions, helps decision-makers come up with fresh approaches and solutions and consider existing solutions in ways they might not have before.
Glimpsing a hopeful future for AI in Agriculture

Amidst an often doom and gloom-filled conversation about AI, this paints a hopeful future, full of a broad set of use cases, for how generative AI can make farmers not only more productive, sustainable, but also more human. 

Listen to Marc on #agtechsowhat here.

​​For more bi-weekly insights on innovation in agri-food from Tenacious Ventures, subscribe to our newsletter here.

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Key takeaways

  • AI holds the potential to improve agtech adoption by improving the user experience
  • AI can help in negotiations and other human-centric tasks

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