Why you can’t take a generalist approach to agriculture

January 23, 2022

Some companies, early in their journey, want to service agriculture as one of many sectors — this doesn’t work

It is tempting to take this line of thinking. There is a lot about agriculture that works in a similar way to other sectors. In a general sense, technologies will offer similar benefits and create solutions that have similar appeal: efficiency improvements, cost reductions, deeper insights.

The flaw in this approach is the assumption that offering similar benefits is the same as creating similar value.

It’s all about the business model.

The most common place the agrifood tech startups meet resistance is with their go-to-market strategy.

The agri-food supply chain is not yet digitally-native, and in some areas has stubbornly resisted new pathways to market. Generalist thinking often suffers from the field of dreams delusion — if we just build it, they will come. It is exceedingly rare that a solution is so compelling by its very nature, that farmers will change their current approaches just to use it. Value-chains and trust-chains in agriculture tend to be far more complex and nuanced — the business model is where innovation and value creation come together.

Business model and go-to-market design are the areas where the generalist approach comes unstuck.

Technological innovation and business model innovation need to be a matched pair

Capturing value in agrifood supply chains will require technological innovation as well as business model innovation.

The existing market structures and segmentations have resisted disruption for good reason — incentive alignment. Given their complex nature, new business models must take many factors into account, and design around them, Often, the user is not the beneficiary of a solution and you need to find other pathways. And sometimes, your technological innovation can create factors that prevent adoption by farmers and must be worked through.

There is nothing wrong with considering agriculture as one of a set of potential sectors but don’t mistake potential application for generally applicable.

Focus on value creation. How does the outcome of your innovation change current incentives and how can you design a business model that incentivizes and rewards the right players.

Specialize first, then generalize. Spend time understanding if agriculture is the right sector then commit to serving customers with a complete offering.

Don’t be a generalist to avoid the hard work of excelling as a specialist, there will be plenty of time to go broad later.

This post was created with Typeshare