Farm & Food 4.0
International Congress Berlin
Farm & Food 4.0

05. February 2020

Inbetween complexity and simplicity. What is innovation in agriculture?

Keynote: Joe Bassett, Farm & Food 2020

Joe Bassett is a visionary agricultural technologist, and as such CEO and founder of Underground Agriculture and Dawn Equipment based in Illinois, USA. With his companies he pursues two approaches for the agricultural future. One of technologization and one that takes us back to simpler, old methods. This raises a fascinating question: What exactly is innovation in agriculture? Farm & Food has invited him to speak at the fifth congress on 20 January 2020.


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“The mandate of this event is to think about the future. So I will talk about an alternative vision of the future of agriculture. There are things everbody in this room would agree on. We agree that there will be more automation, more data, more machine intelligence, drones. So I asked myself: What is technology? What is the future we want? Do we want a future where the farmer is completely detached from the land? Where he looks at his display in augmented reality and never really touches the soil.

We have to ask ourselves: Is technology going to make our lives better? Complexity is not the same as being smart. Simplicity can be smart. If I design a product to sell to the farmer, who am I serving? Am I serving the farmer? Am I serving the consumer? Am I serving a policy of having cheap food? If you buy a new car, its better. Most tech developed today is better is some sense. Safer, more environmetllay friendly, save more energy, etc. It makes lives better. New tech for farmers doesn’t fit that criteria. Farmers’s lives don’t get better thanks to new tech.

“We as agricultural technologist are designers.

We are designing a food system.”

But farmers, just like everybody else, want to make a living. They want to live off their work. They want to be able to hand own their farm to a new generation. I started getting interested in an alternative future. So let’s start from how do we make our customers the biggest amount of money? Let’s get the highest dollar value for the product they produce by making organic products and lets reduce expenses to essentially 0. That’s where I got interested in organic no-till. We are designers. We are designing a food system.

And what I produce today is an alternative vision of the future. This vision of the future, the regenerative version, imagines healthy soil as the root of profitability for farmers.” sal

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