GUEST ARTICLE: Earning trust in ag technology... the answer is in the palm of your hand

By Terry Fleck, executive director, The Center for Food Integrity

- Last updated on GMT

GUEST ARTICLE: Earning trust in ag technology... the answer is in the palm of your hand
'The block statement in JavaScript is often called a compound statement in other computer programming languages. Unlike C++ , JavaScript doesn’t consider a block to be a new scope.' Does this make sense to you? I don’t know about you, but my head is spinning.

While I spend more hours than I care to admit on my laptop tackling work projects and connecting with family, I certainly don’t speak JavaScript or any other computer programming language that makes this machine work. It’s Greek to me. 

That’s often how consumers feel about agriculture. They love to eat. They have​ to eat. But most have no idea how the food got to their table. However, what they hear makes them question whether today’s farms have their best interests at heart.

They’re asking, “Do farmers have to use pesticides?” “How can I sort through the confusion about GMOs?” “Should I be concerned about antibiotics and hormones in meat?”

In this environment, how can you earn consumer trust in the technologies that allow agriculture to do things better? Learn to speak their language.

Consumers crave credible, simple-to-understand information from people they trust

The latest trust research from The Center for Food Integrity​ (CFI) shows us that relatability is key.

Using an innovative research method called digital ethnography, CFI examined the online behaviors of more than 8,000 people to determine who influences food culture and what motivates them. We learned 40% of consumers crave credible, simple-to-understand information from people they trust.

Because they fear doing the wrong thing, they want guidance that feels​ right – meaning it’s ethically and morally the right thing to do.

The research reveals three important elements required to connect with nearly half the population:

  1. A messenger they can trust. ​Someone who’s relatable and credentialed. Farmers continue to hold a high level of trust, according to CFI research.
  2. A message that addresses their fears.​ Stop talking about how technology increases productivity and instead tell us how it’s helping protect the earth, improve food nutrition and end animal suffering – all of which speak to consumer values.
  3. Clear and simple solutions. ​In general, these consumers feel confused about many food issues and want information they can understand, particularly visual messages and how-to or what-to-do guidance.

Farmers do what​ from their smartphones?​,’ is a good example of the kind of communication that can resonate.

The short, animated video illustrates how a technology most everyone can relate to is helping trusted farmers precisely plant seeds, and monitor irrigation and soil health to grow healthy crops, while minimizing impact on the planet.   

The simple messages are delivered in the context of values that consumers share related to safe, healthy food and environmental stewardship, providing the ethical lens needed to reassure them. 

The time is right to learn the language that makes technology make sense

Introducing technology in this relatable, values-based context helps earn trust by increasing consumer comfort with technology and farming. CFI’s trust model illustrates that demonstrating values that align with those of consumers is three-to-five times more important to earning trust than simply sharing facts.

Relating farming with smartphones is an excellent jumping off point to introduce other technologies that are helping farmers do more with less.    

Particularly when 64% of consumers hold a somewhat or very positive attitude toward agriculture and 65% want to know more about farming, the time is right to learn the language that makes technology make sense.   

Terry-Fleck

Terry Fleck is executive director at The Center for Food Integrity (CFI).​​​ The CFI is a not-for-profit organization with members and project partners representing farmers, ranchers and food manufacturers, universities, non-governmental organizations, restaurants, and retailers. It does not lobby or advocate for individual companies or brands.  Here is a full list of CFI members​​.

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