AgriTech is a relatively new industry, leading to the emergence of role types, and demand for certain abilities, that would have been rarely seen in the Agri domain a few years ago. With this comes the opportunity to welcome into the sector talented individuals with transferrable skills that have been honed elsewhere, along with the task of recruiting for challenging and unfamiliar skill-sets. Here I explore the increasing demand for tech & software oriented Product Managers…
The Benefits of Tech Product Management in Agritech
Product Managers can play a pivotal role in the success of Agritech products and services. By creating an organised roadmap for product development, PMs can lead products from launch to optimization. Additionally, Product Managers can provide a holistic vision for an AgriTech solution, as well as insight into customer needs.
Product Management helps streamline product development, testing, and release cycles. This decreases development costs and risks, while also increasing efficiency and quality. By following a streamlined process, PMs can ensure that Agritech products are delivered on time and within budget.
The Skills Needed to Manage AgriTech products
Product Managers must have a diverse skill set in order to be successful in the Agritech industry. They must have a deep understanding of technology processes, as well as the ability to lead and motivate teams in some cases. A certain type of personality is also needed in order to be able to effectively engage with end customers, such as farmers and growers, that are of a vastly different nature to the customer bases seen in other sectors. In some cases therefore, the requirement may be for somebody with Agri sector experience… but, often, it can be just as possible for somebody from another domain to be successful in this kind of role if they are adaptable and have the right technology-related experience.
PMs also need to possess the following skills in order to effectively manage Agritech products:
- Leadership: Product Managers must possess strong leadership skills to effectively manage teams and products. This includes the ability to communicate clearly, effectively delegate tasks, motivate teams, and inspire innovation.
- Technical Knowledge: A deep understanding of software technologies and processes is essential for tech Product Managers. They must have a firm grasp on Agritech use cases and be familiar with Agritech tools and software.
- Business Acumen: PMs should have a sound business background in order to understand financial constraints, allocate budgets, and set and re-evaluate goals.
- User Experience: A strong understanding of customer needs is essential for Product Managers. They should be able to identify relevant user stories, craft appropriate user journeys, and provide positive user experiences.
Examples of Tech Product Management in Agritech
Here are some examples of Tech & Software Product Management in Agritech:
- Automation and Machine Learning: Product Managers are responsible for managing automation and machine learning technologies. This could include the ability to create analytical models, set up automated processes, and optimize machine learning algorithms.
- Sensor Technology: Managing the development of sensor technology. This includes creating hardware specifications, ensuring compatibility with other systems, and managing maintenance and upgrades.
- Data Analysis and Visualization: Product Managers are expected to create data analysis tools and create visualizations from the data. This includes developing data pipelines, creating analytical models, and analyzing data trends.
Challenges Facing Tech Product Managers in Agritech
Regulatory and Compliance Issues: Regulatory and compliance standards vary from country to country, and Product Managers must stay abreast of these regulations to ensure the safety and security of Agritech products and services.
Finding and Retaining Skilled Talent: Agritech is a rapidly expanding field and, as such, finding and retaining skilled talent is often a challenge for Product Managers. They must be able to identify and recruit talented software engineers and be able to effectively retain them.
Adapting to a Unique Industry with a Challenging Customer Base: As previously discussed, transferring into the Agri domain from other tech driven sectors is very much feasible and to be encouraged… but it can be a shock to the system initially. It’s just as likely that you’ll be conducting customer meetings in the middle of a field or greenhouse, as in a corporate boardroom. When it comes to farmers, you’re trying to engineer a product for individuals whose day job is also their entire livelihood, often something they’ve been born into along with their families before and after them. They will be rightly scrupulous… this is a very different proposition to selling a piece of software to, say, a banker who is playing with a company budget (as opposed to money from their own pocket, as is often the case with farmers) and may well be working for somebody else in a few years’ time anyway.
The need for Product Managers with tech expertise in the Agri domain is growing. Product Managers bring an important level of organisation and efficiency to the development of Agritech products and services, and they are essential to the continued growth of the industry.
In many cases, recruiting for such personnel may mean delving outside of the Agri sector in an effort to find those with the requisite technology experience – in other words, stepping into the wild west of the tech talent market.
The difficulty in recruiting for such people creates demand and therefore opportunities, opportunities for those who may see Product Development in AgriTech as an attractive career path – whether you’re a Product Manager in another sector looking to work in a more impactful domain, or somebody of an Agri background and a passion for tech who is wondering where this skills combination could be deployed.