"The Addiction Economy," an article from Every, gets into the addicting nature of social media platforms primarily. It has a generally negative bent towards those, though I am going to take a slightly different angle here and apply the “addictive” nature to agriculture.

In agriculture, we emphasize utility and value. Social media doesn’t deliver true utility as much as it delivers a constant hits of dopamine. But do these things have to be mutually exclusive in agriculture? We have a lack of gamification in agriculture that could drive dopamine hits and a competitive urge to engage.

In listening to the benchmarking of anonymized data aspirations of John Deere during the company's Leaps Unlocked event, the opportunity is to go beyond and really engage farmers or agronomists in real time and proactively.

I use my stationary Peloton bike every week. The Peloton is one of the best gamified systems I regularly use. I can compete with myself from last month, I can compete with my previous record output, I can compete with others from around the world, I can compete with friends, I can win awards, and I feel a sense of dread when my consecutive day or week streak might come to an end, nudging me to get onto the Peloton on days I might not have otherwise. My Peloton subscription via well developed features, functionality and software has enabled me to be in better shape than I would without it. It'sa n effective way of delivering utility.

This brings me to agtech.

We hear about making the agtech tools a part of every day use. You don’t get there through adding utility above a certain point. You get there through gamification. We have few gamified products in agtech. Yet, I bet there could be gamification across many different areas.

Let’s just consider two basic examples:

1. Who’s spraying the most acres per hour in a 100-mile radius of my farm? 50 miles? Where do I rank? How can that awareness be built right into the workflow and screens in real time vs. after the fact where I need to go into a separate area on a desktop or laptop?

2. For retail driven agronomy software, who’s scouting the most fields per day? Per week? How can that be signaled during the normal use?

Why not nudge a farmer or agronomist to use systems more through delivering novel or unique insights into their business or process as they are using the digitized systems?

There is still a factor surrounding having the right incentives to get the behavior you want. This includes managing for safety and best practices/outcomes along with UX, but that gamification directly leads the UX to delivering dopamine.

When I worked in sales, my mantra was to be the best dopamine dealer, meaning deliver a novel insight or solution to the customers business every chance possible. Humans are driven by dopamine. Novelty directly activates the dopamine system, which is responsible for associative learning. On top, games make our dopamine levels spike because our brain releases it in response to the challenge of the game and the achievement of a goal. This is the reason why playing is so attractive, which helps increase usability and delivers better outcomes, such as more acres sprayed per hour. If we think about farmers, they are always comparing yields, pricing they got for their soybean or wheat, and I bet if you gave them the platform, their acres sprayed per hour or managing their costs per acre.

This is all easier said than done, but I suspect this is exactly where John Deere is going. I think there's an opportunity for many companies to build out the incentives for dopamine hits within their products.

Read the full Upstream Ag Insights newsletter from Shane Thomas featuring this commentary.