by  Michael Sukharev

Expanding Your Horizon: Becoming an Early Innovator

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With the right technology partner, you don’t have to choose between short-term and long-term returns.

You have fine-tuned your manufacturing operations over decades to produce high-quality goods and have insights that will give you a big advantage over competitors down the road. But your R&D division isn’t equipped to test radically new ideas without putting strain on your current operations.

So how do you implement your long-term plans without endangering your profitable business?

That was precisely the problem facing one of our clients. This European food producer, with a multigenerational history, began considering its business in the next 25 years. So, after monitoring advanced technologies with disruptive potential, it picked a place to explore in depth: the vertical farm.


The vertical farm

Vertical farms have many advantages over traditional agriculture:


By using significantly less water and fertilizer they are much more sustainable.


Their self-contained operations can be built next to centers of high demand.


They don’t need pesticides or genetically modified crops to fight off blights and insects.

Considering that the basis for traditional agriculture techniques—the low cost of land as well as the abundance of water and fertilizer—is anything but guaranteed in the future, there’s a pretty strong case for vertical farms.


While that all sounds great, the situation is more complicated. Vertical farms are more expensive to run than traditional agriculture operations. High energy consumption and labor needs mean that they only make sense in places with low energy and labor costs, the opposite of high-density urban environments with the highest demand.

Because vertical farms will require technological advancement to become economically feasible, they are a perfect example of the problem of long-term innovation. There is pressure to leap into the future, but you are tethered to the practices that are paying off right now. That puts you in a bind and if you don’t break out of it, you could get left behind.

The problem with consultancies


To innovate means to experiment—a costly proposition if your in-house team isn’t prepared to do so.

Most consultants will tell you what you need to do, and most technology partners will solve discrete problems once you lay them out. But you know that things will change down the line as you encounter unknowns.

Many companies try to dodge this problem by purchasing off-the-shelf solutions to marginally improve efficiency and boost their tech stack. But that’s not what innovation looks like.

If you want to be a leader, you need to look somewhere else.

The right kind of technology partner

To break the innovation double bind, you must find a way to integrate the long-term horizon with the now. That means having a collaborative partner who can test new ideas with you—and figure out where things fit.

For our client, we began by breaking down their vision into manageable pieces. Through close collaboration, we were able to transfer technologies for different applications. After multiple iterations, we could use the same computer vision monitoring technology for both the experimental vertical farm and to build a weed-detection robot.

Because the robot was deployed in our client’s fields, it delivered short-term ROI into a long-term project. And because we tested it, its development never interfered with our client’s operations. Now, they have a leg up on their competitors both far down the line and right now.


Your in-house R&D department can grow with you. SoftServe is a technology partner that helps you find better ways to grow.

So, if you’re looking to become an early innovator in your vertical, let's talk!

And if you want to learn more about how we helped our client, stay tuned for two upcoming articles, or check out our case study now.