show your
law practice story


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email
Share on telegram

Agricultural Technology (AgTech) startups are revolutionizing the way we grow food. However, a major hurdle lies in the lack of standardized onboarding contracts when establishing partnerships with farmers. This absence creates a breeding ground for confusion, distrust, and potential legal disputes that can stifle growth and innovation.

Imagine a scenario where an AgTech startup offers a cutting-edge soil analysis platform to a farmer. Without a formal contract, both parties operate on a foundation of unspoken assumptions. The farmer might be unsure who owns the collected data – is it theirs, the startup’s, or a shared asset? What happens if the platform malfunctions and damages crops? Who bears the financial burden? Similarly, the startup might worry about the farmer abruptly terminating the partnership, leaving them with lost revenue or incomplete data sets.

This lack of clarity leads to hesitancy. Farmers, often risk-averse, might be reluctant to adopt new technologies without clear terms outlining their rights and responsibilities. Startups, on the other hand, face financial and reputational risks if unforeseen issues arise without a legally binding agreement. Ultimately, the absence of standardized onboarding contracts hinders the creation of strong, trusting partnerships – a crucial ingredient for successful AgTech adoption and innovation.

The Challenges:

  • Unclear Expectations: Without a formal agreement, expectations between the startup and, say, a farmer adopting the technology, can remain hazy. This can lead to disagreements regarding data ownership, service guarantees, and termination procedures.
  • Example: An AgTech company provides a drone-based crop monitoring system to a farmer. The farmer assumes that all data collected by the drones is his, while the startup believes it has rights to the data for research purposes. This misalignment could lead to disputes.
  • Increased Risk: The lack of a contract leaves both parties vulnerable. Farmers might hesitate to adopt new technologies without clear terms, and startups risk financial losses or reputational damage if unforeseen issues arise.
    • Example: A startup offers an automated irrigation system that fails, resulting in crop damage. Without a contract detailing liability, both parties could face significant financial and legal challenges.
  • Limited Trust: A handshake deal might not inspire confidence, especially for risk-averse farmers. Formal contracts build trust and demonstrate the startup’s professionalism and commitment to a fair partnership.
  • Example: A farmer might be willing to try a new pest management software but is concerned about what happens if the software fails to work as promised. A formal contract outlining service guarantees could alleviate such concerns.


  • Develop Standardized Templates: Create basic onboarding contracts tailored to different types of partnerships (e.g., data collection, equipment leasing). These templates should be clear, concise, and cover essential aspects like service descriptions, data ownership rights, liability limitations, and termination clauses.
  • Seek Legal Consultation: Collaborate with lawyers specializing in AgTech to ensure contracts are legally sound and comply with relevant regulations.
  • Tailor Contracts for Specific Engagements: While templates provide a foundation, customize them for specific partnerships. This shows flexibility and a willingness to address the farmer’s unique needs.
  • Educate Farmers: Offer clear explanations of the contract’s terms to ensure farmers understand their rights and obligations. This fosters transparency and builds trust.

Question 1. AgTech innovations often involve unique software, machinery designs, or even plant varieties. Protecting these assets through patents, trademarks, and trade secrets is crucial. However, navigating patent applications, particularly for GMOs, can be intricate. Startups must also be mindful of potential third-party IP infringement.


Strategic IP Protection Plan:

  • Consult with an AgTech IP Lawyer: Partner with a lawyer specializing in AgTech IP to develop a comprehensive protection plan. Their expertise will be invaluable in navigating the complexities of the legal landscape.
  • Identify and Categorize Your Innovations: Carefully analyze your AgTech innovations – software, machinery designs, or plant varieties. Categorize them to determine the most suitable IP protection mechanism (patent, trademark, or trade secret).
  • Patent Strategy:
    • Prioritize Early Filing: File patent applications as early as possible to establish priority and prevent competitors from obtaining patents on similar inventions.
    • Consider International Protection: If your innovation has global potential, explore international patent filing options through treaties like the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).
    • Seek Specialized Help for GMO Patents: Patenting Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) can be particularly intricate. Your lawyer can guide you through specific regulations and navigate the application process effectively.
  • Trademark Protection: Identify and register distinctive brand names, logos, or slogans associated with your AgTech solution. Trademark protection safeguards your brand identity and prevents others from using similar marks that could cause confusion in the marketplace.
  • Trade Secret Protection: For innovations that may not qualify for patents or trademarks, consider trade secret protection. This involves taking reasonable measures to maintain the secrecy of your confidential information, such as formulas, designs, or algorithms.
  • Conduct Thorough IP Infringement Searches: Proactively mitigate the risk of infringing on existing IP rights. Partner with your lawyer to conduct thorough searches before launching your AgTech solution.

Benefits of Onboarding contracts

Onboarding Contracts are a cornerstone for building strong relationships between AgTech startups and farmers. These agreements offer a multitude of legal benefits that safeguard both parties and foster a thriving AgTech ecosystem. The following are the advantages of onboarding contracts:

  • Clarity and Security: Formal contracts provide a clear understanding of expectations regarding service delivery, data ownership, and financial terms. This clarity protects both the startup and the farmer from misunderstandings and potential legal disputes.
  • Enhanced Trust: A well-defined contract demonstrates the startup’s commitment to fair dealing and transparency. This builds trust with farmers, who may be apprehensive about adopting new technologies. Strong trust is essential for establishing long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships.
  • Improved Communication: Onboarding contracts often establish communication protocols, outlining who to contact for questions, clarifications, or concerns. This promotes smoother collaboration and helps prevent misunderstandings or misinterpretations.
  • Streamlined Dispute Resolution: In the unfortunate event of a disagreement, a clear contract serves as a roadmap for resolving the issue efficiently and fairly. The contract outlines potential dispute resolution mechanisms, such as mediation or arbitration, which can be faster and less expensive than litigation.
  • Defined Warranties and Liability: Contracts can specify warranties offered by the startup for their AgTech solution. Additionally, they can establish limitations of liability, protecting both parties from unforeseen circumstances.
  • Data Privacy and Security: Onboarding contracts can address data privacy and security concerns, especially relevant in the age of GDPR and CCPA regulations. The contract can outline data collection procedures, farmer consent requirements, and data storage practices, ensuring compliance with relevant laws.
  • Intellectual Property (IP) Protection: Contracts can be used to safeguard the startup’s intellectual property (IP) by outlining restrictions on how farmers can use the AgTech solution. This can help prevent unauthorized copying or distribution of the startup’s technology.



Without clear contractual agreements, expectations between startups and farmers – the cornerstone of AgTech adoption – remain ambiguous. This ambiguity can lead to misunderstandings regarding data ownership, service guarantees, and termination procedures. Farmers, often cautious about new technologies, might be hesitant to engage without clear terms. Startups, on the other hand, face financial and reputational risks in the absence of legally binding agreements.

The consequences of neglecting onboarding contracts are far-reaching. Stalled partnerships, hindered innovation, and costly legal battles can all stem from this oversight. Ultimately, the lack of standardized contracts impedes the growth of the AgTech sector, limiting its potential to revolutionize the agricultural landscape.

The solution is clear: prioritizing the development and implementation of standardized onboarding contracts. These agreements act as a bridge between startups and farmers, fostering a collaborative environment built on mutual trust and well-defined expectations. By embracing clear contracts, AgTech startups can cultivate a secure and prosperous future for themselves, for farmers, and for the entire agricultural sector.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email
Share on telegram

Lawfinity in the Press