Recently, a longtime friend who is now an agricultural news broadcaster asked me an intriguing question: “You've traveled 8 million air miles, been in every state, and worked with all types of agricultural groups. Could you give me the top 10 reasons why you are enthusiastic about the future of agriculture?” Well, here is the first edition of my countdown. Subsequent columns will focus on the remaining factors.
Agriculture is five-dimensional. That is, the industry is involved in producing food, fiber, fuel, products for the life sciences (i.e. medical and nutraceutical uses) and life experiences. As Jeff Simmons, one of my former students from Cornell who is president of Elanco, stated, by 2050 the world will need 100% more food, and 70% of it must come from efficiency producing and enhancing technology. Technology is defined as best practices or doing it better using new innovative tools and practices, and utilizing genetics to enhance desired traits in plants and animals in a sustainable manner.
With over 80% of all Americans two generations away from the farm or ranch, entrepreneurial businesses that link people to the producers of food, fiber and fuel and provide authentic life experiences will be a growing field. Of course, the growing demand for fiber and fuel, and the evolution of technology with the interaction of the human high-touch will be critical, as well.
The next decade will see rapid acceleration of three dimensions of technology applied to agriculture. That is, biotechnology, engineering enhancements and the explosion of information management. Agriculture is at the forefront of the biotechnology explosion. New genetics and production methods will accelerate around 2015 to increase yield, reduce water usage and provide genetically specific traits in plants and animals.
Producers in North America and abroad are now deriving the benefits of emerging technologies such as auto steer, robotics, and satellite guidance systems to enhance production and cost efficiency. The key will be for producers in North America to stay ahead of southern hemisphere producers in cost and efficiency with the assistance of the Asian economic block to be globally competitive.
Finally, the information age is now with us. The key is not to drown in the data, but find the valuable components that can be used in strategic and in day-to-day decision-making.
Do you have the resources, i.e. land, labor, management and capital, to position your business to prosper? Next, which dimension of agriculture will provide you the most profit and quality of life?
Editor’s note: Dave Kohl, Corn & Soybean Digest trends editor, is an ag economist specializing in business management and ag finance. He recently retired from Virginia Tech, but continues to conduct applied research and travel extensively in the U.S. and Canada, teaching ag and banking seminars and speaking to producer and agribusiness groups. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.