Author: Stacey Cole, Sr. Director, Agribusiness Banking
Publish Date: March 20, 2018
This week marks National Agriculture Week. As we reflect on the meaningful contributions those in agriculture make to our communities, I’d like to specifically take a moment to think about the future of agriculture and key trends in the industry.
The average farmer in the U.S. is 57 years old, nearing retirement, according to agweb.com. Each year, more people from younger generations are entering the agriculture industry as family farms and agriculture businesses pass from parents to children.
As these younger generations become the producers of tomorrow, they will bring with them their knack for technology and combine it with the legacy of the generations before them. To be successful, those new to the industry will need to have a hybrid approach of combining tried and true methods with the latest advancements on the market.
This year for National Agriculture Week, I’d like to share what I believe are three key trends that will shape the future of this industry.
1. Technology Becomes a Necessity
Technology will no longer be a nice to have; it will be necessary to succeed. Leveraging technology will help those in agriculture make smart decisions and mitigate risk. With consumer preferences changing, an iterative view of data will be of great importance when making decisions and formulating actionable steps. As Arthur Conan Doyle once said, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.” Technology not only provides us with actionable data, but it changes the way those in agriculture do their daily work and fine-tunes efforts. Precision agriculture technologies are playing an increasing role in production. Instead of watering an entire field, farmers will be able to concentrate their resources on areas that need it most, preserving resources, and yielding greater results.
2. Blockchain Technology and the Farm-to-Table Movement
I couldn’t talk about technology without mentioning blockchain. What is blockchain? It’s a shared, secure record of exchange that allows anyone with access to track what went into a product, who handled it, and when. This technology brings transparency to supply chains and will impact a variety of products – especially food. The farm-to-table movement strives to connect local farmers to area supermarkets and restaurants. This movement benefits local farmers and provides consumers with what they want – fresh food grown by people in the community they know and trust. To some, farm-to-table may seem like a trend, but it doesn’t change the fact that people want to know more about the food they put into their bodies. Soon consumers won’t have to visit a farm-to-table restaurant to know what farm their bacon or eggs came from; they will be able to know where products come from in the supermarket. For example, Cargill’s Honeysuckle White brand of turkey used blockchain technology to allow consumers to see where their Thanksgiving turkeys came from. It’s safe to say that tracing your Thanksgiving turkey is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of blockchain technology.
3. Specialization in Agriculture
People want to know where their food comes from and how it’s grown. Consumer demand for organic, non-GMO, sustainably-sourced, and local foods will promote increased specialization in agriculture. On March 7, 2018, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it would provide nearly $89 million in funding to support specialty crop growers, strengthen local and regional food systems and explore new market opportunities for farmers and ranchers. According to the USDA, The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) enhances the competitiveness of U.S. grown specialty crops, including fruits, vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture. Some are specializing in hybrid crops, sustainably-sourced products or organic foods. There are also agribusinesses that have been specializing for years that now have an opportunity to promote this to shoppers. Advancements in technology, like blockchain, make sharing this information easier than ever before.
As the generations of tomorrow become the producers of today, technology innovations will continue to shape the agriculture industry. As someone with over 12 years of experience working in agriculture, I look forward to seeing how future leaders will innovate agriculture, and therefore, our communities. I’m also confident that my colleagues and I at First National Bank of Omaha will be there as partners every step of the way.
About the Author
Stacey has worked at First National Bank of Omaha for over 12 years. She grew up on a diversified family agricultural operation in northeast Nebraska. After graduating from Creighton University with her MBA, she joined the Executive Development Program at the bank. Stacey then returned to her agricultural roots by joining the First National Bank of Omaha’s Agribusiness Banking team, where she works with ag producers in cattle, swine, grain, feed, further processing and agribusiness sectors.Email Stacey