Future of ag is focused on growth
By Zoe Martin Iowa Farmer Today | Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2012
Jim Carroll knows a lot about camping, urban renewal, golf and agriculture. Above all, the author, speaker and consultant knows change.
“It’s hard to explain what I do,” said Carroll, a “futurist.” “I walk into virtually every kind of organization and talk to them about trends — recently KOA Campgrounds on the future of camping and travel.”
Carroll has spoken at national meetings for mayors, PGA of America and the Walt Disney Co. He has also spoken at meetings for Syngenta, the USDA, Farm Credit Cooperative and the Texas Cattle Feeders Association predicting future trends in agriculture. Fittingly, No. 1 is growth.
“Ag is a huge growth industry,” Carroll said. “I always start with the basic premise production has to double. That’s the long-term reality.”
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, farmers will need to produce 70 percent more food for an additional 2.3 billion people by 2050. Carroll said this calls for “a continuing ramp-up in efficiency.”
The quest for efficiency leads Carroll to his next main trend in ag, something he calls “hyper-science.”
“Certainly, acceleration of science, with pesticides, plant genomics, precision ag,” Carroll said. “There’s certain key trends that are common to all industries: Science is evolving faster. The next generation of kids who’ve grown up with computers think and act faster.”
Carroll’s work is based on intensive research of the industry he’s targeting along with these universal trends.
His third focus when speaking to ag audiences is on generational transformation.
“The third big thing is younger kids taking over family farms,” Carroll said. “Give me a 25-year-old farmer with a Mac in his combine and iPhone connected to his hip — he’s willing to try what ever tech John Deere will put out there.”
Carroll also points out more specific changes in agriculture in the last 10 years that will affect the industry during the next 10.
There is the “energy opportunity.” There will be an expected $1.2 billion in new income for farmers and rural landowners involved with new energy sources required under Department of Energy mandates, Carroll said.
Convenience and health will take center stage, Carroll predicted in 2005, and that has proven true as consumer tastes and expectations change. These expectations are also driving innovations in packaging and labeling for more traceability.
Carroll is optimistic about the future of agriculture—it’s one of the prerequisites of a job as a futurist.
“It’s all upside,” he said, though some farmers will complain about current volatility or the rate of change in the industry.
“There’s a quote I often use on stage, ‘Some people see future trends and see a threat, innovative people see that and see opportunity,’” Carroll said. “There will be people who prefer to see world slow down.”
In agriculture, that’s not an option, and Carroll pushes this in his speaking engagements
“Innovation defines success,” he has said, and “adopting new methodologies, products, partnerships and ideas” will help farmers thrive.