I do a *lot* of talks for agricultural organizations, both associations as well as agricultural companies (most of the global leaders in this space have had me in for senior management meetings or customer events, seeking my insight on the trends in the industry.)
Yesterday, I was a keynote speaker for the United Soybean Board, speaking to several hundred farmers about opportunities for innovation in their industry.
Prior to my keynote, I spent two hours with the newly elected Board of Directors of the organization, in an intimate discussion about the opportunities for innovation in the industry.
I had six simple slides that led to a very animated, lively and in-depth discussion.
Essentially, agriculture is about science, and science is exponentiating. This slide is from research I undertook years ago….
The result is that knowledge itself is exponentiating: I observed that we are in a situation in which 1/2 of what we learn in the first years of an agricultural degree is obsolete or revised by the time of graduation 4 years later.
These rapid changes drive rapid innovation and the invention of new ideas, concepts, seed varietals. Apple’s situation is that the original Apple iPod could be developed because of the discovery of a single new chemical substance. If there are to be 5 billion, the scope of opportunity in the age of exponentiation is unprecedented! The result for Apple is that 60% of its revenue comes from products that didn’t exist 4 year ago. That’s increasingly becoming the reality for ag-science companies, and is a trend that will filter down into agriculture itself.
In this content, organizations are busy reinventing their business though big, bold ideas, such as we’ve seen with Tesla and Elon Muck. Soybean needs to continue to pursue big, bold ideas — better protein, more alternative material use (did you know that soybean is used as a material in seat cushions for cars?), bio-diesel and more. Why not solar cells grown from plants? They are researching that idea at M.I.T. – in an era of exponential science, no idea is too small!
While these trend unfold, precision agriculture and advanced analytics continues to mature — Google Flu Trends set the pace for the idea of real time analytical healthcare dashboards, and the same dashboard capability are coming to every farm!
Who will adopt such bold ideas? From Syngenta, there are two types of farmers. The ones on the right are becoming the majority….
The key challenge is knowing when to jump on accelerating and exponentiating trends driven by science. The Gartner hype-cycle provides us guidance: every new technology and new form of science goes through the curve.
Innovators determine the right inflection and jumping-on points. The key is to establish an innovation strategy, driven at the board level, to ensure that you are at the right place on the curve — but also not far behind on the curve.
Was it an effective session? It must have been — at the end, the CEO asked me if I would consider becoming a soybean farmer, since my insight, enthusiasm and focus on innovation would provide an inspirational example to other soybean farmers!
It was fun!