“The future belongs to those who dare to go there!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
Farmers and growers are some of the most innovative people I know. In this photo, I’m on stage for the Northwest Farm Credit Services annual conference in Spokane, Washington, speaking to that reality.
I don’t say that in a condescending way – I have it on film.
That’s why it’s fun to announce that in the last week, I’ve had two confirmations for upcoming keynotes in two locations – the island of Kauai in Hawaii for the Western Growers Association in November, and the Manitoba Ag Days event in Brandon, Canada in January. The locations (and potential temperatures!) couldn’t be more different; the similarity of the topic, AI in Agriculture, is notable.
These two events come on the heels of quite a few inquiries for events for AI in agriculture – no doubt, because this community understands both the potential and the peril in this fast-moving trend. That’s the genesis for today’s quote- ‘the future belongs to those who dare to go there‘ – which defines the attitude of many of today’s farmers and growers.
When it comes to the future, farmers and growers are of a mindset who ‘dare to go there.’ Think about it – their future is always uncertain in terms of results – the path to go there and the results that might be obtained are often unclear. This group of people is regularly buffeted by the ups and downs of the agricultural cycle, the vagaries of weather, the unreliability of commodity markets, disease, and drought, and relentless geopolitical uncertainty. Essentially, the farmer and grower take a massive leap of faith every day – they stick something in the ground and hope that the science of nature works for them, not against them. But they ‘dare to go there‘ because their hope comes from adapting to a continuous flood of new science, methodologies, treatments, technologies, and inputs.
If you think about it, ‘daring to go there‘ is the essence of farming. And as I have been saying with the acceleration of AI – ‘we might not know exactly where we are going but we are making a great time!’
it seems natural that this is one of the first industries to think hard about the potential for AI – because they are true innovators. They are not who you think they are – the typical city-dweller has an image of someone who complains and runs to the government for subsidies; the reality is that the typical farmer is an astute business person with a fine ear for innovation, someone who thrives by the exhilaration and challenge of an extremely complex business; someone who is optimistic about the future and the potential profitability of their industry. The groups I have been dealing with over the years relish learning about the new science surrounding the industry and are eager to learn what needs to be done to continue going forward with a focus on opportunity. They dare to go there – and so with AI, need to know what it is they should dare to do.
Why are they willing to take risks and innovate? Because the upside is huge – a key fact is that global food consumption is going to double in the next 20 years due to population growth. The war in Ukraine has made the global food and agricultural situation particularly challenging. With that, there is little new arable land coming on stream. This means existing producers will play a key role.
And they innovate because they know that science and technology provide them with a path for daring to go to tomorrow. Quite simply, there’s a lot of scientific-driven innovation in the agricultural sector. One conference I spoke at some years back noted that we are seeing a lot of “advances in genomics, combinatorial chemistry, high throughput screening, advanced formulation, environmental science and toxicology, precision breeding, crop transformation, nanotechnology, synthetic biology, and bio-informatics are tools that will transform the industry.” That’s a mouthful, but it couldn’t be said better. Even the fields of animal and plant genomics is evolving at a furious pace — the same trend in which Moore’s law is driving down the cost of sequencing the human gene, so too it is with animal genetics, which has a big potential impact on the quality of future production.
Perhaps the biggest trend occurring in agriculture today is that we are seeing a generational turnover. As the family farm and industrial ranch transition from the baby boomer to today’s 25-30-year-olds, there will be more rapid ingestion of new technologies. Quite simply, we are going to witness more change on the farm and ranch in the next ten years than we have seen in the last 50! That’s providing even yet more opportunities for innovation. This generation has an even bigger propensity to ‘go there.’
And so, never forget, the future belongs to those who dare to go there – and your role model for that dare should be today’s modern-day farmer and grower.