The solar energy sector will create 440,000 permanent jobs by 2016

Home > Archives

Tagged farmer



The folks at Farm and Dairy Magazine interviewed me on trends to watch in 2018 in the world of agriculture. It’s a good read – you’ll find it below!

On stage in New Orleans, I spoke about the idea of Spock having a medical tri-corder on the farm. It’s not as crazy an idea as you thinK!

As I write this post, I’m down in San Antonio, where I’ve got two events where I’ll speak about the future of agriculture to several hundred dealers for a farm and ag supplier about future trends.

I love talking to farming groups – it’s one of the most innovative industries that I know. Watch this video for the reasons why!

5 agricultural trends to watch in 2018
Farm and Dairy, January 2018

SALEM, Ohio — The top five trends to watch for in 2018 are sure to keep farmers on top of their game.

With an increased number of events causing hysteria, with the rise of “fake news,” an overload of news in general — thanks to the world being at our fingertips — farmers have to work harder to tell their story, said Jim Carroll, futurist.

“All producers need to be honest in explaining the humane treatment of animals, to explain what they do. We need real ag folks to tell our story, we’ve got to increase real news,” he said.

Social media is the key, and farmers haven’t been in the conversation enough, Carroll said.

This year, we need to keep our eye on emerging issues, agritourism and marketing, adds Brad Bergefurd, Ohio State Extension horticulture specialist and educator in Scioto County.

In addition to the continuous need to tell our story, experts believe these five issues will be trending in 2018:

1. Increased speed of change

We’ve been talking about it for years, and now it’s happening: Young people are returning to the family farm — the iPod generation is gaining the reins, said Jim Carroll.

“The speed of change will pick up; those returning to the farm are open to all these new ideas,” said Carroll, who travels the country talking about the future. “People are scared of the future, but want to understand it.”

The average age of farmers is 58. Their average age has been inching upward for approximately 30 years, according to the USDA’s Census of Agriculture.

The census shows that during the past 30 years, the average age of U.S. farmers has grown by nearly eight years, from 50.5 years to 58.3 years, but that is about to change, warns Carroll, and that change brings rapid innovation adoption.

2. Fitbits for cows

A world with animal and crop health sensors will continue to flourish this year.

“Fitbits for cows, chickens, pigs — we see it happening now, but it will expand,” said Carroll.

Using drones to fly over herds to check on the health is happening. Farmers are monitoring the gestation of an animal, getting notifications from their iPhone, he said.

“We’ll see connectivity as a management practice,” Carroll said. “Being connected can save time and money on animal health.”

“Data analysis in the year ahead will supplement what farmers know intuitively,” he said, “and, in some cases, challenge those assumptions.”

New products rely on aerial satellite imagery, greenness sensors, soil maps and millions of weather data points — this innovation meshed with a group of early adopters is sure to keep technology pushed to the limits.

3. Global trade advocates

Global trade matters, it always has and it always will, agree Carroll and Tanner Ehmke, a former wheat farmer who is now the Knowledge Exchange manger at CoBank.

“Of course farmers in the Midwest are saying ‘don’t take apart NAFTA.’ NAFTA does matter,” said Carroll.

“Without a global perspective, the cost of food will double or worse. Without NAFTA, markets will be lost, trading partners and labor forces will be lost,” Ehmke said.

“There is room to be optimistic in trade in 2018,” he said. “But, we can’t lose NAFTA. No bilateral trade deals can replace the benefits of NAFTA.”

4. Labor shortages

Labor shortages will continue for highly skilled stoop labor, which tend to Ohio fruit, orchard, nursery, hops and vegetable crops, said Bergefurd, who focuses on specialty crops across Ohio.

“There were major labor shortages on Ohio farms in 2017, resulting in many acres of vegetables and some fruit not being harvested due to shortage of hand harvest labor,” he said.

He foresees a shortage of high quality, locally grown fruit and vegetables. Several large farms don’t have the needed labor, and, as a result, they are changing operations and not producing as many — or any — specialty crops, and are growing more grain crops instead, Bergefurd said.

Bergefurd predicts the acreage devoted to mechanically harvested pickling cucumbers will increase in northwest Ohio and few acres of the 80-year-old traditional, hand-harvested pickling cucumbers of Ohio will be planted due to labor shortages.

“Farmers who will plant hand-harvest pickles will adopt the use of harvest aids and will continue to move away from the crop share method that has historically been used,” he said.

5. Hitting bottom

“2018 looks like we will hit bottom, with grain and dairy prices bottoming out,” said Ehmke, who works to provide strategic insights about trends, structural change, and policy directives within the key rural industries served by CoBank.

“In 2018, we will see farm stress get worse before it gets better. We need to be proficient thinkers and use our relationships to get by.”

The world supply of crops will get tighter this year as usage picks up — starting to match with production, he said.

“We see the world demand, especially in Southeast Asia going up, and that is a good thing.”

Politically, trade uncertainty looks to continue this year, which won’t help the markets. Dairy prices continue to be under stress, as we see expansion globally, he said.

As prices hit bottom, Ehmke is optimistic that they will start to go the other way in 2019.

“I hope to see the dollar soften a bit. It won’t be a game changer this year, but it will start to help,” he said.

I just wrote this one up for the brochure copy for an upcoming 2018 event.

The issue of Amazon isn’t just about retail — it is about any industry with a middleman. Insurance, wealth management, finance, medical or dental care, home services and renovations. You name it. And the big question is – what are you going to do about it?

Disrupting Amazon : Accelerating Strategies for Success in the Era of Industry Transformation

Amazon is the elephant in every industry room. They will challenge and disrupt your business model, and shake your belief in the future to the core.

Why not change that before it changes you? Don’t wait for Amazon to disrupt you – disrupt yourself and disrupt Amazon first! As we witness the Amazonification of industries, deep insight into this massive-but-cheetah-like-elephant is critical, a fast strategy is required.

Futurist Jim Carroll has a key message: Don’t compete — transform! When Amazonian scale disruption occurs, you can’t hope to complete on price, the sophistication of the online interaction, or the other areas in which Amazon (and similar disruptors) clearly excel. You need a different proposition, different ideas and a different strategy. In many cases, this will come about through an implicit decision to compete based on the unique value you can bring to the relationship – service, support, personal interaction and other factors. In doing so, you specifically choose to not compete based on a race to the bottom and price.

Futurist Jim Carroll has headlined ‘Amazonificaiton strategies’ at a wide variety of corporate leadership meetings and association events in the medical, dental and veterinary industries; in the global optometric industry; in the agricultural dealer market, in the home renovation sector, and many more. He has provided deep insight on the transformative strategies and mindset that needs to be pursued.

The acceleration of disintermediation via Amazon is a cruel reality of our modern day world. Think about the business model of a a group of agricultural dealers who sell products to farmers. The simplistic view is that they buy products from the manufacturer, and then sell them to the farmer, with an obvious markup in price. Amazon could do this (and will) with a more sophisticated online system, and avoid the cost of the markup, thereby offering a lower cost alternative. How to compete? Become an invaluable partner to the farmer in terms of advice, expertise and personal support for new initiatives, products and ideas.

In the era of Amazon, you can’t hope to compete on price — because you will watch your business disappear! Futurist and innovation expert Jim Carroll outlines the key trends, strategies and opportunities to be pursued in the ear of Amazonian acceleration!

 

We will see more change in every industry in the next 10 years than we have seen in the last 100 as transformation and disruption sweeps the world.

Every company is faced with the rapid emergence of new competitors, significant new business models, more challenging consumers, the acceleration of science a race to the pricing bottom, and a transition to the speed of innovation that will define their future. How do you get ahead? By turning on your innovation engine, firing your creativity thrusters, and strapping in for a rocket ride into your faster future.

In this keynote, futurist and innovation expert Jim Carroll shares the insight that he has gained by spending the last 25 years with a relentless focus on what turns organizations into high-velocity innovation heroes. None other than NASA has invited Jim in – twice – to share his insight on innovation strategies.

Innovative organization accelerate their creativity by turning their innovation engines upside down, focusing on customer oriented innovation and other unique models. They excel at sourcing ideas from the outside, turning that unique insight into fuel for their internal innovation factories. They challenge themselves on speed by getting into an iterative process of constantly rethinking, adjusting and redoing in order to discover the next best thing. They challenge themselves on business cycles, time to market and more.

In accelerated organizations, partnership is a key focus, collaboration is critical, agility is oxygen and imagination is relentlesss.

Launch yourself into the faster future with this unique, high energy keynote for global futurist, trends & innovation expert Jim Carroll!

SaveSave

In more industries than you think, Amazon is the elephant in the room. My experience has taught me that in every single industry, regardless of what you do and what you sell, you are or will soon be faced with a situation in which they will challenge your business model, and shake your belief in the future to the core.

Why not change that before it changes you?

What do you do as this situation comes about? Don’t wait for Amazon to disrupt you – disrupt yourself and disrupt Amazon first!

This particular photo is from an event with several hundred insurance brokers. Might Amazon disrupt the world of insurance? It’s certainly possible -the phrase used for this type of disruption carries the fancy term “disintermediation” – it simply means that that the middleman is cut out of a business relationship.

Let’s coin a new phrase for what is happening — the Amazonification of industries.

The fact is, Amazon (and other companies with the same strategy as Amazon) isn’t just changing the world of retail — its’ changing and challenging virtually every type of business that involves a middleman.

In the last few years I’ve been called into an increasing number of events where this is the new reality going forward — with clients seeking insight on what they should do when their business model is under threat. In quite a few of these events, I’m asked to address the ‘elephant in the room’, which is Amazon.

My key message? Don’t compete — transform!

When Amazonian scale disruption occurs, you can’t hope to complete on price, the sophistication of the online interaction, or the other areas in which Amazon (and similar disruptors) clearly excel. You need a different proposition, different ideas and a different strategy.

In many cases, this will come about through an implicit decision to compete based on the unique value you can bring to the relationship – service, support, person interaction and other factors. In doing so, you specifically choose to not compete based on a race to the bottom and price.

The examples of the challenge are manyfold. I was invited in to speak at the quarterly leadership meeting of a company that is one of the leaders in the medical supplies marketplace. Clearly, a good chunk of their business could be subjected to risk as Amazon gets into their line of business.

How do they survive? Not by trying to offer a better price, but by working to ensure that their sales and professional representatives are working harder top provide greater value ion then service relationship they have with their clients,.

Similarly, I’m speaking to a group fo agricultural dealers who sell products to farmers. The simplistic view is that they buy products from the manufacturer, and then sell them to the farmer, with an obvious markup in price. Amazon could do this (and will) with a more sophisticated online system, and avoid the cost of the markup, thereby offering a lower cost alternative. How to compete? Become an invaluable partner to the farmer in terms of advice, expertise and personal support for new initiatives, products and ideas. Don’t hope to compete on price — because you will watch your business disappear!

It’s evening happening with optometrists — with a recent video clip where I’m on stage talking about what eye-doctors need to do when patients are focused more on price. In that case, focus on service!

The “Amazonification of industries” can get even more complex than that, when Amazon decides to offer a service element too! This is coming about quickly in the home repair industry — buy a door or window on Amazon, and they’ll line you up with a contractor that will do the installation for you. How can you complete if you are an established home contractor with a successful operation? It’s not an easy question, but is a reality that you might need to address!

Let’s face it: the trends impacting life and property/casualty and groups benefits insurance companies are real.

The industries will be disrupted by tech companies. Existing brokerage and distribution networks will be obliterated as more people buy insurance direct. Predictive analytics will shift the industry away from actuarial based historical assessment to real-time coverage. Policy niches, micro-insurance and just-in-time insurance will drive an increasing number of revenue models. The Internet of Things (IoT) and massive connectivity will provide for massive market and business model disruption. Fast paced trends involving self-driving cars, the sharing economy, blockchains, personal drones, swarmbots, smart dust, artificial intelligence and augmented reality will either mitigate, accelerate or challenge the very notion of risk assessment and underwriting! What happens when Amazon, Google or some kid in a garage decide to really change the insurance business model?

What seemed to be science fiction just a few short years ago has become a reality today, as time compresses and the future accelerates. Whichever way you look, all sectors of the insurance industry are set for an era of disruption, challenge and change! Is the industry ready for transformative change? Not really! A recent survey indicated that while 94% of Chief Strategy Officers at insurance companies agree that tech will “rapidly change their industry in 5 years,” fewer than 1 in 5 CSOs believe their companies are prepared.

Does the insurance industry have the innovation culture necessary to deal with the potential for what comes next? Maybe not.

Jim has been the keynote speaker for dozens of conferences, corporate events and association annual meetings in the insurance sector, including • Certified Professional Chartered Underwriter Association • LIMRA International • Assurant Insurance • Chubb Commercial • Lincoln Financial • GAMA International • Cigna  • Blue Cross Blue Shield  •Equitable Life Insurance Company  •RBC Life Insurance •MetLife •SwissRe •American Institute of Actuaries • American Automobile Association • FM Global and SunLife. Jim led a discussion on the future of insurance at a private meeting that included CxO’s from most major insurers, including Allianz, XL Insurance, Travelers, AIG,  Zurich Financial Services, Allstate, AXA, MetLife Auto & Home, Farmers,  CNA,  Nationwide, American Famity, Chubb, Ping An, Lloyd’s of London, Liberty Mutual, The Hartford, Generali, GEICO, State Farm, Progressive, and RSA.

Jim Carroll has been helping insurance organizations in the world understand the tsunami of change that is FinTech, the impact of mobile technology, social networks, rapid business emergence, accelerated risk, the emergence of new global competitors and heightened customer expectations.

In his keynotes he puts into perspective the real trends impacting the future of insurance, offering critical insight into the key innovation and leadership strategies in a time of disruptive change.

I’m cleaning up from some of the research that went into my recent talk for the United Soybean Board last week.

Here are some of the fascinating statistics I dug out about the productivity gains that have been achieved in US agriculture:

  • corn yields have gone from 39 bushels to 153 per acre in the last 50 years
  • farmers produce 44% more milk with 65% fewer cows than 1944
  • soil erosion is down 32% from 19282
  • today an acre of land supports one human life – that will decrease to 1/3 acre within 35 years
  • output of eggs and poultry have increased 411% from 1948 to 1994
  • this year, the US posted the longest stretch of falling food prices in 50 years, due to advances in agriculture
  • when planning each year, farmers must select from thousands of potential seed varietals, each tailored to particular geographic, soil and other characteristics
  • Farmers Business Network, Farmers Edge and other initiatives essentially crowd source information from thousands of farmer s as to the perforce of particular seeds and pesticides
  • farm jobs were 90% of all US jobs in 1790 but are less than 2% today
  • advances in science will let us grow crops that use less sunlight, in saltier areas and more arid lands
  • the average American meal travels 1,500 miles to the table – which is why there is so much interest in the field of vertical farming
  • 70% of the final cost of food comes from transportation storage and handling!
  • one acre of a vertical farm can grow 10 to 20 times that of a traditional farm acre

It’s all about less input, more output.

Farmers and agriculture are masters of optimization. I love working with agriculture keynote groups; they thrive on innovation. In the past, I’ve spoken to a wide range of groups, including • CHS • Farm Media Journal • FMC Agriculture • Texas Cattle Feeders Association • Colorado Cattle Ranchers Association • FCC Services US (Farm Credit Cooperative) • MicroBeef Technologies • Mid-America Crop Protection Association • FarmTech • AgProgress Conference • Agricorp • CropLife Canada • US Department of Agriculture • American Agriwoman Society • Syngenta • American Landscape and Nursery Association • Monsanto • and more….

The rest of the business world would do well to learn from farmers and the world of agriculture. Rock stars of innovation!

 

 

It’s a funny job, being a futurist.

Essentially, your job is to take people out of their comfort zone, by removing them from today, and taking them into tomorrow.

Tomorrow, of course, involves challenge and change; opportunity and threat; hope and fear. Some people are ready for it; many others are not.

With 25 years and more of helping people comprehend change and what comes next, I’ve come to learn a few things, best captured by an observation I often make on stage: “some people see a trend and see a threat. Innovators see the same trend, and see an opportunity!”

threatoropportunity

Think about that phrase, and then think about three situations that just unfolded in the last several days:

  • a large global financial services organization had been looking at me to come in and focus on what they needed to do to align themselves to faster consumer, technology, business model and other disruptive change — all the things I do. I had great interactions with one of the organizers who wanted to bring me in. What happened? The decision for a keynote went to a committee, who decided to do what they’ve always done: they chose an industry expert! As my contact admitted to me, “we should look outside the box and opt for something new, novel, insightful, controversial, not by default vote for the known names, where we will hear the stuff we already know, wrapped in different package.“. But they went with what was comfortable. After the decision, he noted that “it just shows how transformation consultants are not insightful in how to continuously improve and transform themselves, once they get into the comfort zone…”
  • an association that will be heavily impacted by the emergence of smart highways, autonomous, self-driving cars, and the acceleration of the automotive industry, had been looking at me for a keynote on what they needed to do to align to this rate of change. What did they decide? They booked a motivational speaker to come in and ‘energize their group!’ (their words). Can an industry simply motivate themselves out of disruptive change? Probably not…..
  • and in the most fascinating situation, a major agricultural organization that runs a series of events for farmers shortlisted me (for the 10th year in a row). And for the 10th year, I’ve learned, they’ve gone out and selected the same national news anchor they’ve selected for the last 10 years! Who I suppose will deliver the same message, interpreting current events, and basically repeating to them what he says on the national news each and every night. Simple fact? Agriculture in 10 years will look nothing like it does today: and so how can re-interpreting current affairs help them to deal with this fact?

It’s kind of funny, if you think about it.

But it’s also a pretty poor reflection on the ability of people to confront and deal with change.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not terribly bothered by this, other than by writing this post. The fact of the matter is that nature of my business is that I do some 50 keynotes or leadership meetings each year. The number really doesn’t vary; I’ve got a limited number of dates that I make myself available for, and a limited set of time to do the intense industry research for each talk that I am known for. I’ve encountered many situations like this over the past, and regardless of what these folks are doing, I’ll end up being booked by someone else for the dates that were on the table.

I just find it remarkable that so many people live in fear of the future, and yet really aren’t prepared to do anything about it.

My job IS to make people feel uncomfortable with the future, warts and all – and yet also inspire and challenge them to discover the opportunity that comes from the reality of change. This was perhaps best captured in the brochure copy when I did a keynote for 500 mayors and civic officials in Salt Lake City for the Utah League of Cities and Towns a few years ago:

confused-utah

What a great description!

Jim Carroll’s job is to make people feel uncomfortable …. maybe even a bit confused. Just when you think you’ve got things figured out, Jim probably sees it differently. He has a knack for predicting trends and change, and helping business and government leaders see where things are going, and how they can not only adapt to change, but lead it.”

When I first saw the description in the brochure, it took me by surprise. In most cases, the client runs brochure copy past me before it goes to print, but in this case, for various logistics reasons, I didn’t see it in advance. Yet when I first read it, I thought to myself, “hmmm, does that sound right?” I thought perhaps it might put a bit of a negative spin on what I do.

Yet the more I thought about it, I realized it was a great outline of what I do!

That’s because when it comes to the future, far too many people can be complacent about the trends that are going to impact them, and avoid the type of creative ideas that they need to pursue in order to keep up with the pace of change.

If you are too comfortable right now with the future, then you probably aren’t thinking hard enough about the trends that are going to impact you. You need to be scared; nervous; prepared to accept that things are going to change, and ready for action. That’s why you should always remember the comments of Andy Grove of Intel: “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.”

So maybe being a little uncomfortable, dazed and confused is a good state of mind to be in!

 

For years, I’ve made the observation that 65% of children in pre-school today will work in a job or career that does not yet exist. Given the rapid emergence of new careers around us today, it’s a statistic that is bearing fruit.

Given that, someone alerted me to the fact that the Dean and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Duke University delivered a convocation speech to the class of 2018 quoting my thinking on the rapid emergence of new careers.

It was in August 2014 — and he challenging the new undergrads in the room to ask themselves about the future of their own careers in the context of their future education.

whyareyouhere

A key skill of the future? ” A flexible, creative, and open mind, a mind that will continue to absorb new ideas and adapt to new ways of thinking throughout your life”

Here’s an extract:

Why you are here?’

My first reason has to do with the oft-stated and certainly accurate view that many of the jobs your generation will hold haven’t even been conceived of yet.  The futurist Jim Carroll suggests the imminent emergence of novel professions with colorful names such as “knowledge farmer,” “location intelligence professional,” and “mash manager.” If we don’t even know what a ”mash manager” is yet, how can we prepare you to excel in that job?

Moreover, how can we not only prepare you for professions that don’t yet exist, but help you be the ones who invent those jobs in the first place?

The answer is to train you not just with specific knowledge and skills, but to give you practice in maintaining a flexible, creative, and open mind, a mind that will continue to absorb new ideas and adapt to new ways of thinking throughout your life.  And to accomplish this, we do everything we can to broaden your perspective, not narrow it, from the structure of our curriculum to the ways we have you live together and to all the experiences you’ll have in between.

There is just so much in these few paragraphs that I will leave it at that, but will leave you with a phrase I coined years ago that I think is so critical when it comes to knowledge and education: the most important skill of the future is what I have come to call “just-in-time knowledge.”

I’m featured in the July/August issue of AgriSuccess, the national publication of the Farm Credit Coop of Canada. You can read the article below, or access the PDF through the image.

Sadly, they printed only a small part of the interview! I dug into my e-mail archive, and so you’ll find the ‘missing bits’ after the end of the article below!


Highlights

  • Development of Ag Ant and photonic weed detection next steps in crop management
  • Be open but cautious when looking at new technology
  • Crowd thinking making a big impact on technological change
  • Acceleration of science has profound implications for agriculture
AgSuccess

Read the PDF version of the article by clicking on the image!

Acknowledged as one of the world’s leading global futurists, Jim Carroll has an extensive list of blue chip clients and has delivered keynote addresses around the world. He has operated his own advisory firm, J.A. Carroll Consulting, since 1989.

What equipment innovations do you see for agriculture in the years ahead?
At the University of Illinois, they have developed what they call the ‘AgAnt.’ It’s a prototype for an automated robot that can assess and detect stress, disease, weeds, soil status and pests. And at Edith Cowan University, they’re working to develop a ‘photonic weed detection system.’ It aims a series of laser pulses at the field, which are reflected back. A photo-detector then analyzes the information and provides instruction to a spray cylinder and valve as to where to apply a treatment.

Science is real. Science is fast. Science is accelerating. And agriculture is science.

I find it increasingly difficult to keep on top of many trends, simply because it is happening so fast. Just five years ago, I was on stage in Las Vegas speaking about this fascinating new, future idea of ‘3D printing.’ And then, just last year, I found myself on stage in front of a group of dental professionals, talking about the fact that 3D printing of dental implants, crowns and other implants, was coming into the industry at a very fast pace. 3D printing is expected to have ramifications for agriculture too. For instance, your local equipment dealership might in some cases be able to “print” a replacement part that you need.

You’ve said there have been some stunningly bad predictions in past decades. As we consider the range of current predictions, how should we sort the good from the bad?

That’s a tough one. Maybe the best ‘worst’ predictions were the ones that rockets would never reach the moon, or Bill Gates’s comment that 640K should be enough for everyone! And yet, some people carry it to extremes suggesting we will soon have elevators that will take us to space or to the moon. How do we sort out the real from the fanciful? Be open, but cautious.

You note that aggressive indecision often kills innovation in companies. Why is this happening?

During the economic downturn in 2001-02, I noticed that many of my clients, regardless of the industry, seemed to have lost their sense of direction. Quite simply, people decided not to make decisions – and they seemed to like it.

The result is an economy in which everyone seems to be stuck in a rut, unwilling and unable to move forward.

Why is this happening? In part, fear of the unknown. And that extends into the world of agriculture. We have a lot of farmers who are afraid to make decisions because the next unforeseen event might prove to have negative consequences.

So what do you do? Do you wallow in indecision, or make aggressive moves to position for a future in which ag only has an upside? I’m in the latter camp.

First, look for the warning signs: a mindset that is averse to any type of risk, an absence of any new product or marketing initiatives, or an organization that is stuck in a rut, wheels spinning, and no one has decided even to call a tow truck.

Second, realize that aggressive indecision means you’ll likely have to respond to external pressures faster than ever before. That’s because while people have learned they can hold off until the very last minute, they are also learning they can still get things right. This leads to a business cycle that involves extended periods of frustrated waiting, followed by a blur of activity as organizations rush about to respond to customers’ demands for instant action.

Third, be prepared to make bold decisions. Want to test it? Find the one big decision you’ve been deferring the longest, and decide one way or the other. Right now.

Technological change has been rapid in the past two decades. Will the rate of change slow, stay the same or accelerate in the years ahead?

It’s certainly going to accelerate – that’s why my tag line has become ‘the future belongs to those who are fast.’ There are numerous reasons why it is speeding up. Certainly the idea of ‘crowd thinking’ is having a big impact. We’ve got this big, global collaborative thinking and research machine with the Internet today.

Science itself is accelerating. The new global mind generates new knowledge at furious rates. We’re going from 19 million known chemical substances today to 80 million by 2025 – and five billion by 2100. The discovery of a single chemical substance permitted Apple to miniaturize a hard disk for the first iPad, which led to the birth of a new billion-dollar market.

The acceleration of science has profound implications for agriculture, since much of ag is science-dependent. Consider bio-genomics. The cost to sequence human, animal and plant genomes is collapsing at the same pace that the cost of computer chips collapsed.

Science is real. Science is fast. Science is accelerating. And agriculture is science.


Stuff that didn’t make the cut!

In some of your presentations you talk about the rise of urban farming and jobs for vertical farm infrastructure managers. Most farmers that I know see urban farming as a quaint idea rather than something that will feed a significant number of people. What’s your take on it?

It’s simple — the simple fact is that global food production has to double in the next 30 years to keep up with population growth, and there is little new arable land coming online.

Add to that some basic realities from an international perspective: By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities. Africa is urbanizing so fast that by 2030 it will cease to be a rural continent

Those trends are already leading to the rapid growth of urban farming. I dug out research that shows that there already there are 800 million ‘city-farmers’ according to UN statistics — some 25% of population of Burkina Faso, 35% in Cameroon, 63% in Kenya, 68% in Tanzania. Consider this: 90% of the fresh vegetables in Accra, Ghana come from farming within the city! That’s why we are seeing a lot of agricultural research and innovation around the idea of vertical farming … and hence, a new profession of farmers involved in this field.

Vertical farming is just an example of the massive types of innovaton occuring throughout the global agricultural sector. That’s why futurists like me exist : our job is to remind those who are very involved in day to day realities, and who don’t have a lot of time to think about what comes next, that there is a tremendous amount of change occuring out there.

Lets’ come back to the idea of vertical farming — visit http://vertical-farming.net, which is a global initiative that brings together researchers, academics and others involved in this field. 20 years ago, we didn’t have that type of global mind, but today, we do. This provides for a lot of collaborative thinking, research and idea sharing. This accelerates the pace of innovation and discovery.

Or take a look at http://www.instructables.com/id/Vertical-Hydroponic-Farm/ . This is an example of a community where people are using low-cost computers known as “Raspberry Pi’s” ($5 to $35 per computer) to advance vertical farming concepts. Sure, it might involve hydroponics, but the fact that tech-enthusiasts can share softawre and code also accelrates technology.

Is there any risk from relying on too much leading edge technology?

There is a tremendous amount of risk — privacy, security, criminal activities, social and ethical challenges. The list goes on. That doesn’t mean the pace of technological change is going to slow down.

When I talk about this on stage, I often help people think about their discomfort with change by quoting Ogden Nash, who observed that, ‘for some people, progress is great, but its gone on way too long.’ That I think captures in a nuthsell the reality that we faced with today. Many in my generation — baby boomers — are extremely uncomfortable with the rapid change that envelopes us.

But I really believe that its going to be differen with the next generation : my sons are 21 and 23, and I really believe they are a part of a generation that has a different view with respect to technological change. They’ve already grown up in a world in which they’ve witnessed the arrival and disappearance of entire technologies: think about DVD-players. I often talk about how they view some things from my life as being ‘things from the olden days’ — 35mm film, TV guides, CD’s.

Those young people are coming into the world of agriculture today — they’re taking over the family farm, or working within large industrial or agriculture cooperatives. They’re open to new ideas, new ways of working, and paritcuularly, new technologies.

They’re sitting in the combine with an iPad, an iPhone, and are eager to utilize rapidly evolving precision farming technoogies to achieve that year over year yield increase.

And when it comes to the risk of rapidly evolving technologies, I think they will deal with it in very different ways.

At least, I hope so. As a futurist, I have to stay relentlessly optimistic!

The National Watermelon Association recently ran a blog post, with some succinct coverage of my thoughts on the future of agriculture, and the opportunities that come from innovation. It seemed like a good read, so I’ll repost it here!


watermelons-by-morguefile

“….drone technology, vertical farming practices, and robotics will play a larger role…”

I know that I’m ‘singing to the choir’ when I write that the real innovators of the 21 century are farmers. We just returned from the National Watermelon Convention in New Orleans, where over 500 members of the watermelon industry gathered to hear what is new in the industry. During a morning impact session, our growers were introduced to a variety of new innovations in agriculture, including the use of drones and precision technology, bee pollination services, and revolutionary nematode control.

Jim Carroll, a futurist and trend and innovation expert, points out that the multigenerational nature of agriculture, blending the experience of older farmers with technologically eager younger farmers, creates an opportunity for innovation and success. In his post, ’10 Big Trends in Agriculture,’ Carroll shows us how farmers are poised to meet the demands that are just around the corner. He states that the growth in the world population, an increase of over 45% by 2050, will inevitably create a huge demand for food and potential in the marketplace. Limited arable land will motivate those in agriculture to become more efficient. Perhaps drone technology, vertical farming practices, and robotics will play a larger role.

Carroll notes that new methods to improve crop yield as well as intelligent packaging are the direct result of rapidly developing chemical substances. Emerging methodologies, practices and partnerships will continue to rise as those in agriculture focus on growth, efficiency, and ingestion of new science.

Trends that encourage a focus on health and convenience have created a surge in fresh-cut produce as snack alternatives at home and in schools. Concern over food safety has inspired greater relationships between producer and consumer. Jim Carroll is convinced that, “…an increasing number of partnerships between growers and advisers, suppliers, buyers, retailers and just about everyone else,” will continue to increase in order to , “… deal with the massive complexities that emerge from rapid change and innovation.”

The most impactful trend that Mr. Carroll notices is that of generational transformation – he is convinced that the as the younger generation of farmers take over the family business a “sea-change in the rate by which new ideas in the world of agriculture are accepted,” will take place. No doubt change is already taking place.

The National Watermelon Association is preparing for this tidal wave by embracing its future farm leaders. During the convention, four Future Watermelon Farm Leaders were recognized as rising leaders who will ride the wave of transformational innovation.

Nicole Schrader

Send this to a friend