Earlier this month, I was down in Amarillo, Texas, where I was the opening keynote speaker for Day 2 of the annual conference of the Texas Cattlefeeders Association.
The event was lined up as the result of another keynote I did in Sonoma County, California last April, where I spoke to a gathering that included “what were probably the top 100 cattle, stockyard and feedlot operators in the US.” I reported on that event in a post, “Agriculture 2020: Innovation, growth & opportunity.”
The common theme to both of these keynotes? There is massive, significant opportunity for global growth in the agricultural sector. While there might be a lot of short term volatility due to the daily twists and turns with the global economy, one undeniable fact remains: global food production has to double over the next several decades to keep up with population growth and increasing food intake, particularly within emerging economies. I’ve found with both of these audiences that there is a relentless sense of optimism, and certainly a pretty significant openness to new ideas and opportunities for innovation. Read the post about “agriculture 2020” and you’ll get a sense of the reasons for their optimism.
That’s why I was fascinated to come across an article (“Future of ag is all about refrigerators“) that appeared in the Farm & Dairy Blog back in October (it’s the official blog for the well known Farm & Dairy Newspaper) that covered my thinking and message in a nutshell:
“We still face a global food market — a world population that stands at 6.9 billion and could reach 7 billion by the end of October.
If those numbers make your head spin and you really feel disconnected from that reality, think about refrigerators instead.
Carroll reminds us, as other have, that the growing population also has a growing segment with greater income, and they will eat more meat. He cites figures that estimate per capita meat consumption growth from 2000 to 2030 of 49 percent in China, 79 percent in India, and 22 percent in Brazil, for example.
And in India, the number one consumer product on an individual’s wish list is a television.
Number two? A refrigerator.
“Right now, refrigerators have only a 13 percent market penetration,” Carroll wrote in a blog post earlier this year.
“Talk about opportunities for growth.”
Sometimes the easiest way to think about future trends is to forget all the fancy analysis, detailed summaries, and simply concentrate on one simple statistic and trend. Most people in the world don’t have a refrigerator. Many want to have one. That fact alone is going to drive agriculture forward at a furious pace.
Farm & Dairy wasn’t the only one to pick up on this theme: over at The Social Silo (“Agriculture gets wired”), an article appeared, “Five Farm Things to Chew On This Week“, which offered up some “food for thought” for those in the agriculture sector.
Their last point? Refrigerators!
We’ve heard so much about world population growth and “who will feed the world,” that we’ve actually become a little distanced from that conversation. But the reality is this: As more people worldwide increase their income and class standing, they will eat more meat. In India, the number one item on wish lists is a television. The second wish? No, not a car, but a refrigerator, says futurist Jim Carroll. “Right now, refrigerators have only a 13 percent market penetration. Talk about opportunities for growth,” Carroll wrote in his blog last spring.
Carroll predicts per capita meat consumption growth from 2000 to 2030 will be 49 percent in China, 79 percent in India, and 22 percent in Brazil.
That alone should give you something to chew on.
Of course, agricultural producers have to balance the reality of growth with innovation in methods involving production, due to growing concerns about sustainability, safety and quality. The Farm & Dairy article went on to observe this issue around innovation.
We’re going to need more food, but we’re going to have to produce it more sustainably. That will take innovation, new ways of thinking, and new ways of farming.
Carroll predicts we’ll see more change on the farm in the next 10 years than we’ve seen in the last 50, and he might be right. Today’s farmer has reinvented himself at least once in his lifetime, and will have to be ready to reinvent his farm again.
Ag entrepreneurs will flourish. The opportunity is there for the future of agriculture. Just open the refrigerator.
I must admit, it certainly is a thrill to work with folks throughout the agriculture sector — I do find this to be one of the most innovative sectors of the population. That might come as a surprise to many people, who often view farmers and ranchers as folks who are stuck in tradition. Nothing could be further from the truth — the sector has come to accept innovation as a core virtue for years.
Indeed, I wrote about this way back in 2005, when I was out there talking to the theme, “I Found the Future in Manure: How to Capitalize on the Rapid Evolution of Science”. Those series of keynotes were based on the very theme of innovation that I was discovering throughout the agriculture sector in the early part of 2000-2001. I even ended up writing an article that made it into my Ready, Set, Done book, called “I found the future in manure!”
One thing I’ve come to appreciate is that farmers and ranchers and those who support them can be some of the most innovative people on the planet. Here’s a video clip from a keynote to a US Military conference in Dallas — yes, the military — and I’m describing to them the unique innovation insight that can be learned from farmers.
If you want to master innovation — then think about refrigerators, and think like a farmer!
- Farm & Dairy: The future of ag is in refrigerators
- Agriculture 2020: Innovation, opportunity and growth
- Farm Progress Magazine: Texas Cattlefeeders will Beef Up in Amarillo
- Food industry trends 2011: Report from a keynote
- Blog post: I found the future in manure
- 2004 article: “I found the future in manure!”