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Lessons From the Road. Trends in the Ag Industry

Dr. David Kohl
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Home > Education & Events > November 2019 > Lessons From the Road. Trends in the Ag Industry

The subject today is observations from the road. Recently I've been traveling extensively, and the road is a laboratory of some of the changes that are occurring not only in agriculture but the general business environment. First stop, Charlotte airport. I was hungry, so I went to Burger King and was going to order a fish sandwich. While standing in line, a big announcement came saying that because of the excess of demand of the impossible burger, they were no longer able to meet customer needs that evening. Well, that got a lot of grumbling in line. It's real interesting, when I was starting to talk about some of these trends one or two years ago, it's just amazing how fast these trends have accelerated. The key question is, is it going to be a fad or a trend? Only time will tell.

My second stop was observing a business that was growing lettuce through hydroponics. Interestingly, they marketed the plant. Rather than cutting the lettuce, you were able to take the plant home, put it in water, harvest it as needed. And of course, the lettuce was fresh. That was very, very unique. To couple it at all, it was an urban business rather than an agriculture business that was thinking outside the box. My third stop was Lincoln, Nebraska. Agriculture producer came up to me and he says, you know, it's real interesting. When I had that window for profits in June to market my corn, I marketed a considerable amount of my corn and I made a profit, compared to my peers who were waiting for corn prices to go up to hit the home run. He said he was so glad to hit that market window. I think that reflects our future. Our future is probably not going to be the home runs, but it's going to be a series of base hits. And this producer was able to use it to his optimal advantage.

The other observation was a farm visit. Going through the farm, I observed a soccer field and I asked why do you have the soccer field? He says, the employees really enjoy soccer. They also had basketball courts. But what happened in this farm, they actually formed a league with other farms in the region. They have leagues and they have playoff series. And you know what was observed here? That sometimes it's more than the monetary salary and fringe benefits. Sometimes it's the subtle little things that you do for employees that not only attracts but retains them.

Finally, let's circle to urban agriculture. It's probably one of the fastest growing trends in agriculture. Urban agriculture has a distinct advantage over traditional agriculture because oftentimes they will take old stores like the Walmart stores or the Kmart stores that have the plumbing, the electric, also the security to grow crops. But one advantage they have over the traditional agriculture producer is they're close to the market and no transportation cost. These are some observations that are seen from the road that it's really challenging, the paradigm of agriculture.
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