A Year To Remember In Agriculture

A Year To Remember In Agriculture

Sometimes, it’s simply amazing how much the world can change in less than one year. I thought about this fact this past summer while looking around the fairgrounds in Bloomington, IL, where this year’s Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) was being held.

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Back in 2015, exhibitors and attendees at MAGIE were down but resolved. The agricultural industry was just beginning to feel a new low cycle — falling commodity prices/grower revenue — and companies were planning for leaner times than they had experienced during the past seven years. Still, most were hopeful that because of the exceptional incomes generated during these “up” years, they would be able to weather this latest economic storm.

Fast forward one year and, my oh my, how things have changed. In mid-2015, there was still a “Big Six” players in the crop protection arena. Since then, Syngenta has agreed to be acquired by ChemChina, Dow and DuPont have announced their intentions to merge, and Bayer and Monsanto have agreed to join forces. When the dust from all this settles, the “Big Six” will likely be down to a “Big Four” (unless regulators put a stop to these proposed deals).

Ag retailers have also seen plenty of changes as well, particularly on the cooperative side. Since 2015, at least half a dozen major cooperative mergers have taken place across the Midwest. This includes CropLife 100 members Farmers Cooperative and West Central Cooperative in Iowa joining forces to form Landus Cooperative and TruPointe Cooperative and Sunrise Cooperative teaming up in Ohio.

Equipment manufacturers have also gotten in on this “change game.” At MAGIE 2016, sprayers by New Holland and Miller-St. Nazianz shared a booth, indicative of the two companies recent merger. And while John Deere and Hagie sprayers remained in separate booths, they did share the same space at the one John Deere equipment dealer on site, reflecting the former’s acquisition of the latter.

And none of these examples even take into account how rapidly agricultural technology is changing. At the Farm Progress show, several companies introduced autonomous/self-driving tractors to the market. Can autonomous self-propelled sprayers (or other ag retail-focused units) be that far behind?

Then there are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). With the Federal Aviation Administration’s formal release of regulation Part 107 covering UAV operation, experts predict the market for this sector could top $80 billion by the mid-2020s. Already, said several MAGIE attendees, their companies are planning to use UAVs in their operations in 2017 “because many of my grower-customers are asking me to provide these kinds of services.”

If I had to guess right now, I would predict these kinds of major market changes will continue until at least the end of 2017. It will be interesting to see what the agricultural world ends up looking like then.