Seeing Ahead

Last week, our company went through its semi-annual Team Clean process. For one day, everyone in our offices cleaned out not only their individual areas, but their entire departments as well. Truth be told, the amount of stuff that accumulates in just one year’s time is amazing – particularly the paper!

Of course, some of the fun of this exercise is coming across some article from 10 to 15 years ago that tried to predict the future of ag retail. I found such a piece in one of our magazine’s fall 1999 issues. In this article, the writer tried to predict what the average ag retailer would look like come 2010. Now that we are past this mark, it was interesting to note that predictions about the daily use of wireless/real-time communications and the increasing importance of seed sales were right on the mark. Somewhat funnier were the images of completely robotic custom applicators in the fields without a human operator in sight.

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Now, undoubtedly during the next few years, someone will write an article speculating on what ag retailers will be like come the Year 2020. But predicting the next 10 years might be infinitely harder than it was predicting the past 10. For one thing, the pace of technology advancement seems to be racing ahead at near light speed. Ten years ago, predicting that there would be more technology involved in daily life seemed an easy bet. But for me to foresee what new technology-driven devices might be on the horizon seems harder. And predicting which ones such as GPS tracking and automatic steering systems will enjoy widespread usage within the ag retail marketplace is harder still to get a handle on.

Not to date myself too badly, but I remember when compact discs (CDs) were first introduced some 30 years ago. There were more portable than long-play albums and could be played in your car. It wasn’t long before everyone I knew had replaced their album collection with CDs.

Today, most of my friends who enjoy music forego buying CDs and instead download music directly to their home computers, iPads or smartphones. Practically no one buys physical CDs anymore. (In fact, during our Team Clean, I found a few old CDs I had bought into the office several years ago when I first started at our magazine. Since I long ago downloaded these same songs to my computer, I tossed them in the bin.)

What will be really fascinating to see is what other technologies our industry relies on today that may end up in the dust bin of history once we get to 2020 and beyond ….

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