For the Love of the Gamechangers in Agriculture

It’s an odd quirk of life that when sometimes looking backward, we end up looking forward by default. For example, I was recently looking back at our industry while celebrating my 20th anniversary covering the agricultural marketplace, remembering all the innovations and industry drivers I’ve seen developed during this time. This, in turn, led me to begin considering what trends and innovations might next emerge to move agriculture forward into the middle of the 21st century.

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I have a co-worker who is very fond of using the term “gamechangers” for many of the innovations and trends he’s witnessed in more than 20 years of covering the agricultural market. So I began putting together a list of what I thought qualified as “gamechangers” for the industry over the next five years or so.

In the end, I came up with three different items that will likely change how the agricultural game is played over the next few years. These were biotech developments, technology advances, and sustainable agriculture efforts. To test this theory, I polled readers to see if they agreed with my choices. But only two stood out: Technology and sustainability. These easily controlled the poll figures between them, with 33% of respondents saying technology would be the key agricultural driver going forward and 31% believing that sustainability would win the day.

Now, I was curious to see if the overall agricultural marketplace agreed with these opinions. Luckily, I had the chance to test this theory during the virtual 2021 Commodity Classic event, which was held in early March. As part of any Commodity Classic, educational sessions are a regular part of the agenda.

To put our readers’ views to the test, I looked at all the sessions being held during the event. Now, 56% of these had to do with current agricultural events. The other 44%, however, touched upon technology advances and sustainable agricultural efforts. These tended to run the gamut of topics, from simple new product launches to using carbon credits to earn money for grower-customers.

And what was the result? Among these sessions, the split was almost even, with a slight edge going to sustainability over technology (23% vs. 21%, respectively).

Given these results from two different sources, I would strongly suspect that agriculture’s next big gamechangers will fall into one of these two overriding categories. In technology, many equipment companies have been working on improved artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles for many years now. Perhaps the breakthrough that will push these products into the mainstream are just around the corner. In sustainability, everyone seems to want to know more about carbon credits and adopting sustainable practices into their agricultural operations.

The bottom line: The next game-changer is probably already on its way. With the world getting back to some form of normalcy during 2021 (hopefully), we all may soon find out what this will ultimately be.

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