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Jim spent so much time customizing the presentation for one agricultural conference that at the conclusion, one fellow came up and asked him how long he had been a farmer!

In 2011, Jim was the opening keynote speaker for a conference that featured an audience of the top 100 cattle ranchers, feedlots and stockers in the US -- and thrilled the audience with his insight into global trends impacting the agriculture sector. Some of Jim's agriculture clients include • Farm Media Journal • FMC Agriculture • Texas Cattle Feeders Association • FCC Services US (Farm Credit Cooperative) • MicroBeef Technologies • Mid-America Crop Protection Association • FarmTech • AgProgress Conference • Agricorp • CropLife Canada • US Department of Agriculture • American Agriwoman Society • Syngenta • American Landscape and Nursery Association • Monsanto •

I recently spoke at the Cattle Feeders Business Summit in Denver. Turns out the folks at Beef Magazine were in the audience, and here’s their report on my keynote!

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Will You Be Ranching Like The Jetsons In 10 Years? – Beef Magazine (link to article)

What will the beef industry look like in 10 years?” A simple question, that. But, in the same breath, one of profound depth and profound significance.

That’s the question Jim Carroll asked cattle feeders attending the recent Cattle Feeders Business Summit, sponsored by Merck Animal Health. The Toronto-based futurist then gave them a glimpse into a future that will, in some ways, be completely different from our current experience.

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““Imagine a future in which we’ve got remote herd management monitoring technology in which we have instant insight into the health of our herd, the health of particular animals, that goes way beyond simple GPS tracking,” he says.”

Remember George Jetson? The popular cartoon from the ‘60s was, in many ways, prophetic, Carroll told cattle feeders. So was Star Trek. In one episode of “The Jetsons,” George uses a flat-screen device to FacedTime with his family and his boss. In “Star Trek,” medical conditions were instantly analyzed with a hand-held tricorder.

Welcome to your future. FaceTime is already a reality. So is a device much like Bones’ medical tricorder. And the technology behind both will forever change how you manage your cattle, Carroll says.

Consider these facts:

An Australian study determined, given the rate of technological change we’re presently enduring, that the majority of kids entering grade school now will work at jobs that do not yet exist. Another study determined that half of what college students learn in the first year of school will either be obsolete or revised by the time they graduate. 60% of Apple’s revenue comes from products that didn’t exist four years ago.

One of those newly emerging careers that will have profound influence on how you manage cattle, Carroll says, are location intelligence professionals. That’s an emerging technology that is exploding in its capability.

We’ve got a GPS in our pocket with our smartphone,” he says. But that’s just the beginning.

Imagine a future in which we’ve got remote herd management monitoring technology in which we have instant insight into the health of our herd, the health of particular animals, that goes way beyond simple GPS tracking,” he says.

While you’re trying to bend your mind around the implications of that thought, consider this: “In 2017, if not sooner, we could be in a situation where minimally invasive surgery for large animals is common,” he predicts. “Remote monitoring of the effectiveness of animal pharmaceutical treatment (will be common) because the pharmaceuticals we give our animals are connected to the Internet.”

Science fiction? Not at all. “This is real stuff. Virtual understanding of every single aspect of your herd is coming sooner than you think,” Carroll told cattle feeders.

How will this change the cattle business? Carroll says we will quickly transition from a management approach where we deal with issues in the herd after they are diagnosed to an industry where we understand, with a high degree of accuracy, what conditions they will be susceptible to.

Not all of us, particularly those who can remember watching “The Jetsons” and “Star Trek” when they weren’t reruns, are comfortable with technology, and particularly aren’t comfortable with how quickly it is changing our world. My wife just bought a new car, and thank goodness it still has a steering wheel, because just about everything else on the dashboard is beyond my ability to operate.

We’re going to have to get over that. Carroll says one of his ag clients framed it perfectly. They have customers they call the apathetic minority—they tend to seek the same advice from the same places; they have a low tolerance for risk; they’re skeptical about the future.

Then they have clients who are future positive. These are farmers and ranchers who are optimistic; they’re business-minded; they’re innovation-oriented; they’re collaborative for advice; they seek input from other generations; they thrive on ideas that come from technology; they’re focused on profit and growth; they’re willing to approach everything in new ways.

That, Carroll says, is your future and that’s who you need to be.

So what do you think your ranch or feedyard will look like in 10 years? Will you still saddle a horse, heat up the branding irons, rope calves, turn the bulls out and do the many other things that have traditionally have defined both you and your livelihood? Or will you, as Carroll predicts, manage your ranch or feedyard completely differently?

Honey, let’s go get some ice cream. We’ll take the new car. Now, show me again how you start this darn thing.

Caught your attention, didn’t I, and you obviously want to point something out to me!

Farmer

“Here’s a good question: when it comes to you, or the organization that work for, what type of farmer are you?”

But now that I have your attention, think about the honourable profession of farming — it’s been around almost since the beginning of time.

And it’s a profession that has involved a lot of trial and error; failure and success; and a heck of a lot of innovation.

Often, during a keynote, I will tell the story that there are really two different types of farmers in the agricultural industry. And I make the point to the audience that their attitude towards innovation should be considered in the light of the attitudes carried by each type of farmer.

The first type of farmer is what we might call the ‘apathetic minority’, who share these attributes:

  • they are not optimistic about the future
  • they tend to seek the “same old advice” from the “same old sources”
  • they have a high intolerance for risk
  • they’re not convinced they can continue to make a comfortable living despite all the contrary evidence
  • they’re skeptical of their potential since they feel they’ve seen too many ups and downs in the industry

Then there is the second group we might call the ‘future positive‘ type of farmer. They share these attributes :

  • they’re quite optimistic about the future
  • they’re very business minded, using all the latest tools and ideas at their disposal
  • they are very innovation oriented, willing to approach everything in a new way with new ideas
  • they are very collaborative for advice, seeking ideas from anyone and everyone
  • they’re often focused on planning, profit, growth, with clear objectives in mind

So here’s a good question: when it comes to you, or the organization that work for, what type of farmer are you?

Here’s a good video clip where I go into this storyline on stage. Enjoy!

I’m doing a lot of interviews these days around the future of agriculture. Maybe that’s because I’m doing a lot of keynotes in this field (pardon the pun), but also because a lot of searches for trends in agriculture hit my site.

"Plants might someday be able to analyze themselves, through genetic coding or embedded computer chips, he says. Do your plants need a nitrogen boost or a drink of water? They’ll send alerts directly to your computer."

“Plants might someday be able to analyze themselves, through genetic coding or embedded computer chips, he says. Do your plants need a nitrogen boost or a drink of water? They’ll send alerts directly to your computer.”

Here’s the latest, from AgWeb / The Farm Journal Technology publication. You can find the original article here.

What will agriculture look like in 2043?
by Ben Potter, Farm Journal Technology, April 2013

Driverless tractors! Weed-zapping robots! Data-transmitting crops! Forecasting what farms will be like 30 years from now might seem an exercise in science fiction, but imagine how alien today’s farms might appear to someone from the early 1980s. Imagine pulling a farmer aside from that era and trying to explain telematics or precision ag technology. Imagine explaining what your smartphone can do.

Making a multi-decade forecast is a challenge, admits David Nicholson, head of research and development at Bayer CropScience.

“I always say we can look 10 years into the future because that’s how long research and development projects take,” he says. “We know what’s going to happen because it’s in our labs and our pipelines today.”

Anything beyond that window is trickier, says Nicholsen, who foresees a more localized precision ag experience.

“It will be precise,” he explains. “That seed in that bit of the field is working well. That same seed in that other bit of the field isn’t. Why? What’s different? We will have the tools to do plant-by-plant analysis.”

Noted futurist Jim Carroll takes the idea a step further. Plants might someday be able to analyze themselves, through genetic coding or embedded computer chips, he says. Do your plants need a nitrogen boost or a drink of water? They’ll send alerts directly to your computer.

“It’s not farfetched to think of intelligent plants with connectivity,” Carroll says. In fact, connectivity is a concept that will drive agricultural advancements as the next generation moves in.

“The farmer of 2043 is five today,” Carroll says. “He or she has never known a world without mobile devices and mass connectivity.”

Another driving force comes down to mathematics, says Ron Restum, vice president of North America sales with Koch Agronomic Services.

The generally accepted equation is a world population of 9 billion people by the year 2050 with a dwindling amount of available arable land. Therefore, Restum says farmers must produce more bushels per acre, or the numbers won’t pencil out.

Technology Driven. “Progress will have to be tech-driven,” Restum says. “We have to continue to be on the forefront of R&D.” Some technologies that sound far-flung should be staples before 2043, but technology and human concerns must be balanced before a product can be integrated.

The autonomous tractor is a prime example. Several companies have developed prototypes. John Deere has been working on driverless tractors for 5 to 10 years, according to Bob Dyar, a product manager with the company’s Intelligent Solutions Group.

“The real hurdles aren’t technological ones—they’re social ones,” Dyar says. How comfortable would you feel driving down the highway and seeing a driverless car alongside, he asks. A similar comfort level for driverless tractors will take time to develop, he says.

“It’s quite easy to make a tractor autonomous where it can drive itself,” Dyar says. “The challenge is making it perceptive, so you trust it not to hit a tree or the family dog.”

If farming goes “robotic,” will a farmer’s role fundamentally change? The farmer becomes the general, and the office serves as the command center where the troops (remote-controlled tractors, robots armed with lasers that identify and zap weeds and insects) are sent into battle each day.

What the farm of the future will look like is anybody’s guess, says Craig Ratajczyk, Illinois Soybean Association chief executive officer. “Significant changes are inevitable,” he says. “Thirty years from now, farming won’t look anything like it does today.”

I appear online and in the April issue of Growing Produce magazine in Florida, talking about some trends impacting the future of agriculture.

The "robotic tractor of the future isn't too far away!

The “robotic tractor of the future isn’t too far away!


The Future Is Now In Agricultural Technologies
March 14, 2013
By Frank Giles

If you could look into a crystal ball and see the future of agriculture over the next 25 years, you would be blown away and find some of it hard to imagine. And, you might be surprised that what seems futuristic is already happening on the farm.

When considering the pace of technological advancements, Moore’s Law is constructive. It generally states that computing power doubles every two years (some say 18 months). While the computing power doubles, the price for the technology falls.

Think about Apple’s iPhone. Every year the company introduces two new-and-improved versions of the phone. Each one is a little faster and can do more stuff, while the earlier versions get cheaper in price.

While all these gee-whiz advancements seem to be happening most in consumer electronics, don’t be fooled. It is happening in agriculture, too. Jim Carroll and Jack Uldrich are two popular futurists on the speaking circuit across the U.S. Both say the wave of innovation impacting agriculture will be staggering in the coming years. “We live in tremendous times and tend to overlook the leaps we’ve made particularly in agriculture,” says Uldrich.

Sensors And Bots

The size of computer sensors are getting smaller, but more powerful over time, while the price drops. Imagine a watermelon field with tiny sensors spread thoughout connected to the vines to inform the grower exactly what plants need for water and other inputs. “These sensors are getting so affordable they already are being used in West Coast vineyards and on farms in Israel,” says Urldrich. “That may sound like science fiction, but who would have imagined 25 years ago that today we would have immediate access to the world’s encyclopedia in our pockets via the use of smartphones.”

Carroll says robotics will be having an impact on the farm quicker than people would believe. “The technology for autonomous vehicles is already pretty mature,” he says. “If you have a meeting with Google in San Jose, they’ll pick you up at the airport in an autonomous car. There’s a person inside ‘just in case.’ It will probably be easier to deploy on a farm than on a highway.

Given all the controversy around immigration reform, Uldrich says robots might fill in for harvest in the future.“There are people at MIT who have developed a robot so sophisticated that it can detect when a tomato is ripe and so sensitive it can pick it without damaging the fruit,” he says. “Robotic technology is getting better, faster, and more affordable. It will allow us to do much more in harvesting a wide variety of crops.”

A Whole New World

There is a viral YouTube clip of a 1-year-old girl trying to manipulate a print magazine like an iPad. She moves her fingers around the magazine to no avail — it does nothing. Give her an iPad and she’s delighted flicking through screens with her fingers.

Jack Uldrich marvels that technology is becoming so user-friendly and intuitive that a baby can figure it out. “What will that little girl expect for information as she gets older,” he asks. “She will want to interact with information. She will want to know who grew the oranges she buys. Social media already is providing this opportunity for interaction and the demand for it will only grow in the future.”

Future of ag is focused on growth
By Zoe Martin Iowa Farmer Today | Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2012 

Jim Carroll knows a lot about camping, urban renewal, golf and agriculture. Above all, the author, speaker and consultant knows change.

IowaFarmerToday

“It’s hard to explain what I do,” said Carroll, a “futurist.” “I walk into virtually every kind of organization and talk to them about trends — recently KOA Campgrounds on the future of camping and travel.”

Carroll has spoken at national meetings for mayors, PGA of America and the Walt Disney Co. He has also spoken at meetings for Syngenta, the USDA, Farm Credit Cooperative and the Texas Cattle Feeders Association predicting future trends in agriculture. Fittingly, No. 1 is growth.

“Ag is a huge growth industry,” Carroll said. “I always start with the basic premise production has to double. That’s the long-term reality.”

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, farmers will need to produce 70 percent more food for an additional 2.3 billion people by 2050. Carroll said this calls for “a continuing ramp-up in efficiency.”

The quest for efficiency leads Carroll to his next main trend in ag, something he calls “hyper-science.”

“Certainly, acceleration of science, with pesticides, plant genomics, precision ag,” Carroll said. “There’s certain key trends that are common to all industries: Science is evolving faster. The next generation of kids who’ve grown up with computers think and act faster.”

Carroll’s work is based on intensive research of the industry he’s targeting along with these universal trends.

His third focus when speaking to ag audiences is on generational transformation.

“The third big thing is younger kids taking over family farms,” Carroll said. “Give me a 25-year-old farmer with a Mac in his combine and iPhone connected to his hip — he’s willing to try what ever tech John Deere will put out there.”

Carroll also points out more specific changes in agriculture in the last 10 years that will affect the industry during the next 10.

There is the “energy opportunity.” There will be an expected $1.2 billion in new income for farmers and rural landowners involved with new energy sources required under Department of Energy mandates, Carroll said.

Convenience and health will take center stage, Carroll predicted in 2005, and that has proven true as consumer tastes and expectations change. These expectations are also driving innovations in packaging and labeling for more traceability.

Carroll is optimistic about the future of agriculture—it’s one of the prerequisites of a job as a futurist.

“It’s all upside,” he said, though some farmers will complain about current volatility or the rate of change in the industry.

“There’s a quote I often use on stage, ‘Some people see future trends and see a threat, innovative people see that and see opportunity,’” Carroll said. “There will be people who prefer to see world slow down.”

In agriculture, that’s not an option, and Carroll pushes this in his speaking engagements

“Innovation defines success,” he has said, and “adopting new methodologies, products, partnerships and ideas” will help farmers thrive.

I’m thrilled to be selected to be the opening keynote speaker for WEFTEC 2012, which is recognized as the largest annual water quality conference and exhibition in the world. It will be held in New Orleans this fall; it will be the 5th major conference that I have headlined in New Orleans this year.

You can read the press release here from the Water Environment Federation. 

This is an extremely important event, dealing with one of the most significant challenges of our time. The issue of water is critically important as we go into the future, and there are huge opportunities for innovation with regard to water safety, quality, sourcing, recycling and treating. Consider just a few critical facts:

  • demand for water is expected to rise 50% in developing countries between now and 2025
  • 85% of US water utilities, desperately working to upgrade dated infrastructure, indicated in a  survey that said that the average water consumer has no idea as to the size of the gap between what they pay for water / wastewater services, and the actual cost of delivery
  • around 30% of the food produced worldwide is never eaten, and the water used to produce it a real loss

Balance such stark trends — and there are many of them — against the innovative thinking that is occurring within the industry. Consider the “Seawater Greenhouse”, which can, according to an article in The Independent Newspaper, which can “make the desert bloom with seawater, corrugated cardboard and wind.”

Wow! This is going to a fascinatingly innovative industry to get involved with. I look forward to the research on this one, and inspiring the world of water to more aggressively innovative with the future.

Some extracts from the press release:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Jim Carroll, a respected author, columnist, media commentator and consultant who links future trends to innovation and creativity, will deliver the keynote address during the Opening General Session of WEFTEC 2012 this fall in New Orleans, LA. The opening session will kick off the Water Environment Federation’s (WEF) 85th annual technical exhibition and conference, a five-day event that is expected to draw thousands of water quality professionals and exhibitors to the New Orleans Convention Center from September 29 to October 3, 2012.

As one of the world’s leading international futurists, trends and innovation experts, Carroll has provided strategic guidance and insight to some of the most prestigious organizations in the world. He is recognized worldwide as a thought leader and authority on global trends, rapid business model change, business transformation in a period of economic uncertainty, and the necessity for fast paced innovation.

“We live and work in a period of unprecedented change”, said Carroll. “Intelligent infrastructure concepts continue to emerge from the hypothetical to the real while new design methodologies and concepts challenge water professionals to keep ahead of these fast paced developments. I’ll cover the key trends that will provide challenge in the future and outline how to turn them into opportunity.”

The theme of this year’s Opening General Session will focus on “A New Direction for WEF” and tie into the organization’s new Strategic Direction that was announced earlier this year. Carroll’s presentation on innovation and transformation strategy is expected to frame the larger program theme and provide some tools and tips for how to achieve a higher level of success through significant, transformative change.

When science speeds up!
April 26th, 2012

Jim Carroll speaks to the annual general meeting of the PGA of America, challenging them to think about what happens “when science speeds up.”

Big data. Big opportunities!
April 23rd, 2012

Back in February, I flew into Aspen, Colorado, to speak at the leadership meeting for a major consulting firm. My topic? An extremely customized keynote on the trends and opportunities that are unfolding with the new era of analytics and what has come to be known as “big data.”

There was a tremendous amount of customized research for the event; it’s a big topic, so to speak. After that, I ended up focusing my upcoming May CAMagazine column on some of the ideas and concepts that I covered.

Cashing in on Big Data
CAMagazine, May 2012 

By analyzing and tying together massive amounts of information, we can change the way we conduct business, manage healthcare, work in the world of agriculture or manage energy consumption.

Have you ever noticed how, all of a sudden, a new phrase enters our lexicon and becomes the next big thing? So it is with “big data.” If you

haven’t heard this term yet, you will. What is it?

By analyzing and tying together massive amounts of information, we can change the way we conduct busi- ness, manage healthcare, work in the world of agriculture or manage energy consumption.

As everything around us plugs into the Internet — thermostats, fridges, washers, dryers, industrial HVAC equipment — we are generating huge amounts of information. Companies can examine this information through powerful analytical software to look for unique patterns and insight, which might then help to drive key business decisions.

Consider the energy industry, for example. The NEST thermostat, created by one of the original iPad designers, can recognize you when you walk in the room and adjust the heat to your favourite temperature. It’s also plugged into the Internet — and that’s where the potential for big data comes in.

Imagine the possibilities for an energy company to easily poll how millions of customers are using energy through such thermostats — and to then link that data with a deep analysis of upcoming weather patterns. Suddenly, it can predict and manage upcoming spikes in energy consumption, which could have a direct impact on the purchase of natural gas or other sources of energy. Through this analysis, it can do a far better job of managing its costs.

IBM expects big data to be a large driver of future growth, noting that “there are upwards of a trillion inter- connected and intelligent objects and organisms .. all of this is generating vast stores of information. It is estimated that there will be 44 times as much data and content coming over the next decade …reaching 35 zettabytes in 2020. A zettabyte is a 1 followed by 21 zeros.”

In the field of agriculture, people have been talking for years about the concept of “precision agriculture.” A farmer would use a system which knows, for each particular square yard of ground, how much fertilizer and seed to apply, based on real-time data insight and GPS information.

That world is arriving pretty quickly. Kenna, a data analytics firm in Mississauga, Ont., has put together a system which cross references customer purchase data to weather patterns to real-time tractor position based on GPS to do just that, with the goal of helping a farmer get the best yield possible.

Las Vegas is said to be using the idea of deep analytical research to offer a free lunch to a slot payer who is marginally closer to a payout — thereby reducing it’s risk.

Of course, there are big opportunities in big data. The data and analytics market is already worth an estimated $64 billion according to global management consultants McKinsey & Co. The firm also predicts there will be a shortfall of 140,000 to 190,000 graduates with deep analytical talent by 2018. Similarly, a survey by data giant EMC suggests that 65% of data professionals expect a significant shortage in “big data” skills expertise in just five years.

Accountants are, of course, supposed to be the folks with deep analytical insight. Do we have the capability to step up to the big opportunity that is unfolding here?

I do a tremendous number of keynotes in the agricultural sector — from groups such as the Texas Cattlemen’s Association to the Mid-America Crop Protection Association to the US Farm Credit Co-op. As I note on my agriculture trends page, I “spent so much time customizing the presentation for one agricultural conference that at the conclusion, one fellow came up and asked him how long I had been a farmer!

With that in mind, I just got off the phone from a planning conversation for an upcoming agricultural keynote for the Grain Farmers of Ontario annual conference occurring this March.

I was speaking about generational turnover on the farm, the rapid emergence of new agricultural methodologies, and the impact of a significant acceleration in the science of agriculture.

Which brought me to mention an article I wrote way back in 2004, “I found the future of manure!” for Profit Magazine. Though a bit dated, it still helps to put in perspective some very critical and important trends — no matter what line of business you happen to be in.

What led to the article was that during my research, I discovered that a new career had emerged in this sector – professional manure managers. Heck, they even have their own magazine, Manure Managerhttp://www.manuremanager.com/

Can you apply the rules of “I found the future in manure” to your particular industry? Probably!

Believe it or not, manure can teach us a great deal about the future of business.” I wrote that back in 2004, and I still think it holds truth today!

Here’s the article!


I saw the future in manure!
Believe it or not, manure can teach us a great deal about the future of business
Profit Magazine
December 2004 

This past summer, I was invited to speak at a western agricultural company’s annual golf day. In attendance were several hundred farmers, their families and various folks from the local area, in a small town about 100 miles from the nearest city. It was about as rural as you could get.

I was asked to address “what comes next” in the world of agriculture, so I looked into the unique challenges facing agriculture today, as well as the trends that will impact the industry over the next five to twenty years.

While doing my research, I came across the phrase “manure management.” That was a new one! And the deeper I dug — so to speak — the more I came to realize that, believe it or not, we can learn a great deal about the future by looking at what is going on with manure. These are the lessons I learned from manure:

1. Accept that times are changing: We live in a time when change is taking place faster than ever, and is speeding up. The mere fact that there’s a profession of people known as “manure managers” shows we’re entering a world that will be far more complex. Recognizing that fact is step one to succeeding in the future.

2. Science is making waves : Manure managers exist because there’s a lot of innovation and R&D occurring with manure. For example, one of the biggest manure management problems involves what’s known as “pit crust.” As the name suggests, it’s the top layer of the manure in the pit, and it gets rather hard and crusty, leading to flies and rodents, not to mention enhanced smell problems.

Rapid evolution in biogenetics is helping to deal with the problem. Scientists determined that most of the pit crust comes from the outer shell of the corn that is fed to the animals, so they developed a specialized bio-enzyme that breaks down the shell during digestion, leading to a thinner crust. The result: fewer rodents and flies, less potential for disease and a big, positive environmental impact.

That’s but one example of how rapid scientific advance is causing change. Look into any industry, and you can see the emergence of all kinds of rapid innovation and new developments. Expect that trend to become more pronounced and even faster over time.

3. Hyper specialization will soon be standard : Given that there is so much new stuff going on, the typical farmer might not learn of the latest advances in manure management. That’s where the manure manager comes in — individuals who possess the specialized knowledge of what’s out there and what can be done with it. They are partners in the process, helping the farmers cope with the rapid change swirling around them.

A typical farmer can no longer be expected to know everything there is to know about farming today. They must call in outside expertise to help them deal with every type of complex issue, of which manure management is only one. And this is a trend true across the economy.

There is now so much new knowledge emerging that every profession and career is fragmenting into dozens of sub-specialties. No one person can be expected to master everything anymore.

4. A specialized partner can save you money : Manure managers are experts in providing farmers with the opportunity for revenue enhancement through the more intelligent application of manure on the fields. In one area in the U.S. Midwest, experts have been working with local farmers to undertake detailed soil and yield analysis to determine the best application rates for future plantings. The returns have been significant — one family farm saw a $19 increase in revenue yield per acre through such efforts. That might seem like a small number until you multiply it by 2,000 acres, for a net result of $38,000 — a big revenue improvement for a family farm operation.

That’s but one small example of how a specialized partner, dealing with specialized knowledge, can help you with your business. As the body of knowledge that surrounds us grows, there are all kinds of innovative, new and challenging ways to run the business better .

5. The future will be increasingly complex : Manure provides a useful signupst to a world that is going to involve a lot more change, specialization and complexity. Everything we know – the jobs in which we work, the professions in which we’ve been trained, the skills we possess, the marketplace in which we sell our products, the industry in which we work and the knowledge that we’re expected to master—will be extremely different tomorrow.

The fact that there exists in the world a group of people who are proud to be recognized as manure managers tells us a lot about the complexity of our future. Figuring out how to deal with such complexities will become the essence for innovative thinking, and from that, our future success.

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.

Jim Carroll - "I'm willing to admit that it was the first time I've ever had audience members getting their boots shined before my keynote address! But talk about an audience focused on innovation!"

The event was lined 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 (its the official 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 surpass 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 theme 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!

More information:

  • 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!” 

 

 

 

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