In the busy-ness of our day-to-day lives, it can be a challenge to step outside the norm and soak in some expertise from other frontiers and industries. But it’s necessary to make time to do this to expand your mind and evolve your business.
I had an opportunity to see how the other half of horticulture lives recently when I attended United Fresh in Chicago in June. The conference (which also includes the International Floriculture Expo, so I didn’t step away completely from floriculture) was enlightening in that, while still addressing topics that are important to our industry, like labor shortages and consumer demand, it’s different in many ways.
For instance, the show, which included fruit, citrus, and vegetable producers, distributors, packinghouses, cold chain and shipping professionals, food and drink manufacturers, food marketing companies, retailers, and technology companies, is vertically complex. The produce industry is highly diversified and progressive, focused on innovation, technology, consumer marketing, and developing solutions that will appeal not only to today’s consumers but also to the future generation of consumers. How to improve kids’ palates, and the way they approach filling their plates was one initiative. Sound familiar?
Technology was a front-and-center initiative and included a very impressive showcase of young innovators who had developed technology solutions that reduce food waste while feeding the hungry, increase crop yields, use data in blockchain to improve food safety protocols, and more.
At the FreshTEC Conference, Keynote Speaker David Krause, President of Wonderful Citrus, presented a grower’s view on adopting technology and automation. His take-home message to the group was this: Agriculture has been slow to adopt technology, and has fallen behind many other industries, but there are companies that are developing tools that will change the way we do business, for our own good. It is our responsibility to do our part and get to work on figuring out how to use these technologies in our operations.
His point is a good one. Venture capitalists are busy raising money to invest in rapidly advancing technology. One such gentleman, Japanese businessman Masayoshi Son, President of SoftBank, has raised $100 billion with the sole purpose of funding technology that will “disrupt all industries.” The Economist featured Son on its cover recently, saying the impact of his interest and investment in technology will be profound.
Agriculture is ripe for disruption — and if you look around, there are companies from diverse backgrounds that are peering in our windows, looking at the way we do things, and developing ideas and tools and technologies that will change the way we do business — or creating more efficient companies as our competition. If we don’t work to change our own operations and be open to the possibilities that could improve our day-to-day lives, reduce our workloads, improve our quality, and increase our margins — then they will, and we’ll be out of business.
Nobody can afford to do things the way they’ve always been done, for the sake of tradition or just plain being obstinate. With increased costs, razor-thin margins, and increased competition not only from the competition that you know about down the road, but also the online businesses popping up, of which you may not be aware, keeping the blinders on will eventually drive your employees away and force you out of business. Don’t let that happen to your operation — seek out solutions that will help you keep moving forward.