One of the most common requests I receive for speaking topics regard the future of agriculture and agricultural lending. In today’s economic times, and with constant domestic and global changes, forecasting can be difficult. Yet, from my travels and discussions, there are some future trends that will most likely focus many future discussions over the next few months. Let’s take a closer look at one.
One slide I have previously used in speaking sessions puts the concept of data in perspective nicely.The graph shows the thickness of information developed over a given period of time. Starting at the earliest recordation of data and going to 1900, all the information developed in the world is 1 inch thick.From 1900 to after World War II in 1945, information data is 1 meter thick or just over 3 feet. Today, the information created in the world is equal to the height of the Washington Monument.
Clearly, data is critical in business and life decisions, and can provide the competitive edge. For example, many of today’s dairy farmers are implementing robotics to reduce their dependence on labor. However, they have also discovered a wealth of information that can be used to increase production, cost, and overall efficiencies in the business.
Another example of the power of data is that which is recorded by today’s combines, planters, and sprayers. This information not only allows progressive producers to optimize inputs, but it also provides valuable data on crops. This type of detail can be useful in marketing, especially in domestic and international sectors where consumer preferences are more discriminant or specific.
In agricultural lending, the expanse of data is also booming. Lenders and producers alike are using computerized spreadsheets and software to run various production, marketing, and financial scenarios. Of course, this is a helpful resource in decision making, but is also useful in identifying risk. Other lenders, agribusinesses, and consultants are utilizing data and information to enhance their value in working side-by-side with their customers.
In fact, the challenge for many businesses is data accessibility. Providing information for mobile devices that can be accessed anywhere at any time is a technical and constant process. Yet, this is an increasing demand as more young producers are multi-taskers. That is, while running the grain cart they may also be taking a financial management class online, or analyzing last year’s production results.
If history is any indicator, the power of data and information is in its infancy. Today, the key for any manager, educator, or consultant is to sift through all the information quickly, and then, relevantly apply it to each individual customer and business. In other words, both for the consumer and producer, customized information will be a large part of the data-driven future of agriculture.