Four experts share their thoughts on forthcoming farm trends
If you peered into agriculture’s crystal ball, what would you see? In the decades to come, can we expect to see robots crisscrossing fields and zapping weeds with lasers? Or will our food be comprised of genetic-specific vitamins? Will farmers and ranchers have field and pasture activity live-streamed to their phones or offices for continuous monitoring? Science and technology evolve quickly, giving realm to "anything’s possible." Predicting the future definitely isn’t easy, but it can be fun. Four experts offer their perspectives on how different aspects of ag will shape up by 2025.
New Mexico State University ag economist
Cattle have traditionally been grouped, treated and marketed as a herd. In the future, this industry will be more focused on the individual characteristics of cattle.
Farmers and ranchers will be able to raise animals of similar characteristics. Farmers will grow specific animals and plants for specific customers.
Smartphones will dramatically change medical diagnostics. They are already being outfitted with molecular lenses so that you can do blood work or other medical tests. Technologies such as this will be used extensively in veterinary medicine. Soon, you might be able to snap a picture of your cow’s eye and diagnose its condition. This will change animal health and the livestock industry in ways that we can only dream about.
Other changes might come from cloud-sourcing data. Ranchers throughout a region could monitor the health of their herds through technologies such as ubiquitous computing—an advanced concept that feeds constant data through multiple devices. Then, ranchers could route the data
to a central source, which would make it possible to predict the outbreak of infectious diseases. Ranchers might even be paid for that information.
Accenture senior executive and global leader of agriculture and development
To look at agriculture in 2025, you have to think about what the world will look like, since agriculture is fundamentally a global business. We are in the process of transitioning from a regional agricultural consumption model to a global model.
The middle class is growing and for the first time, many have choices in what they eat and the variety available. As a result, agriculture is shifting away from crop commoditization and moving toward more of a value-added system.
Farmers also have choices. You can grow a commodity, which will earn you a commodity price. That is good today, but it might not be tomorrow. Or you can be a little bit more of a value-added player, without sacrificing basic risk management. For example, there are different soybean types and varieties, but we don’t sell them that way. If you segment your product, you can sell it differently and have greater margin potential.
These two management options (large, consolidated and efficient or small, value-added and contract-tied) can both flourish—even on the same farm.
Ag futurist and author of "Future Harvests" and "We Will Reap What We Sow"
In the future, I see two distinct consumer groups. One is in the emerging countries, particularly China. As people enter the middle class, they change their diets. They used to have mainly rice, and now they want meat, fish, fruits and vegetables. When a country of more than 1.5 billion people consumes more meat, it translates to huge volumes. China’s increased demand for more protein will change the entire food scape—not only in animal production, but also the feedstocks required to raise them.
The second group is the developed countries. In these countries, people eat more food than they need and are starting to fear the related health effects.
- December 2013