Why trying to predict the future of farming can be useful
Change is inevitable, and agriculture isn’t immune. For example, think back 12 years and consider how much farming has changed even in that short time span. New machines, new technologies, new seeds and new traits have altered the farming landscape.
Even cultural shifts have unfolded in the past decade that directly affect agriculture. Consumers weren’t demanding the level of transparency that they are now. Today, you can hear the steady hum from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and elsewhere online.
Now, consider for a moment what farming might look like in 2025? The question is fun to ponder, but it also has serious implications. If change is inevitable, then those who quickly adapt will have the best shot at success.
Here are a few things that futurists and other forward thinkers suggest might come to pass by the year 2025.
New competition. Commodity futures have enjoyed historically high prices for the past few years. Because of that, Mark Gold, managing partner with Top Third Ag Marketing, has been watching budding production regions overseas with great interest.
"The high commodity prices are waking up and developing new production areas," he says. "Once infrastructure is built, it doesn’t go away."
Rich Kottemeyer, global head of agriculture at Accenture, also looks globally when he considers the future of farming.
"We have to start with the fact that agriculture is fundamentally global," he says. "You have to consider what the globe is going to look like. So in 2025, we’re at 8 billion people and moving from a regional consumption model to a global one."
Kottemeyer says it comes down to what he calls "share of gut."
"What’s going into the gut of these extra 1 billion people?" he asks. "That’s the most important question we have to be able to answer."
The bottom line is we need to produce more food. Because of this, Kottemeyer says, biotechnology will proliferate, trade will become more globalized and the farm itself will more closely model manufacturing plants.
"Manufacturing plants have done a far better job than farmers in general in collecting, organizing and analyzing data," he says. "It’s time for the farm to become a true manufacturing plant."
Robots and tractor trends. Factories in other industries are driven by efficiency and autonomy that farms would be wise to emulate, says ag futurist Bob Treadway. A big component will be major integration of robotics.
"While it may be slow to come in the early part of the next 10 years, I expect acceleration of robotics in the latter half of the next decade," he says. "Not all farms will be totally robotic, but all farms will have significant robotic presence."
- September 2013