Many of the speakers at the 2013 Farm Journal Forum, co-hosted by Informa Economics, talked about the need for agriculture production to double by the year 2050, to meet the rapidly expanding needs of a growing population. Key to meeting this daunting challenge is innovation, notes Kip Tom, managing partner of Tom Farms and CEO of Cereserv Inc. This is needed both to increase access to food around the world and to keep prices low relative to consumers’ disposable income. While Americans spend a small percentage of their income on food, this is not the case in other areas of the world.
The convergence of biotechnology, information technology and mechanical implementation/process control technology will drive the future of agriculture, according to Tom. He explained that farmers must change the way they view their fields from analogue to digital and that systems are needed to do this on a fixed amount of resources.
Tom also pointed out that farmers have made significant advances in terms of managing these limited resources and reducing their carbon footprint, but he says they need to do a better job of communicating these advances.
Trends in breeding, practice improvement and new biotech products signal yield potential of 300 bu. per acre is likely by 2030 in the U.S., according to Tom, and bringing information technology into the mix will accelerate this trend.
But implementation capability and acceptance of biotechnology and other innovative practices varies widely across the world. Indeed, the very definition of innovation varies depending upon which part of the world one is considering. The U.S. will have to lead the way in advancing innovative practices.
Growing, diversified global demand, consumer expectations, access to science and technology, changes in the ag business model and government policy all shape the need for innovation in agriculture, according to Tom. Of these, he says government policy is his biggest concern, as this can be a limiting factor. Specifically, Tom noted concern about:
1. Government interaction on farms acting as an inhibiting factor.
2. The lack of infrastructure in the U.S. to handle 300 bu. per acre corn crops projected for 2030.
3. The need for free market solutions for crop insurance that lower costs.