Two of the biggest drivers bringing change to ag retail are technology and consolidation.
Here are three examples of how ag retailers are reacting:
- Retailers rent robots. Since March, Wilbur-Ellis in California’s Salinas Valley has offered customers access to three automated thinners as a new service. Used in romaine lettuce, head lettuce and leaf lettuce, the automated thinners use artificial intelligence to identify plants for precise herbicide application.
- Growmark launches AgValidity to test ag tech. Particularly in the past two years, the team at Growmark has been increasingly approached by ag tech startups as a testing or distribution partner. To evaluate these startups, the co-op has responded by creating the AgValidity program. In 2019, Growmark will have field trials testing 20 technologies.
- CoBank reports co-ops continue consolidation trend. Its latest report details 70 co-ops were consolidated annually, on average, from 2007 to 2017. During the current ag economic downturn, the pace of co-op consolidation has quickened—averaging 4% annually in 2016 and 2017, whereas in 2011 it was 1.2%. Dan Kowalski, vice president, Knowledge Exchange, CoBank, says since 2004 co-ops have been putting themselves in offensive positions to adapt to new customer-member demands and offer greater scale and services. Looking ahead, he expects consolidation in the industry to continue.
I talked more about this on AgriTalk this week, and here’s that discussion with host Chip Flory: