SUM­MER GRAINS:

Fu­tur­ist warns of ‘shiny toy syn­drome’ and im­por­tance of cus­tomers

The Western Star - - Rural Weekly - AN­DREA DAVY

❝For

a long time, it has been said there isn’t enough ven­ture cap­i­tal flow­ing through to ag tech. That has changed.

— Paul Hig­gins

WHEN you are think­ing about the fu­ture of your farm­ing busi­ness, don’t be­come a vic­tim of “shiny-toy syn­drome”. That’s the mes­sage from fu­tur­ist Paul Hig­gins, dur­ing day two of the 2019 Aus­tralian Sum­mer Grains Con­fer­ence, held on the Gold Coast this week.

The best way for the agricultur­e in­dus­try to pre­pare for evolv­ing mar­ket trends was to start think­ing about their “cus­tomers and their cus­tomer’s cus­tomers”.

“I see time and time again peo­ple say ‘I have this shiny new bit of stuff, I can go and do this thing, so I am going to do it’,” he said. Be­fore investing in new prod­ucts he en­cour­aged farm­ers to ask: “can this new bit of tech­nol­ogy do some­thing for my cus­tomer?” Mr Hig­gins pre­dicted fu­ture con­sumers to be de­mand­ing, and in­for­ma­tion hun­gry. Trends from grow­ing mar­kets in Ja­pan and South Korea in­di­cated con­sumers wanted more in­for­ma­tion about their food, and how it was pro­duced, he said. Con­sumers were be­ing “trained” to ex­pect the high­est level of ser­vice.

He asked the room if any of the par­tic­i­pants had chil­dren, and how their kids re­acted when Net­flix buffered for more than a cou­ple sec­onds.

“They whine,” he said. “That’s the sort of ex­pec­ta­tions that are be­ing built. I am not say­ing that you can rise completely to that level, but cus­tomer ex­pec­ta­tions are ris­ing again and again.” Most fu­ture pred­i­ca­tions for pri­mary pro­duc­ers were bright.

“The gen­er­alised story that is be­ing told around agricultur­e is that in the fu­ture there will be more peo­ple with more money,” he said.

“Peo­ple with more money eat more an­i­mal protein – and there is no more land and no more wa­ter. So, you are in the best pos­si­ble busi­ness - there is huge grow­ing de­mand and no more sup­ply. All of you will be multi-mil­lion­aires in the years ahead.” He then asked all the farm­ers in the room if they agreed that would be the case. As no one raised their hands, Mr Hig­gins cau­tioned in­dus­try mem­bers to not rely on a sin­gle vision of the fu­ture. He said it was more pos­si­ble that farm­ing would re­main a tough busi­ness, but agreed fu­ture growth was likely. He also warned farm­ers to treat new tech­nol­ogy on the mar­ket with cau­tious optimism. “For a long time, it has been said there isn’t enough ven­ture cap­i­tal flow­ing through to ag tech,” he said. “That has changed.

“A word of cau­tion on that, it has changed and that means you will have far more prod­ucts and sys­tems in the work­place that will fall over. Be­cause ven­ture cap­i­tal in­vestors (fo­cus on in­vest­ments) that are far more risky.” More cov­er­age of the con­fer­ence in next week’s edi­tion.

PHOTO: AN­DREA DAVY

FOR­WARD THINK­ING: Fu­tur­ist Paul Hig­gins talk­ing about evolv­ing mar­kets and how to pre­pare for them at the 2019 Aus­tralian Sum­mer Grains Con­fer­ence.

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