Here I offer some specific insights into what I saw at the show. Here are my more general impressions.
I am not a farmer, but I am increasingly interested in the business of farming and how my skills in software innovation and marketing relate and can be applied. In that regard, I am fortunate to live so close to what is billed as the world’s largest Ag Show. This was my second time attending.
Unlike last year, when I was mostly curious to see what would be at such a show, I arrived with some ideas of what I wanted to see based on what I saw last year, and what I have observed locally in the ag economy.
On the one hand, I thought it would be neat if I paid more attention to data based companies that were exhibiting. Farming is a game of cycles, of risk assessment and management at every turn. Not only in production, which I remembered being the focus of the show from last year, but also the complex distribution channel between the producers and the end user – the consumer for the most part.
I decided to be on the look out for companies that had innovative data based products.
On the one hand, I thought it would be fun to preview some gadgets on this (or maybe a new) blog. But they were few and far between, and many of them were the same as last year. There were no major product introductions, and it made me wonder how long the ones I saw for the first time last year were in the pipeline.
But what struck me was not so much as what was present, but what was absent:
- lack of standards in integrating the data based devices and services that are available
- lack of attendance by the channels
- lack of overall business focus in tight times for farmers.
Sure, there were plenty of gee-whiz products and services, but for the most part I didn’t get the sense that the company behind them has the vision to lead a growth company and make their products an essential part of farming.
And there were plenty of me-too products, essentially undifferentiated, both large and small. Take the immense outdoor displays of farm machinery such tractors. The names on the exhibits range from the well known (John Deere, Toyota, Ford), to what seems to be only slightly more then “Joe’s Garage”. None of the tractor dealers seemed to be eager to provide any differentiating features between their product and the one next door. Can they all be building little more then a variation on a theme? Why not focus marketing efforts on ways that the farmer/purchaser will improve the bottom line – favorable finance terms, less work then the way he does it now to reduce costs, better crop production leading to higher prices, etc. ? Instead the machines seem to be marketed by their sleek lines and pretty colors. Weird.
This tells me that there is opportunity indeed for a company that focuses on the value of green technology and financial value within a complex distribution channel. Farming is a big industry worldwide. and is likely to mature considerably in the coming future. I don’t mean that to say that what remaining small ag will become big ag, Rather, I mean that the end consumer and the producer will find value in all sorts of data relating to food, and that new products, services, and channels are going to emerge as a result. I’d like to see this become a major focus of the World Ag Show, which I know is facing increasing competition, in order to differentiate itself and provide a lasting service to the Ag community.