Farm show makes online move work

The familiar sights of the Ag in Motion farm show had to be abandoned this year because of COVID-19. Instead, they were replaced by online presentations and product demonstrations.  |  Robin Booker photo

Teamwork played a key role in creating this year’s Ag In Motion Discovery Plus show, said event organizers.

Delivering a virtual agriculture event during a pandemic took a cross-country effort, said Rob O’Connor, director of the Ag in Motion (AIM) outdoor farm show, which is part of Glacier FarmMedia, the company that also owns The Western Producer.

“Being able to utilize all the people throughout all the different divisions at Glacier FarmMedia has been the number one reason we’re able to put this together in such a short amount of time,” said O’Connor.

As the impact of COVID-19 grew throughout March and April, it became clear that the farm show would have to adapt and change to the new reality of social distancing.

The company announced May 7 that Ag in Motion would use a virtual platform and run July 21-26.

Lynda Tityk, executive vice-president of Glacier FarmMedia in Winnipeg, said organizers always held onto the vison that it was crucial to provide farmers with the information they needed to do their jobs.

“Part of that is providing the connection to the latest in innovation and technology and our industry partners and exhibitors.”

However, producing the virtual show in 14 weeks was like inventing an entirely new show.

“We weren’t building roads, but we were building online infrastructure. When we do a physical show, we spend months preparing the site for our visitors to arrive. And for our exhibitor partners to come and be able to display (online), it’s exactly the same. It’s just that you’re working in a virtual space instead and it requires a completely different set of skills,” said Tityk.

She said AIM and Glacier FarmMedia sometimes worked with partners to supply content but about 50 percent of it was created in-house.

The Ag In Motion Discovery Plus show site hosted 240 online sessions, which included some popular past events, albeit virtual, along with new features.

Equipment demonstrations reviewed air seeders and tillage equipment. There were virtual driving experiences in high-clearance sprayers and utility terrain vehicles.

The new format also featured knowledge-based sessions, livestock information, crop plots, product launches and exhibitor showcases. The educational component had panel discussions, live webinars and live question and answer sessions with presenters.

“We found early on that great presenters and keynote speakers were going to be essential for us to attract farmers. And we’re seeing too that the dynamics of the online videos attract a lot of people,” said O’Connor.

O’Connor said one of the challenges was conveying to the hundreds of traditional exhibitors an understanding of how the new format would work.

“Nobody’s ever seen anything like this in the ag industry before, so they can’t draw from their own experience. They have to believe what we’re telling them and try to visualize what we’re telling them,” he said.

“It was quite a process trying to build, teach, learn, understand all at the same time and in just 14 weeks.”

Nutrien was one of the first of about 170 companies to commit, which Cynthia Deitz said was a learning curve but ultimately a good investment.

“It got a little tight from the time the decision was made to transfer it into virtual and to actually execute on digital, but I think we managed to make it work,” said the Proven Seed brand manager.

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