The world of agriculture is changing so fast — from top to bottom — that over the next few years, we may be wondering, “what have we done?”
Two years ago, Agri-Trend’s Rob Saik wrote a book called The Agriculture Manifesto, which predicted massive change in the industry, driven by 10 factors such as “non-science” skeptics, high-tech advances and market segmentation. I read it when I was still fairly new to agriculture. Now that I’ve been reading The Western Producer cover to cover for two years, it’s a more interesting read.
But what’s happening now can both support and disrupt agricultural achievements, or even create an alternative universe.
The mergers and takeovers loom large: Bayer-Monstanto, ChemChina-Syngenta, Dow-DuPont, Potash Corp.-Agrium.
The mining industry in Ontario consolidated a few years back. The former Inco Ltd., a Canadian company, was the largest nickel mining company in the world. But it needed billions of dollars in capital investment to upgrade its mines. So it was bought by Brazilian mining giant Vale, which provided that capital, but also imposed its labour outlook on the miners, causing a year-long strike.
What will the compendium of advantages and disadvantages look like with the massive consolidation in agriculture?
Then there are the trade deals. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, negotiated between 12 Pacific Rim countries, would open new markets for North American farmers. But it’s increasingly being threatened. So is the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union.
And what of technological advancements? We used to look at drones as cool new technology that supports agronomy, and they do, but now we’re looking at such things as robot tractors that could make harvest more practical and profitable. (Saik’s book talks about artificial intelligence that may be able to sift through volumes of farm data to improve farm management.)
Some of this is incremental; some of this is game changing. But what effect will mergers, politics, protesters, economies of scale and scientific skeptics have on all this?
Several years from now, we may indeed ask, “what have we done?”
Or we may ask, “why didn’t we do better?”