By Robert Morris - TerrAvion Inc. Founder and CEO
The following is a multi-part opinion piece on the future of ag retail by TerrAvion Inc. CEO Robert Morris.
Agronomy is a science and practice that looks at agriculture from an integrated, holistic perspective. Modern agronomy is an always evolving approach to agriculture that is driven by continuous advancements in science and data and involves the implementation of innovative technologies and farming practices that help growers increase their efficiency. Growers must constantly manage variables, such as the weather, nutrient content, soil moisture, threats from weeds, pests, and diseases, and the costs of dealing with these things. Advancements such as GMOs, synthetic fertilizers and irrigation and tillage practices have changed the way growers manage those variables and make a living by producing to meet the world’s food, fuel, and fiber needs.
There are four major entities involved in the commercial production of crops from seed to consumer-ready product. They are input providers, ag retailers, agronomists, and growers.
Input providers are the producers of the materials growers need to grow crops. These supplies such as seed, fertilizer, equipment, and farm data are provided by large companies such as Bayer, BASF, John Deere, and The Climate Corporation. These corporations offer retailers inputs at a wholesale price.
Ag retailers work more locally to distribute inputs to growers. Retailers set the price of the supplies to growers. These inputs include seed, nutrients, crop protection products, feed, equipment, and technology. Some retailers also provide consultative services such as crop scouting, soil and tissue sampling, and custom planting and nutrient management plans.
Agronomists and crop consultants are experts on the latest research findings, scientific and technological developments, and many other factors in raising a crop. They make recommendations on input decisions based on their extensive knowledge of chemistry, biology, economics, earth science, ecology, and genetics.
Growers are the actual producers of crops. They take the inputs and knowledge provided to them by their retailers and agronomists/consultants into practice and raise the crop. At the end of the season, they sell their harvest to an elevator such as Cargill at prices determined by the Chicago Board of Trade.
This is generally how the ag industry has functioned historically, but things are changing fast, and ag retailers, consultants, and agronomists will need to make adjustments to survive.
The future of ag retail
Ag retail faces serious challenges and changes in the coming decades as the internet, and new technologies change the landscape for retailers, consultants, and agronomists. That said, this disruption also presents an opportunity for retailers that embrace a modern, data-driven approach to agronomy. This blog series will detail a new point of view to ag retail and how the parts of the traditional model will need to adjust to meet the needs of the future of ag retail.
What are the key parts to a modern agronomy program? How does such a program affect traditional suppliers?
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