Sunday, March 3, 2024

Turning challenge into change

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The agriculture sector needs to work together to turn disruption into opportunity, Rangitikei farming couple Laura and Richard Morrison say.
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They gave a presentation on farmer perspectives on innovation and disruption at the Rural Innovation Lab’s muster in Palmerston North.

A pan-sector approach has been a long time coming, Laura Morrison said.

“I believe we should be working out where wheels have already been invented and getting in touch. And that is starting to happen more and more. Even pan-industry and international comparisons are starting to come into play.”

Farmers need to hold the usual suspects to account when they’re peddling the same old messaging.

“And we need to push for change if we are not enjoying the status quo.

“Where I believe we need help to maximise industry buy-in across new technologies is in the how and that’s where new agtech and innovation is key.”

But the way agtech is marketed to farmers might not be as effective as it could be.

“What, as a farmer, do I want from researchers and academics and techies and innovators and marketers and bigwigs who have platforms, power and profit to help me produce more food?

“To be the farmer that performs optimally because, let’s be honest, an increased bottom line will be a driving factor behind adoption of new tech, our needs are simple – will my animals be okay with these changes, will my land be okay with these changes, will I be able to drive ongoing profit and will this make my life easier? Will this make my life better?”

Top 10% farm owners need to be nimble and pro-active, she said. 

They need to know what their contingency is and recognise triple bottom line advantage. They must believe in their why and keep assessing it, know their expertise limitations and outsource where necessary.

Morrison said the word confrontation is easily and wrongly used in place of robust discussion, which drives her bananas and costs farming businesses dearly in terms of opportunity to increase bottom lines.

“How many opportunities do we miss out on because at a time when we’re merely being challenged or an alternative opinion has been offered we react and respond as if we are being confronted? 

“It’s scary or too much admin and no thanks, I’ll stick to what I’m doing, avoid the discussion, bury my head in the sand and continue on the same average-performing trajectory because I don’t like confrontation.

“If we change the way we communicate we will find confidence in our farming practices, be driven to innovate and feel comfortable in adopting new tech sooner. We might even start snowballing on the disruptive front.

“Farmers need to feel okay about asking and answering questions. Curiosity will not kill the cat. It will keep the cream in our profits.”

Farmers need to be okay about pushing back because some farmers are ahead of disruption or at least in the thick of disrupting. 

“Some of us are embracing change. Some of us have always done what’s now being asked of everyone in our industry.”

Though she wants to see the pistols at dawn banter between millennials and boomers flipped to provide opportunity for dynamic business operations and an increase in diversification in businesses the developers and marketers should channel the tension that exists. 

“Those who push boundaries, drive change and cause disruption should focus on a farming trait that you’ll find from the top performers through to the masses – competitiveness. Farmers are overtly or quietly competitive even if it’s just with themselves, their own numbers, their own performance year on year.”

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