Here’s a counter-intuitive notion, that if we’re smart, could allow our ‘analogue’ agricultural systems to thrive in a digital world.
But to do so we MUST own our story.
My contention is, the more society connects to the cloud, the more we will want to connect to the land.
That is, as virtual and artificial becomes ubiquitous and cheaper, the more valuable and special will be realn
ess and authenticity.
Realness and authenticity is about ‘trust’. In theory most of our current farming-based industries should have a distinct advantage in this regard. Which is the problem when it comes to agriculture.
Because farmers, companies and our country can only benefit by branding our key comparative and competitive advantage – namely our ability to grow, and knowledge about pastures.
We don’t share a brand/name/story around this, though we’ve poured billions of dollars into its R&D over 120 years.
Now, compared to factory or feedlot farming, the way we grow pasture and raise animals – sustainably (mostly), scientifically, safely, ethically – is the way discerning and affluent consumers would do it themselves.
The only protein production system that can say ‘visit’
Indeed, we’re the only protein production system that can happily say, ‘visit’.But because we have no brand/name/story for what, how and why we grow pasture, there’s no way to:
- Charge more for our superior protein products
- Justify (an increased?) R&D investment
- Inspire young people into what they currently perceive as a moribund industry
Our primary agriculture is still commodity oriented, is gradually being taken over by foreign interests, and has increasing public irrelevance – all because we don’t own our story.
Sure many NZ primary industry focused interests attempt to put their own spin on a ‘method’ we all own. However, there is no critical mass around these names, no shared story.
Equally, the plethora of names such as natural, grass-fed, free-range et al don’t describe the value proposition of our pastoral method, doesn’t link to consumers’ emotions, has no resonance.
Such terms don’t allow us to differentiate the animal-based products coming from our land, or enable our seed, animal genetics or stock control agribusiness to set themselves apart.
Strength for a digital future
The irony is soon as we did name our pastoral method at a national level, we would give our agriculture a position of strength in a digital future.
We’d give ourselves a platform on which to tell our shared story. Individual companies would have a supporting brand/name/story to underpin their marketing efforts.
How confident am I that our farming industry can see this, make a simple change?
Not confident at all.
In spite of the fact an NZ-owned pasture brand would provide tangible ‘trust’ for global consumers, and enable a correctly aligned underpinning for a host of improvements in the industry, it will probably never be done.
Farming’s much more comfortable pedalling ever faster, for ever diminishing returns, than shining a light on what we do exceptionally well.
We’re too busy fighting each other in the market, we can’t see that there’s advantage in working together.
Rather than taking a deep breath, and giving a brandname to the reason our hills are green, we continue to race to the bottom with everyone else. Naming our specialness is too blindingly obvious a thing to do to ever have a hope of being achieved.
NZ Inc agriculture has the opportunity to stake a global claim for a methodology that works in harmony with nature, and take worldwide ownership of a natural space.
We can own a small part of the market representing realness and authenticity. We can give primary industry a healthy, sustainable and profitable future by being able to tell, and retell our what makes us special through digital storytelling.
We can demonstrate our trustworthiness.
But, all this is possible, ONLY if we name what we do best.
The Sciblogs Horizon Scan
This post is part of the Sciblogs Horizon Scan summer series, featuring posts from New Zealand researchers exploring what the future holds across a range of fields.