Debbie Coakley, Contributing Editor
WIRELESS INTERNET TECHNOLOGY, EXPANDED FIELD DEMOS GENERATE EXCITEMENT AT FARM SHOWS
The nation’s leading farm shows aren’t resting on their laurels. They’re continually expanding exhibit space, adding demonstration areas, utilizing new technology and offering seminars to keep exhibitors and producers coming back each year.
Among the trends is using high-speed wireless Internet access to offer more services to exhibitors, notes R. Craig Fendrick, executive coordinator for the North American Farm Show Council. Members of the organization recently met and discussed farm show trends. "Exhibitors are bringing computers to the show, and they want to be able to show visitors what’s available - everything from global positioning systems to parts lists to actual costs to dealers for products," he explains.
Many shows also are increasing their livestock demonstrations and exhibit areas because of the upswing in the livestock industry. Fendrick notes that shows are adhering to U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth disease. (See related article "Biosecurity Basics" in this issue.)
Below, managers of five shows across North America reveal what they’re introducing this year to make their shows bigger and better.
CANADA’S OUTDOOR FARM SHOW
Living up to its promise of delivering innovative and technologically advanced agricultural products and services, Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show has expanded its lineup of expos and demos. The show is slated for Sept. 11-13 on the University of Guelph’s Research Farm, located in Woodstock, Ontario. It annually draws 30,000 visitors from North America and beyond.
6he show’s new expos are ag fibre, dairy, nutrient management, tractor and sheep/goat. They join beef, biotech, energy, farm women, Internet, organic and woodlot.
The Ag Fibre Expo will emphasize new technology and products and examine the market potential for industrial uses of crops grown for fibre. "This year’s expo will bring leading-edge technology and information on crops such as flax, switchgrass and reed canary grass," says Ginty Jocius, president of Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show. "Predictions are that growing crops for industrial fibre production will soon be a major demand on tillable acreage."
For the Dairy Expo, Cover-All Building Systems Inc. is erecting a 70-by-120-foot barn to house the robotic milking demonstration, which debuted at last year’s show. "The robotic milker was a very popular demonstration," Jocius notes. "We’re excited about showcasing this event in a permanent structure."
Jocius says nutrient management is a major issue facing all farmers, who will be able to check out the latest in environmentally friendly technology at this new expo area.
The show also will showcase "super crops," which can be used for medicine and food safety. Featured will be tobacco plants that express a human gene for interleukin-10, which could be used to treat Crohn’s disease. Also, Toxin Alert Inc. will reveal how it has produced antibodies for a pathogen-detecting plastic wrap to show when harmful bacteria is present in foods such as raw chicken.
Other events will include field, livestock and seed/crop demos. Notable is the livestock expansion. "The livestock market is healthier," Jocius points out, "and more companies will be exhibiting their equipment and products."
In keeping with the show’s new technology theme, Bell Canada will introduce at this year’s event its wireless two-way Internet connection for the farm. "It will be available to rural subscribers across Canada," Jocius notes. "This satellite technology will make a significant difference in how farmers are able to access and send information."
Jocius points out that the beauty of an outdoor show is that there’s lots of room for expansion on the site’s 1,000 acres. For instance, parking and streets can be added to accommodate the growing number of exhibitors.
FARM PROGRESS SHOW
New things on the outside and inside of the exhibit field are in store for visitors to the Farm Progress Show, Sept. 25-27, in Lafayette, Ind.
This year is the first time attendees will be able to park their cars at one of two gates and then walk to the exhibit field to pay admission. "This change allows us to create an opening welcome mat for attendees," says Mark Randal, vice president of shows for Farm Progress Companies. "We’ll also offer a variety of services for visitors who arrive early. Farmers can purchase a continental breakfast and get information about the show so they can plan what they want to see and make the best use of their time."
Once inside the grounds, visitors will find more than 800 acres of field demonstrations plus a 75-acre "tent city" with hundreds of exhibitors. New this year are expanded livestock demonstration and exhibit areas. "The cattle industry is doing well, and we’ve had a lot of interest from smaller farmers who are growing their livestock area, as well as from animal health and equipment companies interested in co-sponsoring events at the show," Randal says.
Another event that will generate a lot of interest is a pilot project the Farm Progress Show is conducting with the National Farm-City Council on the last day of the show. "With fewer people living in rural areas, it’s important to bridge the communications gap and open channels to educate adults and children about the benefits agriculture offers them," Randal says.
Nonfarm school groups will be encouraged to attend the show on the final day to take advantage of educational opportunities provided by Purdue University and others. "Giving young people a special day to visit the show will be good for exhibitors in two ways. First, it will allow them more time to spend with customers on the first two days. It also will drive stronger participation on the final day."
Other improvements are under way for the live Web cam, introduced last year. "We’ll transmit information from yield monitors in the field through high-speed wireless Internet access and display it on a video screen so farmers can see the data firsthand," Randal says.
In addition, the high-speed wireless Internet technology will allow exhibitors to access their company’s database or Web site quickly and easily right at their booth. Then they can search for and print out information requested by farmers rather than take their name and mail the information later. "We want to set the standard of utilizing the latest technologies to help exhibitors make the most of our show," Randal concludes.
NATIONAL FARM MACHINERY SHOW
Farm equipment manufacturers know it as the Louisville Show. And farmers across the Midwest and elsewhere in North America know it as the place to learn about innovations in farming techniques and equipment. The National Farm Machinery Show will take place Feb. 13-16, 2002, at the Kentucky Fair Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky. Attendance at the 37-year-old show has topped 280,000 visitors annually for the past several years.
"Virtually all majors line of equipment - as well as seeds, chemicals and livestock supplies - are featured at the show," says Harold Workman, president/CEO. "As we find ourselves in the midst of a technological revolution, the National Farm Machinery Show and its exhibitors are providing agribusiness professionals with comprehensive product comparisons under one roof."
Workman boasts that although the show is indoors, it added substantial exhibit space during the 1990s and has another expansion scheduled for 2003. "We feature more than 800 exhibitors in more than 1 million square feet of space. We’re looking to add 170,000 square feet of exhibit space and 57,000 square feet of conference space."
The exhibit space likely will highlight the show’s international exhibitors and attendees, who come from as far away as The Netherlands, India, Italy and Japan. And adding conference space will provide opportunities to do more seminars and feature more speakers. "We can’t fulfill the requests we have now," Workman notes. "Exhibitors want the opportunity to have seminars for their customers and have a place to meet with people privately during the show."
The National Farm Machinery Show currently produces seminars in conjunction with Farm Journal magazine. "We usually have one on economics and another featuring Ken Ferry, a corn planter expert," Workman says. "They are great companions to the show and provide more value for attendees."
The close of the exhibit floor each day heralds the beginning of another show - the annual Championship Tractor Pull. "The tractor pull is a major asset for the National Farm Machinery Show," Workman explains. "It provides an evening of entertainment for exhibitors and attendees. Plus, the tractor pull draws local residents to the show and focuses local attention on the importance of the agribusiness industry."
SUNBELT AGRICULTURAL EXPOSITION
The diversity of field demonstrations makes the Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition shine. The outdoor and indoor show features harvesting and tillage demonstrations for crops ranging from cotton, peanuts, corn, soybeans and Bermuda grass hay. Last year turf grass harvesting and sprigging demonstrations were added. The show takes place annually at Spence Field, a World War II airbase in Moultrie, Ga. The dates this year are Oct. 16-18.
"We want to bring the latest cutting-edge technology so attendees can come in and experience it firsthand and see how it can fit into their operation," says Chip Blalock, executive director for the 24-year-old show. "We want to show technology before it’s the norm on the farm."
The turf grass addition was a result of exhibitor requests. This year the turf grass domes will double from 2 to 4 acres to accommodate additional equipment demonstrations. "Turf grass is a huge business in the Southeast," Blalock notes. "Furthermore, farmers are looking to diversify their operations among various crops to enhance their risk/return ratio."
The demonstrations take place on a 600-hundred-acre working farm in the midst of the three-day technology showcase, so visitors get to see how well varieties perform and the latest equipment in action. "Each year we bring attendees something new - whether it is the variable application of fertilizer throughout a field, precision irrigation techniques or auto-steer tractor technology," Blalock says.
Something new this year at the working farm is an Integrated Cotton Production Winter Grazing Trial. The four-year study will look at the profitability of integrating winter beef cattle grazing into cotton production. It also will monitor the impact of winter grazing on subsequent production of cotton (and peanuts in rotation) in conventional and strip tillage systems. USDA is conducting the study in cooperation with the University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences and the Georgia Cotton Commission.
"Demonstrations like this will be a major draw for attendees who are looking for a source of income in the off season," Blalock says.
This year the show’s international business center will expand to accommodate the growing number of international visitors. In 2000 attendees came from 30 international countries, including Europe, the Pacific Rim, Africa and the Middle East. The Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism staff manages the center during the show, matches up visitors with exhibitors with products in which they’re interested, and then escorts them to the booths. "This is a great opportunity for exhibitors to expand their international marketing efforts," Blalock notes.
WORLD AG EXPO
Topping the introduction of the E-Commerce Pavilion and the Heritage Complex at the 2001 World Ag Expo might seem a difficult feat. But visitors and exhibitors at the next show, Feb. 12-14, 2002, will be greeted with an easier drive into the site, additional outdoor lots and extra emphasis on international trade. What’s more, an attendee registration system is in the works and could be ready by 2003.
First, the main feeder street into the International Agri-Center grounds, where the show takes place annually, will be widened from two to four lanes through an economic development grant to the city of Tulare, Calif. Parking also will be reconfigured not only to more easily accommodate RVs and VIP parking, but also to add 13 outdoor exhibit spaces.
"Even with 2.1 million square feet of exhibit space, we try to allow the show to grow in a controlled manner to accommodate more exhibitors," notes Gary Schulz, general manager of the International Agri-Center, the show’s sponsor. "Our goal is to give attendees the most opportunities to see the latest technology, equipment and products in one place at one time."
The Heritage Complex, introduced in 2000, is the hub of international activities during the show. Schulz reports that about 2,000 international visitors come from 60 foreign countries. "Two-thirds of exhibitors surveyed indicate they are interested in forming joint ventures globally or exporting."
The E-Commerce Pavilion, which features seminars presented by e-commerce exhibitors, will be moved closer to the Heritage Complex so exhibitors can conduct one-on-one selling and counseling seminars in the professional offices at the building.
Also in the works is a conference and trade show this fall for exhibitors. An expert in trade shows will inform exhibitors how to get the most from World Ag Expo. Schulz also plans to bring in contractors for canopies and tents, the table decorator, electrical contractor and Yellow Freight, which handles most of the show’s shipping. "We want exhibitors to know what’s ahead of them in terms of marketing strategies, as well as being aware of all the mechanics of exhibiting they need to consider," Schulz notes.
For the 2003 World Ag Expo, Schulz is exploring options for registering attendees. For instance, visitors would pre-register or register on site and receive a special name badge. Then when they stop at booths and request information about products or services, exhibitors can easily swipe the badge to electronically gather the person’s name, mailing address, or demographic information.
"Exhibitors are eager for us to implement this program," Schulz says. "It will provide them with a profile of the entire crowd, and specifically those showing interest in their product or service." AM
Debbie Coakley is a freelance writer based in Warrenville, Ill.