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Source: blog by Diane Martin, Rhea+Kaiser

The future successes of ag marketers depend on setting strategies now that incorporate what ag will look like in 5, 10 or even 20 years from now.

Recently I participated in a roundtable to discuss what the future of ag looks like and how it will affect marketing to farmers. None of us are economists nor futurists. We are a group of ag marketers who develop, or at least, support long-range goals and strategic plans - sometimes looking 5, 10 and 20 years out.

Our conversation was electric with ideas, debate and suggested implications on farmers and marketing. We covered a wide range of topics that went beyond the global population explosion, climate change and shifts in global power. We also identified three trends happening that ag marketers need to embrace now to gain competitive advantage and better position themselves for the future of ag.

Emergence of a second economy in agriculture

Small, specialty, first-generation, diversified, women-owned, minority-owned, organic or farm-to-table. Regardless of what you call them, they are all on the rise in American agriculture. And, over the coming years, they're expected to continue to increase in number, economic viability and importance to brands that market to farmers. However, most marketers have tended to prioritize larger, commercial farms for growth and domination, perhaps overlooking this growing albeit fragmented second ag economy. With the growing abundance of affordable channels, there are fewer reasons why marketers cannot operate in both ag economies.

Generational shift on the farm

The Millennials are working on the farm. The Gen Xers are making more decisions on the farm. Boomers and Matures still control a lot on the farm. Don't forget Gen Zers are growing up on the farm. As numerous studies have shown us, we will see a seismic generational shift in the next 10-15 years on who is making decisions about production practices, technology, brands and people on the farms.

The marketers who will win are those who embrace the different ways each generation thinks about how they farm, get information and engage brands. These marketers aren't just thinking about media channels, they're also thinking about how and when each generation engages brands in the sales funnel. For example, the acquisition strategy with Millennials is for them to find ag brands through content marketing.

Internet of Things (IoT) redefining productivity

Whether we're talking precision agriculture, robotic milking, auto-steer tractors or remote irrigation management, the Internet of things is on the farm and it's changing what people do and how they do it on the farm. For the farmers, they're spending more time managing and less time operating. Their fingers are spending more time swiping smartphones and clicking on spreadsheets and less time in the soil, manure and grease on the farm. White-collar or knowledge skills, though, isn't exclusive to farm owners. Farm labor will become increasingly tech savvy, too. Someone has to keep the IoT on the farm up-and-running. And it's only going to become more the norm, which means approach and messaging will need to speak to the hearts and new minds of farmers.

The velocity of change in agriculture isn't likely to slow down anytime soon. Ag marketers who wait for a trend to become the norm may find themselves behind and irrelevant. We need to look forward more than we look backward as we develop ag marketing strategies and initiatives. We need to start marketing for the future now.

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