There are a number of current trends that are unfolding globally that are impacting the agricultural industry, and the industry must be cognisant of these, while realising that these also have the potential to benefit the industry.
The was the message delivered by Flux Trends finance specialist Bronwyn Williams in an address at Agri SA’s Commodity and Corporate Chamber Conference, in Pretoria, this week.
Williams highlighted that the first wave of disruption was driven by the emergence of Millennials into the workplace, the emergence of social media, the breakdown of the industrial media complex and the 2008/9 recession.
Millennials mark the first generation to grow up with fewer economic prospects than their parents, which results in political unrest, she noted.
Therefore, Millennials are driving a breakdown in the value chain, owing to cost pressures from the 2008/9 recession. There is also consumer pressure as a result of Millennials, who shop and consume differently than previous generations.
As a result, the agricultural industry has to contend with the “spoiled consumer”. These consumers know what they want, want it quickly, want more personalised products and are not happy with merely consuming stock that is off the shelf.
The industry also has to contend with the conscious consumer, said Williams. These consumers align themselves with brands and products that respect their interests, morals and identities.
However, she noted that this came with a caveat of consumers also wanting the best possible deals and bargains, and who were willing to let ethics slide for this.
She also mentioned the vegan rush, and further to this, alternative proteins taking off among consumers, for example, insects as sources of protein. Even South Africa, which is characteristically a meat-loving country, is seeing strides in veganism, and there are pockets of opportunities for this.
There is also the trend of faux or “free-from” foods.
Further, the world is experiencing a second wave of disruptive megatrends, and a number of these will affect the agriculture industry.
Williams cited ‘agritecture’, which entails integrating agriculture into a city, as one of the new trends.
This is growing both internationally and locally, with a number of indoor urban agriculture projects; for example, urban rooftop farming, growing crops underground and floating farms.
In terms of technology, there is the trend of connected farms. This entails elements such as putting tracking devices on animals, to discern their fitness and health levels, for example.
Further, the emergence of smart cities lends itself to the emergence of smart agriculture.
This can be used to get to a point of precision agricultural zones, which are more efficient and require less human intervention.
However, this could exacerbate inequality, with the divide between those who can and those who cannot afford such technology widening.