Australian farmers are some of the best in the world at broadening their horizons in the pursuit of continued improvement. It was this willingness to learn and explore new ways of operating that brought 41 leading primary producers together for a trip of a lifetime in August this year, to explore America’s Midwest and gain insight into all aspects of the US grain industry supply chain.
Armed with an access-all-areas pass to large scale soy, corn, hog and dairying farms, as well as grain-processing operations, seed producers, grain marketers and agri-chemical suppliers, the group collectively identified key drivers across these businesses that provided inspiration and new perspectives to take home to their own farming operations.
The cooperative way that US farmers work with each other was a significant learning from the tour. Their approach to employee welfare, recruitment, empowerment, leadership, training and culture was second to none.
Many US farming operations are structured to facilitate employee partnerships, with some managers given access to equity, engaging everyone in the business and building capacity for long term sustainability.
The success of cooperatives and vertical integration further demonstrated the value in engaging the right people with the right expertise to inform business decisions.
United in the challenge to maintain strong profitability, the Australian and US farmers shared best practice and found common ground in their efforts to drive efficiencies and build gross margins.
The collection and analysis of data has become the next big wave of innovation across all businesses, with a strong adoption of farm management software, incorporating records from weather, soil, nutrition and marketing applications.
As the accuracy of the technology evolves, so to does the opportunity to drive business decisions and maintain strong profitability at every level of the supply chain.
On their visit to Monsanto’s research facilities, Director of Millennial Engagement, Vance Crowe told participants that the farming population in the US sits at just two percent of all Americans today, compared to over 40 percent in the early twentieth century. Australia has seen a similar decline, and many agreed there was a need to find solutions to address the disconnect between urban and farming communities.
Farmers from both countries discussed the importance of working on the perceptions of agriculture, not only in the wider community, but also how to engage millennials within their own families and businesses who were looking beyond the farm gate for future career opportunities.
Despite vast differences in scale and enterprise when comparing the two countries, the conversations between the Australian and US farmers unveiled a different story; one that offered a mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge, identifying similarities in the challenges faced and a shared motivation for creating innovative and sustainable businesses to feed the world for generations to come.
By taking the time to experience something new, 41 Australian farmers returned to their businesses with a bigger picture in mind, a reinforced idea of where they wanted to take their business, and a rich network of global farmers and leaders in agribusiness to connect with and continue to learn from.