[The reader will see differences in this ‘first run series’ (one of five), than the articles that follow. We have chosen to maintain them because the content is still relevant, despite some links degrading and the level of acumen contained within…]
For 7,705 days* we have listened and observed the food∞Ag industry move from its pre-GMO moorings to its present status of consumer discontent, producer discombobulation and all the chaos in between the two.
These observations are telling us it is time for food and Agriculture to be a system that is real about what works, what doesn’t work and operates with a common attitude of difference without division. It’s time to get back to the nature-based No Malice™ relationships while playing out our different roles within the strategic, symbiotic powers models available to us. Without malice means a whole lot less drama. Without drama means effectively dealing with the internal social domain constraints found within “Big Ag” companies that block effective innovations they could provide at a large scale. Without drama also means helping the organic agriculture’s production∞consumption commercial systems move beyond today’s skewed model that uses a premium pricing model at retail that is ineffective in transmitting that pricing power to the folks who grow our organic food.
How did we settle on this difference without division better starting point? By design. We have found it both effective and efficient to start by simply gathering observations. Over time we learned to anticipate the repeatable, bankable patterns that naturally grow out of observing. In turn, these patterns form themes, that lead to repeatable narratives worth talking about that can then be converted into coordinated, interdisciplinary actions. These coordinated actions (milestones, goals, etc.) are then back checked with standard project management software. Wrap all this together in new work and communication flows and you have what we’ve named Better Starting Points™. In effect, we have figured out how to prune the distracting noise among today’s plethora of info, opening time, talent and treasure to focus on the signals. In turn, this gives way to better ways of connecting the nature-based, commercial, and digital dots. This is how today’s food and Ag supply chains become symbiotically connected food∞Ag cycles.
In our design viewpoint, the complex system of food and Ag is symbiotic (i.e. ∞) in its interplay between the commercial and nature-based forces and the ever increasing and powerful changes of the digital world. Dating back to the first farmers of 12,000 years ago, this symbiotic interplay of nature∞commercial subsystems has been well known and protected. Up until a few decades ago, each generation apprenticed the next to this ‘insider’s secret’.
Unlike some other industries, food and agriculture is heavily influenced by the fluctuating and basic nature of soil, animals and people. Humans have made quantum leaps in the last century in refining the commercial aspects of this business, borrowing efficiency practices from other industries. But the skewed focus on the commercial has overshadowed the power of the nature-based, symbiotic interplay between soil, animals and people. As a result, the quality of our food systems has been diminished.
In our view, by systematically redesigning emerging food models with large-scale symbiotic interplay, we can once again tap into the nature-based phenomena of exponential growth (or natural growth-spurts) that today’s food models are not accessing. It is our design viewpoint that symbiotic interplay will be needed to grow enough food for the world’s 2050 population.
The current consumer-led theme we hear is discontent with how the industrial supply chain attempts to deliver high quality, safe-to-eat, moderately-priced food by way of an ever changing definition of ‘sustainability.’ It is our design viewpoint that commercial relationships between industry insiders boil down into one of the following areas:
» Domination: Us over Them
» Revolution: Us overthrowing Them
» Assimilation: Us absorbing Them
» Purification: Us eliminating Them
» Competition: Us competing with Them
» Victimization/Self-Preservation: Us oppressed by Them
» Isolation: Us apart from Them
We offer up an alternative commercial∞food relationship ~ Election.
Election provides a strong, distinct identity for Us, one without hostility and that represents the social domain food∞Ag’s nature-based subsystem. In other words, we don’t need to diminish others to grow a better food system. We can simply elect, by way of making different food choices to do something better—by design.
Agnetic’s food∞Ag systems designs adhere to election∞commercial relationships over domination, revolution, assimilation, purification, competition, victimization and isolation. What comes from our food∞Ag system efforts are food companies with a strong, benevolent identity that rejects the more traditional strong-hostile or weak-benign alternatives present in today’s marketplace.
By design, a key force in today’s world can shape food companies to near term sustainably better, not just desperate tweaks. Today’s human understanding of production agriculture and how it interacts with other segments of the food industry and to individual consumers is changing at a pace never seen by humankind. Some have labeled this gathering momentum, Big Data. Big Data is an important component of farming decision-making, but today’s version of Big Data by itself lacks overall context. For example: The Big Data focus of today’s corn and soybean production is narrowly contrived to simply generate more volume or yield. We understand the commercial strategic, business model and operational reasons behind this set of reasoning ~ and yet there is more.
One example of more may be ‘the economics of more yield’ is collapsing. Another example of more may be the tripling of organic food sales to $32 billion over the past decade. Could these be contextual signals that move farmers to consider using Big Data to improve the quality of what they grow, not just the volume?
What is in context is Smartphone access™. Smartphone access™ is a phenomenon of ‘know more, want more, and we will change our spending patterns to get what we want.’ Consumers are used to paying the same for more, which is what they get from all other tech-driven, Big Data, and smartphone access products and services industries outside of food and Agriculture (e.g. shopping for cars, clothing, computers, schools, housing, medical services, religions and governments). Consumers want the same Smartphone/digital access power for the food they eat as well as in the way it is processed, delivered and grown. Information that used to be separated is now symbiotically related ~ and has changed the way the game is played.
This blog is about the symbiotic interplay between people who eat stuff and grow stuff and the power of smartphone access. We highlight the discombobulation that comes from too-early conclusions and we help connect the dots for two groups of people:
- those who currently produce, process, and deliver our food∞Ag products and
- those who want to eat better food of higher quality at lower or prevailing cost.
No one knows what the future holds, yet we can do next steps that are better. It is time to stop believing the current system is the only version of a food system that works at scale, stop doing what is not working and open up space for what works. Design thinking and agile doing bring much needed how power to solving the complexity of food∞Ag system problems that doesn’t waste time, talent and treasure — and increases cash flow, market power and business agility.
So what’s the something better that’s coming? In short, it’s growing (with an attitude of difference without division) new, scalable food systems for soils, animals and people that are symbiotically linked through what is currently known as Big Data, and more…
- Agnetic, LLC’s founder, Russ Curry, left the Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) on March 4, 1994. It was a cauldron of chaos at the time. He left because he thought ‘something better’ could be done. This blog’s April 8, 2015 posting is in commemoration of Agnetic, LLC’s April 8, 2004 founding.