High Tech Cows & Open Source Farm Equipment: Yes, The Economics Of Farming Is Relevant
from the innovation-impacts-lots-of-industries dept
- Stay on top of technological change.
- Focus. Specialize on the things you can do best.
- Find some way to buffer yourself against unexpected changes that are definitely coming.
- Find something that you can sell that your customers are willing to pay a premium for because you've given them something they want which no one else can give them.
To some extent, it's like the differences we've talked about between gatekeepers and enablers. The gatekeepers wanted to be at the center of things and control all aspects of production, distribution, etc. But in a world of enablers there's much more specialization. So, for example, in the music world, musicians can pick and choose from best-of-breed solutions to help create, distribute, promote and monetize their work, rather than just relying on a single provider.
Not much time is spent on the third point, but there's a brief discussion about financial tools to help buffer the swings in the market -- things like grain futures and such, which are really just forms of insurance to protect in a volatile market. I'm a little less interested in this particular point. I think it can be important in some industries but is less of a key point long term.
But the fourth point was what I found the most interesting, and obviously fits most closely with some of the theories and business models I've espoused for years: sell something scarce which people want to buy. But, in a commoditized world such as farming, how is that even possible? Well, we hear the same thing in the music world all the time, where people insist that there's nothing to sell but the music, but then we see lots of folks get creative and do amazingly creative things. And the same thing is clearly happening on the Fulper Farm as well -- thanks in part to the youngest generation, who attended my own alma mater (Go Big Red!), and is applying some of what she learned about being more entrepreneurial back to the farm.
She's trying out a few things to take some special facets of what the farm has available, for which they can charge a premium:
Breanna realized they kept talking about this "problem" they had. They're really close to New York City. Land is really expensive in Northern New Jersey. There's not an agricultural world there, so they have to travel really far to buy ag equipment. There's all these problems being so close to New York City. And she realized, by using her farm as a case study in college, that being so close to the City might be the best way to make money. It might be their secret to being a successful farm. I looked and I couldn't find any farm closer to New York City. I think this is the closest one to Brooklyn... And people in Brooklyn are kind of obsessed with farming....Hello alternative revenue streams. I'm sure the purists will insist that just like a musician should only sell music, a dairy farmer should only sell dairy products. But a smart business person finds ways to capitalize on real scarcities, and that's exactly what Breanna appears to have done with the Fulper Farms.
Breanna has figured out that there's money in that. She's working with a cheese maker who's going to help them make a premium Fulper-branded cheese. You and I, some time soon, can go to our local shop and buy really, really local... this is "the closest cheese to Brooklyn."...
Breanna had this other idea. Did you know that you could send your two daughters for a week to summer camp at Fulper Farms?.... Families pay a few hundred bucks, their kids have an awesome week experiencing agriculture.... You know what's amazing? A few weeks of summer camp that Breanna did as a college project? Brings in almost as much money as a whole year of milking cows.
The report concludes with another key point that we've definitely seen in the music business as well. Davidson notes that there's a lot more opportunity, and the average farm is now making more money than in the past, but it's a lot more volatile, and lots of the old guard simply don't make the transition well. Once again, this sounds mighty familiar.
It's kind of neat to see the parallels between such different industries when it comes down to the basic economics of progress and technological change.
Along those lines, perhaps there are even more parallels moving into the future. As I was working on this post, Leigh passed along a TED talk from about a year ago by Marcin Jakubowski, who is taking the concepts of the maker culture and the open source ethos and applying it to farming. It seems like an appropriate thing to end this post with, so check it out: