Comment: Expect data to be at the heart of 2020 trends

Automation, machine learning, consumer transparency and even the weather will mean data this year

Comment: Expect data to be at the heart of 2020 trends

Canada’s growers certainly had more than their share of challenges in 2019. Dramatic and unpredictable weather, farm costs, labour shortages, trade wars… all combined to make 2019 a year to remember (or forget). Hopefully, there’s more to look forward to in the coming year. Here are four trends I think will shape the industry in 2020.

Farms will become more automated

In 2020, we’ll begin to see big farms embrace automation on a larger scale. We’ll also see a dramatic increase in machine learning and AI being adopted to mine data for trends. Labour shortages will most likely continue to grow in 2020, which will drive interest in using technology like drones to automate tasks. We are already seeing some automation in specialty crops like horticultural crops, but we’ll see this move to broad-acre crops in Canada.

Outcome-based pricing will be challenged by data fears

In 2020, growers and retailers in Canada will push back against outcome-based pricing being rolled out by some companies. Retailers will continue to be wary of companies just wanting to sell their own products. Meanwhile, the “shares on the upside potential” will continue to make farmers nervous. Vendor lock-in is another fear; if you leave the platform, for example, will the company own your data? Expect to see skepticism around outcome-based pricing.

Consumers will demand ‘transparency’

Ingredient origin will increasingly be used as a marketing tool for a new generation of consumers, who care more about how and where the food they consume is grown and raised. In 2020, we’ll see the power of the “transparency generation” as food companies pay a premium to growers who have the data, bypassing the entire grain industry to get the right information.

Canada’s weather will continue to change the rules

Farmers in Canada will increasingly use data, and the investment in digital farming tools, as the best way to manage their operations and fight the effects of drastic weather. Canada’s farmers will question the limitations of regional weather stations and instead look to on-farm weather capabilities, which can detect micro-changes in field conditions on a zone-by-zone basis to manage more complex and nuanced weather-related decisions like planting and harvesting.

So what’s the bottom line? In 2020 it will be all about data, data, data. From machine learning to competing locally or globally, growers who can mine data — and act on their field data — will have a better chance of success in 2020 and beyond.

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