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5 Ways Demographics and Technology Are Shaping Agribusiness

Chief financial officers and other industry leaders gathered at the 2019 Food, Commodities and Agribusiness CFO Forum to discuss emerging trends and hot topics. Here are five key takeaways.

The rapid advancement of technology and changing demographics of American workers and consumers have affected industries across the board—and agribusiness is no exception. These were the main trends discussed during the 2019 Food, Commodities and Agribusiness CFO Forum in Chicago, where industry leaders shared insights on topics affecting their businesses today.

1. Millennials Usher in the Golden Age of Snacking

Millennials became the largest generation in the labor force in 2016, and this demographic shift has made waves in consumer spending habits. Millennials and the even younger Generation Z spend more of their income on food than older generations, particularly food away from home. As US consumers take less time out of their busy lives to sit down to eat, three meals a day is giving way to the golden age of snacking. And millennials are actually influencing their parents—mostly baby boomers—to adopt similar tastes, further increasing the demand for snack items. Beef jerky used to be considered trucker food; now it’s a popular grab-and-go for soccer moms.

2. Baby-Boomer Retirements Leave Top-Tier Talent Gaps

For the first time ever—thanks to longer lifespans and delayed retirement—five generations are coexisting in the workplace. However, when older workers age out of an organization, the knowledge and experience gaps they leave behind can be hard to fill. Agribusinesses should start thinking about whether they have people in the pipeline to fill these senior roles. As the labor market tightens, companies are also faced with the task of recruiting talent from other competitive industries. Therefore, it’s important for agribusiness leaders to consider going beyond offering attractive compensation and benefit packages to understand how their employees can connect with the meaning of their work and stay engaged.

3. No Industry Is Immune to Payments Fraud

According to the most recent AFP Payments Fraud and Control Survey Report, more than 80 percent of companies were targets of payments fraud in 2018. All it can take for a criminal to gain access to a company’s digital assets is finding the weakest link in the personnel chain. Even in 2019, “Password1” is still one of the most commonly cracked password, demonstrating a potential lack of security awareness among the general population. Educating employees on cybersecurity best practices—such as how to identify suspicious emails and ways to strengthen validation processes—could help safeguard against payments fraud. As an added precaution, organizations could consider purchasing cyber insurance, which generally covers a business’s liability for data breaches involving sensitive customer information.

4. Blockchain Holds Promise for Food Supply Chains

Blockchain has moved into the mainstream lexicon in recent years, and the agribusiness sector may be well-positioned to capitalize on the distributed ledger technology. A good use case for blockchain usually involves a problem where the solution requires a network of participants. Food poisoning outbreaks, for example, are often exacerbated by a lack of supply-chain transparency. Because blockchain can provide a digital record of every step in a product’s journey, a contaminated head of romaine lettuce could be traced to its source more quickly, helping to stop the spread of the outbreak and potentially saving lives.

5. Data Without Analysis Is Just Noise

An organization’s data is an asset, but raw data doesn’t reveal anything useful on its own. That’s where data analytics—the science of translating raw data into actionable information—comes in. From farm-field sensor readouts to weather data and commodity statistics, there’s no shortage of facts and figures in the industry. A successful data analytics strategy for agribusinesses could start by elevating the role of data within the organization and making sure employees and systems are properly equipped to process and apply its insights.


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