Think About This: Retailers React To Technology and Consolidation

Two of the biggest drivers bringing change to ag retail are technology and consolidation. 

Here are three examples of how ag retailers are reacting: 

  1. Retailers rent robots. Since March, Wilbur-Ellis in California’s Salinas Valley has offered customers access to three automated thinners as a new service. Used in romaine lettuce, head lettuce and leaf lettuce, the automated thinners use artificial intelligence to identify plants for precise herbicide application.
  2. Growmark launches AgValidity to test ag tech. Particularly in the past two years, the team at Growmark has been increasingly approached by ag tech startups as a testing or distribution partner. To evaluate these startups, the co-op has responded by creating the AgValidity program. In 2019, Growmark will have field trials testing 20 technologies.
  3. CoBank reports co-ops continue consolidation trend. Its latest report details 70 co-ops were consolidated annually, on average, from 2007 to 2017. During the current ag economic downturn, the pace of co-op consolidation has quickened—averaging 4% annually in 2016 and 2017, whereas in 2011 it was 1.2%. Dan Kowalski, vice president, Knowledge Exchange, CoBank, says since 2004 co-ops have been putting themselves in offensive positions to adapt to new customer-member demands and offer greater scale and services. Looking ahead, he expects consolidation in the industry to continue.

I talked more about this on AgriTalk this week, and here’s that discussion with host Chip Flory: