Returning recently from the Forbes AgTech Summit, the workshops made me think about innovations and how those developments will shape the future of the produce industry. Automation in the field, new hybrid electric technology for trucks, the Internet of things and more are coming our way.

In that vein, I wanted to check in with members of the LinkedIn Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group about their thoughts concerning the “biggest need” for the industry going forward.

What is the biggest need for the agriculture industry in the next ten years? What invention/innovation is necessary for the industry to thrive in the years ahead?

Alan: Being smarter marketers. In the apple industry, instead of just throwing new varieties onto the market, following the model established by Cosmic Crisp looks like a good choice. This involves the industry working together, consumer research, and assistance from Washington State University.

Phil: Green housing and organic

Gary: Food safety professionals

Joe: Alternative labor technologies, mechanization

Mulugheta: I think there is a need to shift from the conventional systems towards agroecological organic systems , low input or environmental friendly production and management or handling systems based on principles and practices would be a better option. Anything invested on this field would be attractive for industries in the next couple of years

Gregory: I suspect that advancements in renewable energy, battery technology and drone tech will play a big role in organic farming in terms of drone imaging for detecting plant stress, micro-drones for pest control and pollination and pruning/harvesting drones. I’m not certain how much disruption will occur in the next ten years, that will be determined by people far more tech savvy then I. 

In terms of indoor growing, I would think that some of the “ROBOFARMS” being built in Japan by “Spread”are going to become more common as well.

Eric: Extending harvested product shelf life , through new packaging innovation

Ray: I believe that for producers located in the state of California; especially smaller operations, it will be trying to figure out how to stay in business. The minimum wage hike that will lead to $15.00 per hour in 2022 is just now showing impact with just $.50 per hour increase this year and last. Will FOB’s rise 40% over the next four or five years without a dramatic decrease in supply? Maybe, but when in history has that ever happened? Will this lead to innovation in harvest, and distribution? No doubt, but at what cost? This minimum wage increase is the biggest story in the U.S. produce industry no one is talking about. Amazing, because it will impact every consumer in the nation.

Karen: Immigration reform, so that we can get the produce harvested

Rob: We need more prove about the health benefit of vegetables. We need it structured and we need to have real official claims.

World consumption per person has never been so low and the chronic diseases have never been so high. Vegetables should be recommended over pills. We run in the Netherlands a project called Reverse Diabetes2. Many patients can stop using their medication when they switch their food pattern to mainly………. vegetables!

So it is not the storage, the labor or the growing technique, it is about creating legitimate demand.

TK: Kudos to the many who commented and please add your thoughts and “likes” to comments already posted. My first instinct is to look at farm mechanization-automation/labor as the industry’s biggest need, but Rob’s comment about building demand is a point that cannot be overlooked.

Article by Tom Karst, The Packer