I was recently invited by a fertilizer company to be the dinner speaker at their annual golf day.
I was recently invited by a fertilizer company to be the dinner speaker at their annual golf day. I was asked to take a look at “what comes next” in the world of agriculture, and was advised that this particular community of farmers was extremely progressive, and always kept an open mind to the trends affecting their industry.
I spent a great deal of time preparing a highly customized talk that took a look at some of the unique challenges facing agriculture today, as well as the trends that will impact the industry through the next five, ten and twenty years.
While doing my research, I came across the phrase “manure management.” That was a new one for me! And the deeper I dug, so to speak, the more I came to realize that we can learn a great deal as to where we are headed in the future by taking a look at what is going on with manure.
We are now faced with a world that involves far greater skills specialization than ever before. We’ll increasingly have to hire experts to get the job done; we are going to be impacted by rapidly evolving science; we’ll have to innovate to find new sources of revenue; and we’ll have to work with leading edge methods for business and process transformation to continue to hammer out the excess costs within the organizations we work for.
That’s where the world of manure comes in: What’s going on in this industry is but a microcosm of some of the big trends that are going to affect our future.
I never knew that there are folks out there who carry the title “manure manager” on their business cards. The fact is, there is an entire industry of folks who possess the specialized knowledge, innovative mindset and deep insight into the world of manure. That’s because the potential of what can be done with manure today has expanded significantly, to such a degree that the typical farmer can no longer be expected to know everything there is to know. The manure manager is a partner to the farmer, providing them the very specialized, niche oriented knowledge that they have developed.
That is indicative of a trend occurring everywhere. There is so much new knowledge emerging around us; every profession and career is fragmenting into hundreds and thousands of sub-specialties. No one individual can be expected to master everything anymore. Instead, they’ll be responsible for some type of core responsibility (as is a farmer) and will spend their time working with the required subject experts (such as manure managers, among many other specialists).
These experts are also figuring out how to provide farmers with significant revenue enhancement, through the more intelligent application of manure on the fields.
Manure is often used as a nutrient on the farm, and farmers deal with very complex methods of determining how much nutrient is needed for each particular crop, on a certain type of soil, in a certain type of location.
That’s where we are seeing some of the most far-reaching aspects of manure management. In one area in the Midwest, a group of manure management experts has been working with local farmers to undertake very detailed soil and yield analysis, to determine the best application rates for future plantings. The returns have been significant—one family farm saw a $19 increase in revenue yield per acre through such efforts. That might seem like a small number until you multiply it by 2,000 acres, for a net result of $38,000, a big revenue improvement for a family farm operation.
What do “manure managers” really do? They excel in focusing on a very specific niche. They understand the rapid evolution of knowledge, methodology and innovation occurring in that field, and make their expertise available to a huge industry.
We need to change our frame of mind with respect to the change that is occurring in the world around us, and the trends that will present challenge and opportunity. I happen to believe that the pace of change in our world is going to increase, and will be relentless and unforgiving. I’m convinced that everything we know—the jobs we work in, the professions in which we have been trained, the skills we possess, the marketplace in which we sell our products, the industry in which we work, and the knowledge that we are expected to have mastered—will be extremely different tomorrow compared to where we are today.
I think there are good signs of where we are headed by the simple fact that there exists in the world a group of people who are proud to be recognized as “manure managers.”
Jim Carroll, FCA, is a leading international futurist, trends and innovation expert, with clients such as the BBC, the Health Care Industry Distributors Association, and the North American Newsprint Producers Association. He has just released his book What I Learned From Frogs in Texas: Saving Your Skin With Forward Thinking Innovation.