Farming for Online Sales Will Require Growers to Reboot

The world is shrinking! And it continues to get smaller — by the second. Digital technologies are bringing us closer together whether we want it to or not. In addition to being able to share your thoughts and photos with the world in an instant, you can buy something just as fast, and have it delivered even faster. This mind-blowing purchasing power at our fingertips has been changing the game for many industries in recent years. It’s safe to say growing produce for the masses and the way consumers shop for the fruits of your labor has gone high tech.

Online grocery shopping is taking off in a big way. Take, for example, the recent mega-purchase of Whole Foods by Amazon for a cool $13.7 billion. Based on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ business savvy and success, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t sink that kind of cash into just a fad. Nope. This is the real deal; and farmers with an eye on the future should be getting in line and online, if not already, for a chance to feed this dynamic distribution channel.

Virtual Reality Retail

During a recent GenNext Growers webinar titled, “Forces Impacting the Future of the North American Produce Industry: Challenges and Opportunities,” Roland Fumasi of Rabobank shined a light on the prospect of online grocery shopping. Keep in mind, he imparted this knowledge well before Amazon’s big buy.

“For GenNext Growers who are going to be doing this for a long time, this is going to become a much greater force in what you do,” he said during the presentation.

He cautioned those investigating this avenue to be prepared for extremely high standards from distributors. For obvious reasons, they only want the best produce so they can charge a premium. If you can supply that to them on a consistent basis, the sky’s the limit.

Chuck Benson, Senior Manager of Market Intelligence for BASF’s Crop Protection Division, who also participated in that webcast, put into perspective the growth potential. In a short period of time, how much is the online food and beverage sales sector set to grow?

“Mid-range [estimate] is at least triple of the current amount [$20 billion] purchased online,” Benson said. “How that changes how food is grown, prepared, and processed could have a significant effect.”

Indeed. It’s hard to wrap one’s mind around it all, but there is an obvious demand, especially from Millennials. Someone has to give ’em what they want as they age. Why can’t it be you?

Technology + Transparency = Golden Opportunity

If hooking up with an online retailer isn’t your cup of tea, there are other ways forward-thinking farmers can connect with end consumers. The main factor among all methods is transparency. Go ahead. Show shoppers not only what you grow, but how you grow it. The feedback alone will be well worth it.

There are so many tools available now to help you farm smarter, more efficiently, and sustainably. For consumers today, that’s becoming a bigger priority. Tomorrow, they will demand nothing less, whether picking up their produce at the supermarket or having it delivered to their doorstep by a drone. Modern farming might not be for everyone, but it’s here to stay. Embrace it.

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