DIGITAL transformation data is the answer to connecting with, and generating value from, high margin customers, futurist Paul Higgins told Lambex 2016 conference delegates yesterday.
In his presentation titled ‘The choice is ours – farmers or peasants,’ Mr Higgins said data would be as valuable as the product farmers produce and could be held by farmer-owned co-operatives.
Mr Higgins said data was already being used to influence customers, as evidenced by QR codes under the lid of a can of Australian milk powder, providing provenance details to a Chinese customers. Such points of contact gave the customer information about the producer as well as providing details on what the consumer is interested in, he said.
Citing the example of drones, Mr Higgins raised the opportunity of farm customers being invited to “join our drone flight” as it goes over and monitors a property.
“That you can enter a virtual reality environment that will let you walk in among our flock, that gives experiences and context, and transparency about what is going on and that gives me, the high margin customer, the connection to your product and to your company, and the willingness to pay high margins for that.”
Mr Higgins said he had been working with food manufacturer Simplot in a digital transformation project that invited in start-ups to get access to company data, customers and funds to develop a product for them.
“They’re essentially talking about how do we connect to the customer more so they are more connected to our product and our brand.
“Part of Simplot’s problem is that the supermarket act as a kind of a gateway for a huge percentage of their products with their consumers – they’re trying to get more connected and more transparent with those consumers,” he said.
“They’re recognising they can’t do that by themselves.
“They’re inviting people in from outside to experiment, create new ideas and ways of connection to do that.”
Mr Higgins said technology progressed from its genesis or innovation to being custom-built, to product, to a utility or a service, quoting the example of the invention of motorcar propulsion systems, then multiple car models and now car or taxi services.
“I no longer have a need to own a car if I don’t want to.
“That’s the way technology goes through its cycles,” he said.
“If you are talking about agriculture, I think there are three key things here.
“First of all they have to be useful farmer applications in your hand,” Mr Higgins said.
Technology-based systems such as drones need to simple to use and available — “I don’t need to know how it works.”
“We need industry data platforms and I know MLA is already on these sort of things and the architecture of them, but my view is that data is going to be as valuable as the actual product you produce off your farm,” he said.
“So data is as important as the meat, as the grain, as the milk that comes off farms – data is going to become just as important.
“And data problem is that it is more valuable if we share it all rather than keep it for ourselves.”
He urged the conference delegates not to give their data away “and we want to (be) open so we can do things with it.”
“I’d like a system where I can share my data … and I can say, I would love to share it with the researchers, with the marketers, but have control over that process, but there be incentives for me to share that data because the more we do together the more value we all get out of it individually.”
Mr Higgins said Australia had a history of farmer-owned co-operatives for marketing farm products.
“We need to do the same around data, because we have the capacity to choose the value.
“This is where the title about ‘farmers or peasants’ comes in,” he said.
“We can go, we can produce companies, we can use this data, we can use it for our own purposes and create our own value, or we can hand it off to other people and allow them to use it and we can come back in 10 years’ time and whinge that all these people are making money and we’re not.
“Or we can do something about it now and say we are going to invest in these sort of operations to produce value for our own business and for our own farmers,” Mr Higgins said.
“That is the challenge in my mind for the next three or four years – looking at how do we do that and ow do we invest in that just like we invested in all sorts of other areas in agriculture so we can be part of that value creation.
“So we need an overall strategic direction that says where do we put these things … if we could have a central industry data platform to work from that is under the control of farmers themselves then we can produce value from it.”
But it should be competitive, it shouldn’t just be supplied to a farmer-owned co-operatives, it should go to who can produce the best value out of the process, Mr Higgins said.
“The more competition we have in that process, the more we own it the value, the better of we will be, because the future is going to be driven by new value, new transparency, new information, new margins with customers that you haven’t thought about before, and we need to get hold of those margins and be part of that, not hand it over to other people.
“The people that win in 2036 will be the people that have learned how to turn around how things work, re-think business models and actually get hold of those 20 percent of high margin customers that are more connected and more information and more transparency, and are craving experiences, not just product,” he said.
“I hope that most of you in the room are in that group.”