Exploring the future of agriculture

SCENARIO PLANNING

imagine it is the year 2032
The population of Ontario is now 17 million, 40% are visible minorities, and half of them live in the Greater Toronto Area.  There are 8.4 billion people on the planet to feed; 1.4 billion more than there were only 20 years ago, the equivalent of 4.5 times the US population in 2012 – or an additional China.  Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, the world population will require over 100 trillion calories or the equivalent of approximately 290 million tonnes of additional corn equivalent.

Global warming has extended the Ontario growing season almost 200 kilometers north over the last 20 years.  Northern Ontario is more productive, growing grains and oilseeds instead of being used predominantly for hay and pasture. Micro climates in the southern parts of Ontario are more similar to the seasons that existed in the states of Indiana and Ohio of 20 years ago. 

More volatile weather also tends to be a characteristic of the global change in weather over the last couple of decades.  More intense heat in the summer months has generally meant increases in the frequency of the region experiencing some level of drought. 

There is still pressure for farmers to be competitive, although the pressures differ from the pressures of 20 years ago.  Significant gains have been achieved in mechanical technologies for efficient and effective farming practices from planting through harvest to the storage and handling of grains.  Innovations throughout the supply chain have also evolved significantly. Genetic improvement technology is at a level not even comprehended in 2012. The public is much more knowledgeable and regulatory oversight has evolved immensely. 

Being competitive in 2032 means meeting very informed consumer needs. The public is generally more involved and aware of the many issues that directly affect farmers.  Since the turn of the last century the public has had access to almost instant global information. Now as we approach the mid part of the next century, whole generations have been engaged at that level for their life time, facilitated even more over the last 20 years by the common use of social media tools. Every time there is an issue raised concerning farmers’ treatment and management of living resources and the environment, the information is instantly communicated not only locally but around the world.  Every time an issue of food safety or security is raised, likewise it is instantly communicated in all directions. The dwindling numbers of farmers find it critically important now to invest in information and distribution to actively ensure the public gets accurate information on these issues so that on balance their opinions are formed more on fact not fiction. 

while imagining yourself in the year 2032, a world described on the previous page, Grain Farmers of Ontario would like to ask you to evaluate some different scenarios based on your own perceptions of the events and outside influences that will drive change in Ontario agriculture. 

FIGURE 1:

Grain Farmers of Ontario has engaged MNP, the seventh largest accounting and business advisory firm in Canada, to work with our members to identify those drivers of change in today’s agricultural industry and use them to explore future scenarios that will influence the grain farmers of tomorrow.  A better understanding of these influences will allow Grain Farmers of Ontario to:

•    Help grain producers adapt to change
•    Help guide organizational and government policy for its members
•    Provide focus in support of change
•    Provide insight into demand and value for future crops
•    Assess the likely impacts of continued changes on the operations of tomorrow

The drivers of change already identified by our board and staff are graphed in figure 1.  These different overarching elements have been incorporated into four different future scenarios and we need your input to refine these scenarios further so we get closer to the realm of possibility.

This exercise is not intended to create a crystal ball that predicts the future; however it will get us thinking and planning for future possibilities so we are better prepared for many possible eventualities.  We hope you will go online at
http://take-survey.com/mnp/GFOscenario planning.htm and take part in the survey – your insights will have an impact on the future of our organization. •