Courtesy Dairy West
BOISE — Dairymen and industry leaders need to acquire the skills and knowledge that will enable them to remain relevant in a world that is being rapidly changed by technological innovation.
Artificial intelligence, automation, algorithms and large amounts of data are causing changes in the business and consumer world that could threaten to overwhelm producers who aren’t ready for them, keynote speaker Mike Walsh told several hundred Idaho dairymen during the annual Dairy West conference last week.
“We have to be ready to re-imagine ... how to operate,” said Walsh, CEO of Tomorrow, an innovation research lab.
He said the same thing that has made a dairy business successful until now “could be exactly what undos you in the future if you are not prepared to adapt.”
He said a lot of high-profile tech money is flowing into food innovation and “the same approaches that have revolutionized technology will change food processing. There is a new era coming. We have to prepare for that.”
Walsh said algorithms will change retail markets and the way producers interact with customers and he noted that, “Your children will be the first generation to be raised in part by artificial intelligence.”
“Facial recognition will change the dynamics of society,” he said, and self-driving cars will result in “continuous, high-volume fresh food delivery into homes.”
Walsh said technology will start to become more invisible and basically be built into our bodies.
He said the entire food chain is about to get disrupted by new technology, data and social media and producers have to re-think conventional approaches to food and agriculture.
Dairy West CEO Karianne Fallow told Capital Press the world is changing rapidly and Walsh was invited to speak at the convention “to give our dairy farmers some exposure to that. I think that helps them understand the world they live in today and the world that faces them for the future.”
If dairy businesses are going to remain competitive in the future, they have to be ready and able to adapt, she said.
“What I’m hearing from the farmers is that there is a mix of excitement about it and fear,” Fallow said. “I keep reminding them that awareness is the first step. If they’re aware, then they can prepare to do business in this new world.”
Those future technological innovations might seem scary, she said, but they present a lot of opportunity “if you can keep your finger on the pulse and not just react to it, but really try to be out ahead of it.”
Caldwell dairyman Bernie Teunissen said the message he got from the presentation was that, “Technology is coming at us hard and fast. It seems to be accelerating. I look at it and try to apply it to my business. How does this apply to my business and what are we going to have to do to stay competitive in the industry?”