Guest blog: Tammy Wiedenbeck
AgNewswire is a weekly email sent from Wisconsin Farm Bureau highlighting important agriculture news. One week, I saw a link to the Alltech My Farm. My Future. video contest. I had been wanting to create a video about our family farm for quite some time, so I took on the challenge. I say “challenge” because I learned about this on Friday, and the deadline was the following Monday.
Over the weekend, I spent time on the farm taking videos and photos during chores and herd checks. Within six hours on Sunday night, I had the video created, finalized and submitted. Weeks later, I was notified that my video had won and I would be able to attend the Alltech ONE Ideas Conference in Lexington, Kentucky May 22-24.
Not having much of an idea of what to expect, my parents, friend and I headed south. We arrived at the International Welcome Dinner, which included world-class entertainment, fine dining and networking. We were overwhelmed with the number of people there, with close to 4,000 attendees representing 90 countries, many of which did not speak English at the tables around us! In the morning, my friend and I joined the ONE Fun Run, a mini-marathon. The best part about that event was feeling good about exercising, but then getting lapped by runners when we were halfway through the first lap!
The next day we checked-in and were given all the luxuries of the press. We were able to sit up front on the floor level during the events, where the speakers and session topics absolutely blew me away. George Blakenship (who worked with Tesla Motors, Apple, and GAP Inc.) discussed retail strategies leading to growth and brand loyalty by evaluating challenges and being customer central. Lisa Bodell, founder and CEO of futurethink, talked about why making things simpler has helped businesses become more successful. Complexity at work is destroying organizations, and doing so many things at once doesn’t allow each task to get the attention it deserves. Pearse Lyons, CEO of Alltech, talked about how businesses are being disrupted and challenged. For instance, consider the competition hotels face with AirBnB, a company that doesn’t even own any real estate. Another example is Uber, a taxi company that doesn’t own any vehicles. Other topics involved how tools from psychology are used to help drive businesses, agriculture and the planet, digital technologies, speaking to legislators in Washington, D.C. and evolution of nutritional programming concepts.
On the last day, you could pick a focus session in any of the following areas: beef, dairy, aquaculture, beef, ag-tech future, brewing and distilling, crop science, business and finance, emerging markets, food, equine, health and wellness, pig, poultry. I can bet after listing all those topics, you started to skim through because there were so many… that is how I felt. I could have spent days learning about what is to come in our future and what is being done right now to advance business and agriculture.
Many attendees that I met were Alltech employees or CEOs of growing companies, so the intimidation factor was there. My parents, being smaller farmers that are ready to retire, said it was a lot of information to take in a short amount of time. They were impressed at how humble the people were for running billion dollar businesses and even coming up with nicknames for my mother, such as “Rhonda with the Honda”. We participated in a round robin of interviews with young scientists and upcoming businesses from all around the world, which left my parents amazed at what is to come in the future. These included: Agrilyst (your virtual agronomist), AgriWebb (your farm in your hand with data driven descisions), Alesca life (weatherproof smart farm), eFishery (feed the fish, feed the world), Greengage (intelligent lighting for precision farming), Hargol (world’s first commercial grasshopper farm), MagGrow (superior crop protection coverage and drift control), Moocall (reduces calving mortality rates), SkySquirrel (aerial diagnostics for vineyard health), Tevatronic (autonomous irrigation). I could talk about these ideas for quite some time, but my favorite was the Grasshopper Farm. After raising them, the insects are frozen and ground into a powder that is now being exported to General Mills, among others. This is a simple concept, but yet I never thought about it myself.
We were also able to have some fun, in addition to learning, as we got to see the Kentucky Horse Park and listen to a Beatles Tribute Band. I was also able to meet bloggers, like the Farm Babe and Jen Swiggert. The whole experience was very eye-opening for all of us and George Blakenship said it perfectly, “You don’t know what the future holds until you explore the possibilities.
“To change the world, sometimes you have to do the impossible,” Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. Technology can be a great thing, but also a challenge if you’re trying to get directions on your phone and end up walking right into a brace cable on the sidewalk (yes, I did that)! If given the chance, I would go to this conference again in a heartbeat! I will leave you with a quote from Pearse Lyons, “You don’t have to get it right, just get it going.”
Tammy Wiedenbeck is a Farm Bureau member from District 3 and is currently serving on the State Young Farmer and Agriculturist Committee. She works for Equity Cooperative Livestock Sales Association and runs Riverview Photography on the side. She also helps manage 110 head of beef cows at Riverview Farms with her brother and sister-in-law, Doug and Stacy and parents, Dick and Rhonda.