… you must run at least twice as fast as that!

The owner of a well-known manufacturer of equipment for soil tillage and sowing confides to me that this year his company expects to participate, directly, in seventy trade fairs. Most in Europe, many in the American continent, especially in Latin countries, some even in Africa and Asia.

Seventy fairs are already a great commitment for a large company, let alone for a medium-sized company. It takes time to agree on the participation, to set up the stand, to organize the transfer, hence capable staff dedicated to the event is required.

Participation in fairs is a great financial commitment for the exhibiting companies, which evidently have an advantage if not in the short term, at least in the long term. Moreover, the transfer of the product also has a significant impact on the participation costs, given that the agricultural machine has the defect of being bulky, heavy, in short, not easy to manage.

The long time and the many resources dedicated by the companies confirm that specialized fairs, at least for the agricultural sector, still represent a valid way to communicate their product and intercepts the end customer. Fairs are also an opportunity for updating that many exhibitors do not miss. In fact, they attend some of the many conferences that adorn the exhibition (such as candles on the Christmas tree) and from the analysis of the proposals made by the competitors you always learn something, and the comparison with technicians and visitors is always stimulating, because the contamination is the basis of any innovation.

It is not even easy to have staff able to set up and above all effectively supervise the stand during the event. In fact, it is not enough to know one’s own product, but one must know how to describe it in the right way, proposing coherent agronomic paths. To do this you have to learn the agriculture of the places where you are. And this is not easy because it is information that you can only partially find on books, that you have to build over the years, participating in the commissioning of the machine, dealing with your customer to understand the places where he produces, his ambitions and his, very often personal, needs. That’s right, every farmer has a particular land, different from all the others, that “oh yes, it is true that his equipment is perfect, but not for these areas, not for these lands, not for me. Come visit me and you will see…” All this is correct, but, at the same time, it does not tell the whole truth. Within the boundaries of our country, those who deal with agriculture, have already to deal with very heterogeneous realities, and inevitably, this is amplified if we consider the entire planet. Various are the lands, the climates, the cultivated products or the way of producing them, the social and labor dynamics, the expectations and the resources. Different needs that require technologies able to respond adequately, also proposing innovative technical paths, provided they are in tune with the environment for which they are proposed. Probably few, and perhaps none, are the productive activities characterized by a wide variability such as agriculture. But the farmer, in this openly manifesting the specificity of his places, also pursues a way to hide, to maintain the status quo, to avoid changes, to continue to do as he has always done. And those who make innovative products among manufacturers rarely find a way to intrigue a person who adopted such an attitude and open a serious technical debate. All this is a real shame for agriculture: the farmer will never know if he could innovate his production process and the manufacturer will never know if his technology could integrate effectively.

The Red Queen, in Carroll’s book “Through the Looking-Glass”, runs frantically and Alice at the end of this grueling run realizes she has not moved from the place from which she had left. “Here, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place” the Red Queen tells her and goes on: “If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”.

A metaphor for our agriculture: we must all run to hope to keep also in future the results we take for granted today, in terms of production and income.

For manufacturers, running twice means innovating production processes, innovating products, innovating communication and corporate marketing: in short, exploring new territories, collaborating with public research, doing internal research, analyzing and learning from mistakes. The same words apply to the farmer because only if he knows how to renew and innovate, he will be armed to face the difficult future challenges, that will be climatic, economic, social and political.

He who hesitates is lost, but if we want to move forward, we have to run at least twice as fast as that!

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